Musikfest is in full swing and taking Bethlehem by storm. Last night, I got my first taste of this year’s festival and I was completely blown away. Chris Isaac and the Wallflowers and Al Stewart took the stage as the evening’s main events, and while I did not have the opportunity to catch these performances, I did witness Musikfest mania from a different angle.
Of course the famed performers and official concerts are vital and alluring aspects of the colossal event, but there is so much more to Musikfest that requires nothing more than an open mind and a pair of comfortable shoes. You don’t need tickets, passes, or even a single dollar to get a taste of the multi-cultural magic that Musikfest brings to Bethlehem. Now, I’m not saying you won’t be tempted to exchange some cash into Food and Beverage tickets- from ice cold beer to fresh baked strudel, it is without a doubt a grand challenge to refrain from indulging- but with enough will-power, it can be done.
There is however one aspect of Musikfest that cannot be avoided: the spirit of diversified unity. Walking through the streets of the festival, I was actually slowed down by the overwhelming crowds, yet despite the mobs I never witnessed any incidents of hostility or unrest. There were people of every imaginable age and ethnicity, and there was corresponding music, art, and food to fill each niche. As I made my way through the streets, I began to feel as if I was spinning through a cultural melting pot; with each block traveled, the melodies would seamlessly shift through time and space. Swing, jazz, Latin, and funk filled my ears as I moved along, and the flavors shifted as quickly as the tunes. To paint a picture of the cultural whirlwind, I savored an all-American funnel cake while watching an Asian calligraphy artist and listening to celtic rock…where else would that be even remotely possible?
From whispers of Peruvian flutes to exuberant echoes of peppy Polka, the sounds of Musikfest are as far-flung as the people who enjoy them. Musikfest still holds on to its German roots, (as many of the ‘platz’ names imply), but over the past 25 years it has evolved from a local festival to a nationally renowned event, and in the process it has truly taken into account many distinctive cultures of our nation. These 10 days are a testament to American diversity, and our ability and desire to share our many unique cultures. Musikfest now claims to be ‘America’s Music Festival’ and my experience supports that declaration. By embracing and promoting the many melodies of the American song, Musikfest brings us together in spirit without lumping us together in culture.