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Springtime, outdoor assignments are best - Valerie Baldowski

Covering a local festival in McDonough Saturday reminded me, once again, how much fun festivals can be.

The weather had been threatening rain, but there was nary a drop. The day was warm and sunny, perfect for strolling around and seeing the sights.

Our newspaper had a booth set up along one street, and everyone took turns working the booth in shifts. I had an even better shift -- one that let me circulate, talk to folks, and take pictures.

When I got near the festival site, I saw an encouraging sign -- police barricades closing the streets off to through traffic, but plenty of foot traffic.

I crept through the traffic jams from cars circling the block looking for a parking space, and quickly found a space a block away, in our very own parking lot. There's something to be said for our office being so close to The Square.

I got out and made my way toward the activities, and found myself having to dodge large numbers of people, the closer I got. Another good sign.

I was delighted to see a huge crush of people spread out over The Square, meandering about, from booth to booth, sampling the foods, checking out the arts and crafts, listening to music, and generally having a good time soaking up the ambiance.

I actually forgot I was working, which indicated, I suppose, just how much fun I was having. Vendors of ice cream, frozen desserts and cold drinks were doing a brisk business. There were also lines to buy popcorn, funnel cakes, and sandwiches.

Seeing all the hand-made items, I had a hard time resisting the temptation to slow down and window shop. I knew the longer I tarried at each booth, and took a close look at what they had, the greater the likelihood I would break down and buy something.

I liked everything I saw, and kept visualizing how it would look in my house. I finally succumbed to an impulse purchase, and came away with a picture frame with my son's name on it. I figured Father's Day is coming up next month, and that will make a nice little gift.

Catching glimpses of other merchandise on display, out of the corner of my eye, I was sure I could easily have spent much more. Staying on a budget at these festivals is always a challenge for me.

I checked out the pony rides, which brought back memories of when I was a kid who loved horses and couldn't be dragged away from the ponies without considerable effort by the grown-ups.

I saw the dunking booth, which looked cool and refreshing in the hot sun. I walked by the inflatables, which my son would've made a beeline for, and most likely, would've stayed the duration.

Meeting people with whom I have developed working relationships, and greeting them socially, was refreshing. Seeing them spending time outside of the office with their families, away from the meeting rooms and work stations, was a pleasant change of pace.

In short, I had a blast. I look forward to the next outdoor assignment, to get some fresh air and prevent me from turning into a mushroom.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at