By the time the piercing rays of Ohio’s morning sun started to poke their ugly heads through the hemisphere, I was finally able to sleep. Of course, I was in the driver’s seat of my SUV, sitting in a park-and-ride lot outside of Legend Valley — the venue in Thornville, OH that has become home to the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, the super fan club of the Insane Clown Posse.
When I told my editor that I had received press passes for the notorious festival, she demanded I give her coverage. So, I agreed. In turn, however, I demanded that the Observer rent me a fancy RV. They said no.
I did, however, manage to convince my sweet parents to loan me their camper.
But I couldn’t deflower myself on a mystical, magical, dark, debaucherous experience like this without some help. The Gathering is many things, but organized is not one of them. So, I consulted some experts — Tracy “Menace” Fuller and “Naptown” Mike Williams. Experts in Juggalo culture, Menace and Naptown Mike operate TrueJuggaloFamily.com, one of the most popular horrorcore fan sites on the internet.
Naptown Mike lives in Indianapolis, so that lucky bastard only had to drive a few hours to meet us. After hearing that our journey with the camper took us almost 24 sleepless hours to complete, he expressed feelings of “road trip guilt.” I corrected him — “road trip privilege.” To make matters worse, a wiring short in the camper’s lights held us back 5 hours. We left Dallas at 10 p.m. and arrived at the Gathering the following evening at the same time. That was Monday night.
As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, the stress and exhaustion washed off me like clown paint in a Faygo shower. This is where the real party begins. This is the most insane tailgate party one could imagine and they take all kinds. In one parking lot, some generous ninjas were covered in mud after trying to help a fellow fan get his car out of the mud. Another guy, who introduced himself to me as “Hep C,” brought his wife and kids, along with several of his kids' friends.
Of course, what would the Gathering be without a little police presence? When we tried to navigate our camper into the main parking lot, we were met with the painful flashes of police and ambulance lights.
While I never heard any official word, the rumor around the campfire is that a broken leg was involved. Hopefully that guy will be back to ninja kicking in the near future.
Coupled with the police lights and all the eccentric and friendly characters, rap music from the likes of Insane Clown Posse, Twiztid and Tech N9ne can be heard blaring from various campers and tents set up in every direction. If someone doesn’t like a particular song, they need only walk a few feet to hear another. That is, if they can hear at all over all the fireworks. Juggalos love to blow stuff up, and rightly so. Blowing stuff up is fun.
Amidst all the chaos, there were people publicly advertising weed sales and other Gathering party favors. I even heard mention of whippits — which, for the uninitiated, are cartidges of nitrous oxide that can be inhaled through a balloon to achieve a 20-second fit of laughter and a James Earl Jones voice. That is almost a little too perfect.
Here is what I learned my first unofficial day at the Gathering of the Juggalos.
Sometimes, Juggalos will yell random insults at people. This mostly happens when they are bored and waiting in a line to declare their “Balla Pass.” Sometimes the insults don’t make sense but that doesn’t stop the random outbursts. If one Juggalo calls another one a “chair-sittin-in-motherfucker,” they’d better think of something clever to yell back.
If someone shouts “Whoop whoop!” it is commonplace and respectful to shout it back.
They’ll talk to strangers simply because they enjoy the same music. Everyone out here already knows each other from previous years of the Gathering. As Menace and I were driving through the hordes of fans to get back to the “Ballas” lots, we had to stop left and right for him to shout greetings to at least 10 people.
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To get the best Balla Campsite possible, we had to arrive early and position ourselves to get out of the parking lot. When they open the gates, it is every ninja for himself.
The organization is worse than anything I’ve ever seen, It’s almost as if it's its own ironic little feature. Expect it not to run like it did last year or run well in any reasonable sense of the word. It looks like they had a couple guys directing traffic this year. According to Menace, that was the first successful attempt that he has seen in the 16-year history of the festival.
One typical saying around here is “Fuck yo sleep!” I wish I had some sleep for someone to wish fuck upon, but my meter is currently empty. At least my dreams last night were filled with explosions and clowns,
Now, onto day 2.