Some women buy a new outfit to commemorate a birthday. Some a new pair of shoes to celebrate an accomplishment. For others, a little T.J. Maxx purchase as a pick-me-up on a low day. For me? My wardrobe reliably expands every second weekend in July when I add a festival dress to my closet.

The dress, of course, is in honor of the Master Musician’s Festival, the most wonderful time of the summer. If you haven’t been, MMF is a two-day music festival set up on the verdant grounds of Somerset Community College. In the past, Tiffany Bourne and her crew have hosted Counting Crows and Willie Nelson and, this year, the legendary John Prine takes to the stage. Yes, the John Prine, the “daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River where Paradise lay” John Prine.

I absolutely love this time of year. In fact, Christmas season-style, I have formed a whole host of mini-traditions centered around the festival. For example, I kick off the weekend by getting lunch in town from Amish & More, an efficient, honest little spot whose sandwiches are stuffed with great stuff like pickles and good tomatoes and sharp cheddar.

Then, I get my hair done. This step is necessary because I have curly hair that puffs into a cumulus cloud in the July heat. So, my brilliant stylist Kathy weaves a French braid in and, when I walk out, I am floating like a flower child heading to Woodstock.

Around 6, William and I head out, carrying our MMF festival backpack that we won several years ago and always bring, even though it’s held together with safety pins at this point. In this bag, I place my phone, a wad of cash, ID, lip gloss, mosquito spray and nothing else because I am light as a feather and young as a girl.

Along the way, my phone is buzz-buzz-buzzing as my friends coordinate where to meet. This is always a moot point as we inevitably run into each other nearly upon arrival. In fact, it can take the better part of an hour to set up our camping chairs near the stage as we run into so many people along the way with whom it is fun to catch up.

The Friday night is always my favorite, though the big headliner always performs on Saturday night. This is because, a), I am fresh and, b) we invariably hear bands we’ve never heard of that shock our hearts by their raw talent. Sarah Bozeman and I always stand and marvel over what it would be like to be that lead singer or that fiddle player and secretly think that, one day, somehow, we’ll get up there and do it ourselves — although, as far as I know, neither of us have any musical skills.

Anyway, I’m of the opinion that the most fun is to be had right up close to the stage and so we bob and weave and skirt and delicately squeeze to get there. Plenty of people enjoy from afar in their camping chairs, though, I’ll tell you, it’s not ideal for dancing.

And dance we do. Because the music is just so terrifically good. I mean, truly life-changingly good. Every year, there is that moment where I feel more alive than alive, like I might burst with happiness and gratitude and awe.

On Saturday, because I am a wimp in the heat, William and I watch Tour de France in the basement until it is once again time to head to the festival.

Then I get to don my perfect, little festival dress, the kind that reminds me that life is good and age is just a number and all of the fun, borne of friendship, music and the very essence of summer, starts all over again.

For more information about Master Musician’s Festival, visit

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