Every year in late December when I turn up the Silverstream Valley Road and head into the glen where the Waiora Scout Camp is nestled, I experience the same feeling that it was just last week I was here - but I'm only ever driving this way to go to and from the annual Whare Flat Folk Festival. I guess thirty-five years of doing it gradually compresses the experience in your mind.
As a veteran of this thing I might be expected to wax lyrical about the good old days and deride the youthful, electric eccentrics that infiltrate the midnight sessions and daytime stages but, the truth is, it's the very thing that keeps me coming back. Mostly, when I'm not strumming something, I'm a desk jockey - the interface between "it's too loud" and "we can't hear the fiddle," and the sublime moments of synergy when fine performance and great technical wizardry come together like a classical sculpture before its arms were broken.
There's a soft side to the festival and there's an edge, and it's the ability of those two things to coexist that makes the gathering special. Age ceases to exist, we're all singers in the midnight choir, pickers and drinkers, dancing like nobody's watching.
At the apex of the year, one is remembered, the next is faced "with friends on every side"; and we're reminded of why we come back time and time again.