Recalling Bele Cheres past

It was Bele Chere weekend 1990? 1991?, which also happened to be production weekend at the newspaper. Friday or Saturday afternoon, just around suppertime. Temperature still in the high 80s, hot and high humidity too. The publisher had already half jokingly threatened that anyone who blew off editing weekend might not have a job come Monday.

My desk was trapped directly above a kielbasa stand on the street below; there was no air conditioning in that old building, no closing the windows, nowhere to hide from the thick greasy smoke.

I maintained a semblance of cool until I heard the intro to “Lying to the Races,” one of my favorite songs by The Staple Singers who were now playing less than 50 feet from the front steps of the Miles Building. I jumped up, called out, “I gotta go, I’ll be back!” and ran out into the street to hear the band.

Only 50 or so people were there, so there’s room to swing-dance with Robert the ad sales guy. I’m swinging not 10 feet away from Pops Staples, I’m smiling up at Miss Mavis, I’m listening to her voice soaring pure and sweet, each and every note utterly worth unemployment. Forty minutes later, a sheepish but supremely happy reporter returned to finish the job and lived to write another day.

To this day when it’s Bele Chere weekend, even if I’m a thousand miles away, I can still smell that sausage frying and feel the joy of that moment. It’s one of my fondest memories. Thanks for that.

— Andrea Helm, former staff reporter for Green Line News (now the Mountain Xpress).

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