WELL, THAT HAPPENED: #FeedTheArch

By on September 14, 2016

How Jackson Hole’s viral webcam is fostering a healthy dose of local weirdness.

The umbrella crew should sacrifice itself to the arch.

The umbrella crew should sacrifice itself to the arch.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – While walking home from work last week, I ran into Jackson Town Council candidate Jessica Chambers. We got on the topic of how Jackson Hole needs a “Keep Jackson Weird” ethos like our friends in Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas. We need a movement that will celebrate our unique local sensibilities, we concluded. A movement that ignites a revolution of art, music, writing, performance and theatre—one that challenges the status quo and celebrates our differences.

It reminds me of a time before Jackson Hole faced the adversities that it does now. Before we won the title of most economically disparate place in the U.S., before the housing emergency, the onslaught of fur hoods, second and third home owners, and stacked nonprofit boards, there was a true sense of community weirdness here in the valley. Evidence of that era is still present in the fences around town embellished with skis.

It was a time when Jackson lacked the cabin mansions that spread across the Westbank and instead sported more multi-colored trailer parks, where A&W, the Lame Duck and LeeJay’s were the pinnacle of local cuisine, and neon blue and pink ski suits were considered couture.

The recent popularity of the SeeJH live-stream webcam on the southwest corner of the town square has attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers (if not millions at this point), for no reason in particular. Viewers, communicating on a real-time message board (i.e. chat room, if you remember those), point out the beauty in the mundane. They type “RED TRUCK!!!!” anytime a red truck passes by, or “THE ARCH DEMANDS SACRIFICES” as people enter through the antler arches into the square. Sure, some locals see this as idiotic, but perhaps these viewers are teaching us a lesson in not taking our weird little town for granted.

You guys, it is weird that we have antler arches and wooden boardwalks. It is weird that we have stagecoaches, art walks, cowboys, cougar moms, dabbing sheriffs, knotted pine beams and 20 interchangeable Thai restaurants. So I figured we should celebrate that weirdness and perform for the viewers from all over the world glued to the webcam.

On Thursday a handful of us gathered at the Center for the Arts lawn before we marched in front of the camera. Cady Cox brought white umbrellas from Dancers’ Workshop, which worked out better than we expected. We walked across the Broadway crosswalk in front the camera, opened the umbrellas and proceeded to “feed the arch.” Our antics lasted for a good half hour, assembling our umbrellas in different shapes, opening and closing them, twirling them while leaping through the air.

The comments that flooded in were weirdly heartening:

“#PRAISEUMBRELLACREW”

“YAAAAYYY UMBRELLAS!”

“Wow they started perfectly in time to my music”

“UMBRELLAS BACK AT IT AGAIN”

“This is the most pure and wonderful thing”

“I’VE BEEN HERE SINCE MONDAY AND THIS IS HANDS DOWN THE BEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED”

While we were being praised as heroes online, the tourists that walked around us were rather uncomfortable. They took photos of us, lunged out of the way of our umbrellas and gave us confused looks. Bland Hoke, one of the organizers of our mob, mentioned we’d established an alternate town square reality in our little mountain town.

As an entertainer myself, there’s something to be said about how important it is to put smiles on people’s faces, even if they’re baffled and unsure of why they’re smiling. The more we can “Keep The Hole Weird” and not be afraid to wave at a webcam or do something odd in public, the more we can hold onto and celebrate the community feel of our town. No matter who is watching. PJH

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