With the death of rock icon Prince, the color purple has been a dominant theme in the news recently. CNN' Wolf Blitzer hyped it even more by attributing the Jimmy Hendrix song, "Purple Haze" to Prince. Wrong generation Wolf! My generation's exposure to purple was Sheb Wooley's song, "The Purple People Eater." Well, that and finding out that purple crayons don't taste like grape. But you may be surprised to know that in the mid-1980s the color purple and Irish Fest had much in common.
In the early years of Irish Fest we hired a number of street performers to roam the grounds and entertain people. One such performer was a comedy juggler from Madison whose name was Truly Remarkable Loon (his legal name). T.R. or Truly or Loon (we were not sure what to call him) was an exceptionally talented, funny, and entertaining performer and he drew huge crowds of people who circled around his show. Everything about T.R. was purple from head to toe, props and all. Purple was his favorite color. The Loon juggled everything that was close and not tied down - balls, plates, chairs, clubs, machetes, tomatoes, fire torches . . .you get the picture.
Late in the day on Saturday in his first year at Irish Fest, I saw a tall, thin, long haired man in civilian clothes walking ahead of me about to enter the Cultural tent. A-Ha! I thought, here is my opportunity to meet Truly and compliment him on his show. So I caught up with the fellow, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me sir, are you the Truly Remarkable Loon?" Silence . . . oops - wrong guy!
"Oh, excuse me," I said, "I thought you were the . . .well, I thought you were someone else." At the post fest War Stories and Wrap Up session a week later, I told the story and everyone was howling. I was laughing so hard telling it that I turned, of course, purple. Everyone who was there for that story will never forget it. Since then I have received gifts of loon calls and carved wooden loons. I'm very fond of them.
T.R. or Truly or Loon is still performing and lives in Madison with his wife and two daughters. And his favorite color is still purple.
Check out his purple-infused website! http://www.trloon.com/video.html
Ed Ward founded Milwaukee Irish Fest.
He also founded the Irish Fest Foundation and the Ward Irish Music Archives.
Ed served as a permanent member of the Irish Fest Board and served as the Chair of the Entertainment Committee.
View more blogs from Founder's Corner, here.