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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Fear and Loathing at Chilifest

Chilifest began for most almost eight hours before it started, including myself. We arrived equipped with enough beer and spirits to completely destroy our minds. I had set out on this adventure to do some good old-fashioned gonzo journalism in honor of the late Hunter S. Thompson, king of all that is strange and out of focus in the world.
I told myself I was out in search of my own twisted version of our generation’s American dream. Horatio Alger had found it once, but times have changed since then, and our attitudes have bent at a sickening angle. Headlining musicians took the stage during the mid afternoon hours on Saturday, so when the masses arrived Friday afternoon, what more was there to do but kick the tires, light the fires and throw one hell of a party?
It was about 2:45 in the morning when I remembered exactly how much I despise the evening hours of Chilifest. The rain had stopped nearly 12 hours before, and the thunderclouds had all but dissipated, leaving behind a pit of mud that could blanket a football field and a cold breeze that snapped at my bones, ripping through my thick layer of beer-blood. I was tired, full and my vision was completely blurred, mostly because of the five or six hours I spent enveloped in smoke from our barbecue pit.
The early morning, past the witching hour, is a dangerous time at Chilifest. People begin to change; behavior becomes more erratic, crazed. The hamburgers I had put out were stolen and devoured at an alarming rate and as food and light grew scarce, the natives grew restless. The various forms of alcohol had begun to take hold in my teammates, as their motor skills and balance battled feverishly against their blood-alcohol content and the mud-soaked ground. Simple beer drinking gave way to elaborate games and testosterone contests, and the slurred vocabulary and frantic shouts created a savage jungle inside each plot of land. Chilifest had become, as it always does, a monster rampaging out of control.
By 8 p.m., the Chilifest grounds had turned into organized chaos. Beer cans littered the lawn like spent machine gun shells and concert-goers stumbled around in the muck like roaming giants. Music blared out of speakers and boom boxes from every corner of the lot and the smell of brisket and burgers filled the air. At Chilifest, humans are reduced to their most basic state.
Once Father Time rolled over to single digits, the Chilifest train was at full steam and wouldn’t be stopped until the tanks read empty. Things became wild then, and people resorted to mud fights, wrestling matches and other sorts of rudimentary fun. And fun it was.
I made my way toward the portable bathrooms near the back of the land around 3 a.m. to try and settle my discomforted stomach and clear my inebriated brain. The outhouses stretched for hundreds of yards against the back fence that caged us all in. Because of the cold, steam rose from each one of them, reminding everyone of the filth they were about to step into. Some shouted in drunken hysterics across the ground at people they knew, some shouted in drunken hysterics at people they thought they knew and some shouted at people that weren’t even there, a signal that their minds had truly surrendered to the alcohol.
I watched as the door in front of me opened and a guy and a girl stepped out. My brain recoiled at the sight. Some girl down the row happened to see them – she pointed and shouted, “Sluts!” She then charged into her own Port-a-Potty, only to find the locked door more resistant than she had anticipated. I walked over to her, mildly interested if she knew the outhouse lovers.
“No,” she said as her eyes rolled back into her head. “They just smelled like sluts.” At this, her face took on a confused look, as if her mind had said one thing but her voice said something else, and I laughed harshly and walked away.
At this point, I had about all I could handle, and decided to return to my vehicle for what would no doubt be a few hours of uncomfortable sleep before catching my second wind.
I awoke around 9 a.m. and stumbled up the hill on my way back in through the gates, vaguely aware that the festivities from the night before had not yet completely dispersed from my veins. As I lumbered towards the site, all forms of people began to filter into the line, coming from cars, tents and the occasional mud pit they had called home for the evening. The gate provided much difficulty for most of us, and line after line of people, 20 or more wide, tried to pass through the opening that could accommodate no more than five or six.
At one point, I overheard a group of seven or eight clearly drunken males comment on the situation. The largest and dumbest of the group kept mentioning how he felt like they were being herded back in like cattle, and mooed incessantly as an added bonus. One of his compatriots, obviously tired of the guy’s mooing, smoothly karate-chopped him in the Adam’s apple. The mooer let out a gargled shriek and immediately fell to the mud in a heap. Unfortunately, no one seemed to notice but me.
Saturday morning of Chilifest is always a stark contrast to the night before. The sun was out and blazing in full force and the grounds looked more like a Hooverville than a concert festival. I made my way back to our plot to observe the damage from the night before. Bodies lay strewn about the mud and people were passed out in nauseating angles and positions. As I walked in, someone tossed me a warm beer. I didn’t even stick my hand out as it went flying by and exploded on the ground behind me – some girl started screaming. “Shut up,” I said. “Have a beer. Oh look, you already have some all over your face.”
At about 10:30, the entire Chilifest population collectively suppressed their gag reflex and recommenced their binge drinking. I quickly discovered, to my own personal glee and dismay, that cranberry juice basically masks the taste of any spirits, and I really enjoy cranberry juice in the morning. By high noon, my brain was swimming with the fishes and I was teetering dangerously close to total shutdown. After a quick power pass out and a rousing game of “where’s the nearest bathroom,” I returned to find most of the people awake, trying to find their dignity and sanity.
As the morning turned to afternoon, I decided to make my way toward the stage, feeling deep down that this was where I would see the true meaning of Chilifest and quite possibly catch a glimpse of my elusive American dream. I grabbed four lukewarm beers, but before I reached the stage, I came across an event that seemed to embody everything that Chilifest is – a circle of 10 or 12 people.
One person was standing in the middle holding a whiffleball bat with the top cut off. A robust girl poured two beers into the hollow bat and began to drink them as fast as she could. While she drank, the group began to count, chanting like some drug-abused cult. On this particular count, the girl finished the beers after the group got to 17. I was curious to see what that meant. Suddenly the girl started spinning around the bat. “Oh my God,” I thought. “This is going to be outstanding.” After 17 spins, someone lofted up an empty beer can for her to try and hit with the bat. What she did, however, was come out of the spin, try to take two steps at the same time in opposite directions, then kamikaze face-first into the mud. Yes.
As I moved onto the stage and my final moments at Chilifest, I looked around through beer-soaked eyes, taking in the true meaning of Chilifest. Hundreds of people crowded around the stage, sharing beers, laughs and smiles. Random guys let girls get on their shoulders so they could have a better view, and others passed out water bottles to those that needed them. Artists like Pat Green sang about beer drinking and having fun and the crowd roared back their approval. Team cooks handed out free food and shouts of excitement filled the air. Under the blazing Saturday sun, I found my twisted American dream.
Now, to find a tree to curl up under and pass out before I drive home.
Snook, Texas, April 5, 2008

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