[Editor's note: Daniel Hill and Drew Ailes are covering the Gathering of the Juggalos in Cave-in-Rock, Illinois for our sister publication, The Riverfront Times. We hope to see them again!]
Nate "Igor" Smith A juggalo at the gathering
By its organizers' own assessment, the Gathering of the Juggalos is an event filled with the most misunderstood people of all time. Juggalos are generally looked down upon by "normal" members of society, thought of as losers, degenerates or outright criminals--even most recently as a full-fledged gang, by the FBI.
So when we showed up there this week, we didn't know what to think. Debauchery and unhinged behavior, sure, but would be be murdered by Juggalos? It remains to be seen, but here are a few of our first impressions and misconceptions of the Gathering so far.
They're not all assholes
Upon arrival, I expected to be quickly outed as an interloper, and then subjected to the glee-filled pool-ball-in-a-sock wrath of the Juggalo Family. The band's "psychopathic clown" motif and violent imagery seem to lend credence to this notion, but in reality nearly every person that we have come in contact with has been very nice.
After all, this is the one event of the year at which these misunderstood societal misfits can gather in large groups without fear of ridicule or judgment from outsiders. Truly, the inmates are running the asylum. In keeping, attendees wander around with joy in their crazy clown hearts and smiles on their painted faces. The calls of "Family!" and "Woop woop" are each shouted in order to express solidarity between kindred spirits, about every ten steps or so.
One caveat: Information for the press that was dispensed included a list of tips -- things like "bring mosquito netting" and "wear sunscreen." Also on this list was an explanation concerning the "woop woop" and "family" call-outs. It was strongly recommended that when someone says these things to you, you should most definitely respond in kind. The repercussions of not doing so were not made clear, but suffice it to say I have loudly been parroting back clown love to all who have expressed it in my direction. Which I suppose could possibly help to explain my continued survival.
Juggalos are savvy entrepreneurs.
Nate "Igor" Smith
Everyone everywhere is selling something. Most of it is drugs, of course--this is a music festival, after all. But more on that aspect in a minute. More interesting are the out-of-the-box oddball ways people have been making money. Take, for example, the man with the "Bet you can't hit me with a quarter" sign. His pants were barely able to stay up, due to the weight of the jangling coins in his pockets. He even paid his way into the festival in the first place with change.
Elsewhere, a man with an unreal amount of facial tattoos had dollar bills stapled all over his body pitched his talent like a carnival barker. "Step right up, one dollar! The is a real staple gun; this ain't that fucking kiddie shit like you used to do when you were a kid. This shit really hurts." I probably saw twenty blood-smeared dollars hanging off of his skin.
Then there was the topless girl offering "boob squeezes" for $3. Yes, there were takers.