I don't even pretend to know about a fraction of all of the great family activities in and around Chicago. But luckily, I do know lots of other Chicago-area parents who are looking for the same type of family-friendly events that I am. So periodically, I am going to feature guest posts from a local parent who has a different perspective to share -- starting with freelance writer and mother of four Susan Bearman. Here is her take on a pretty cool event that I bet you haven't heard of before.
Ever want to howl at the moon? Or feel deprived because Woodstock was but a distant memory by the time you came of age? Fear not -- you can get your hippie on at the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam. Once a month, drummers and fire spinners gather about 1/2 mile south of the Foster Ave. to celebrate the full moon.
My husband heard about the drumming circle from a customer, so I put it on the calendar for July 7, even though I had no idea what to expect. At 7:15, I hustled the six of us out the door, equipped with folding chairs, jackets, bug spray, two Little Tykes drums, three souvenir drums form Jamaica, and a plastic tambourine. We needn't have rushed -- the circle gathers slowly.
We knew we were in the right place when we came upon a huge oval of dirt trampled into the grass. Tiki torches stood guard, while safety stations with wet towels and fire extinguishers were strategically positioned around the oval. A young woman with a fabulous feathered hat and a megaphone called for all fire spinners to check in at the south end.
So, what is fire spinning? Essentially, jugglers light various props on fire and spin them, throw them, catch them, and twirl them. Some of the props look like children's toys -- hula hoops set ablaze; others, called fire poi, look like medieval torture devices -- chains with grips or handles on one end and giant wicks on the other.
Despite overcast skies that completely obscured the full moon, about 300 people gathered as dark descended. The cast was full of characters -- a decked-out Uncle Sam, complete with an American flag cape; the shirtless barefoot guy, covered in tattoos; and dozens of drummers banging everything from bongos to congas to beautifully decorated djembes.
The drumming started at eight-ish -- rhythmic, incessant and primal. We joined in sporadically -- you don't need talent. The fire spinners stood in line, entering the circle about six at a time to spin until their flames burned out. They danced and twirled hypnotically, spinning the flames like Fourth of July sparklers, only better, bigger, bolder. Some were more talented than others; all were clearly enthralled. I counted at least two dozen different spinners, most of whom waited to perform again and again.
We bailed at about 10, and the jam was still going strong. The event is billed as family friendly and it is, with a few caveats: be prepared to discuss fire safety with little ones who might be tempted to try this at home. If unusual characters, openly gay couples or occasional whiffs of ganja set off your parenting panic button, stay home. On the other hand, it's FREE, it's different, it's outside and it's something you can experience together. Experience is the key word here, as the drum beats pulse underground, up through your soles and into your souls, and the spinners burn circles of light into the night air, you can, if you let yourselves, experience the full moon as never before.
The Full Moon Fire Jam starts about 20 minutes before sunset. Remaining 2009 dates are:
Wednesday, August 5, sunset 8:04 pm
Thursday, September 3, sunset 7:19 pm
Sunday, October 4, sunset 6:27 pm
Susan Bearman is a freelance writer and editor; you can read her at Two Kinds of People and on the Chicago Moms Blog, as well as at The Animal Store. She lives in Evanston with her husband, four children, a dog and a new kitten (don't ask).