Goosebumps at Wild Goose

by Wendy Grisham 4 Comments General, Wild Goose Festival

There is something about the Wild Goose festival that never ceases to amaze me.

Philip Yancey at Wild GooseI can’t quite put my finger on it but it is reminiscent of Fair Day from my childhood. For those of you who don’t know about this, I will attempt to explain. When I was a girl, the Mid-South Fair would come to town every autumn. We had a ½-day of school and were given the rest of the day off to go to the Fair. I. Could. Not. Wait. I was antsy leading up to it, desperate for it to arrive. (It was the ideal bargaining chip for my parents to ensure best behavior as well.) It was a struggle to get to sleep the night before and inevitably my dreams would be full of rides and fun houses and cotton candy. I can still remember that anticipation. It gives me goosebumps even now to think about it. Santa Claus had nothing on Fair Day. It was the anticipation for Fair Day that wraps up the feelings I have about the Wild Goose Festival. Because, let’s face it, as grown-ups, there are very few times that we get so keyed up for something that is approaching.

I can honestly say, hand on heart, that the lead up to Wild Goose brings about that same anticipation, and the goosebumps. And the planning, oh! I make lists, I start piles, I start checking the website daily for the countdown. I watch for the schedule to go up. There is also the anti-climax once the Goose has flown. I have waited over weeks to write my blog post because frankly, thinking about the Goose being over makes me terribly, terribly sad. Call me a softly, sentimental, silly, whatever you like for I am surely all of those. And yes, perhaps I romanticize it a bit much, but it makes my feelings no less genuine.

For the last few days – post-Goose 2013 – I have pondered what it is about the festival that makes me go all silly. Having experienced ever Goose to date, for those of you not in the know, that means four (it started in 2011, with two in 2012 – lest you think I can’t count), I realized it is a number of things. Trying to sum them up, I decided to do one of my favorite things. Make a list. Herewith, the reasons I love to go the Goose:

  • Brian McLaren. Ok, well that one was obvious.
  • Phyllis Tickle. And yes, that one, too, is a given.
  • Belonging. Never in my grown-up years, have I felt such a sense of belonging as I do at the Wild Goose festival. I have made friends that I only see at the festival but what a celebration there is when we meet again. But it more than that; it is a feeling of acceptance and welcome and genuine joy (that my limited vocabulary allows me to describe) as I greet people and am greeted or simply watch people greet each other. It is truly beautiful.
  • Brain-aerobics. A scholar, I am not. But there is such a breadth of ideas shared and discussed and explored, that it is hard not to be challenged – in the best possible way – by all the talks and conversations. The caliber of speakers is second to none.
  • Wild Goose Featured Image

  • A glimpse of what is to come. I spend little time thinking about Heaven because I get more than a little overwhelmed. But I feel it at the Wild Goose festival. Everyone fully accepting everyone else, a feeling of purpose, significance, being understood, edified and encouraged, safe. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, yes, and the Wild Goose Festival is it’s banquet/feast/disco/prom.
  • Visiting. As you walk the grounds of the festival, whether you are on your way to a talk, or that booth that is giving away free t-shirts, or to Beer & Hymns, you cannot help but notice everyone talking and visiting with one another. It represents openness and community that you don’t seen anywhere else. There is genuine respect and conversation and reminiscing.
  • Slowness. Wow, that one is a biggie. Given the freedom to walk slowly, not rush conversations, be a few minutes late and it not be a big deal are incredible gifts that the Goose probably doesn’t even know it provides. It reminds me of my grandfather sitting on the front porch is his chair, bobbing back and forth slowly, and watching the cars drive by. Everyone is so chilled out. There is no need for a watch (which I highly recommend leaving behind.)
  • Music. Oh. My. Stars. Have they got this one down or what? It gets better and better every Goose. I cannot imagine what they are going to do next year. From the Indigo Girls to Beer & Hymns to Open Mic, there is talent in droves and it is shared for the good of all and appreciated by all. That is too beautiful to put into words.
  • Jericho Books at Wild Goose

  • There is a very small role I play, or hope that I play, in this community. I bring books. This tribe and Wild Goose are the places that I get my spiritual food, and the books we publish are the casseroles I bring. Gosh, I hope that does not sound like a plug. Because it genuinely is not. This publishing, what I do, is my ministry. And frankly, the moment it becomes more than that, I will leave.
  • No cell coverage and very little wifi. Ok, so at first this sorta freaked me out but honestly, it was wonderful once I let go. It forced me to live in the moment, to be present. I don’t know if that was deliberate or not but I am jolly well pleased in either case.
  • That Indian Food. I don’t know if it was the same food truck they hired this year as in years past but that is absolutely the best Indian food I have had in this country. What I would give for one of their curries right now!
  • Generosity of spirit. This one is possibly the most precious of all. The fact that the Goose will not turn anyone away is endemic of the mission of the festival. And that generosity carries over into the spirit of the whole thing. Food is shared, time is shared, ideas are shared and whether you agree with someone or not on any given issue, there is a support in their right to think and speak their truth in this safe place.

Bless you, Gareth. Bless you board of directors. Bless all the peeps who were working months in advance and behind the scenes to provide this experience. Bless you to the volunteers and the speakers and the musicians. Bless the sponsors and the vendors. Thank you so much for this little slice of heaven.

Now we wait. We have 300+ days before the next Goose. I hope to see you all there, happy and healthy and blessed then. Oh, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about.

Wendy Grisham

About Wendy Grisham

Wendy Grisham, VP, Publisher Jericho Books, is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and the University of Warwick (in Warwickshire, UK). Before starting Jericho Books, she was the director of publishing at Hodder Faith, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, a division of Hachette UK where she published the NIV Bible, Brian McLaren, Philip Yancey and Tim Keller. Her favorite color is orange and she is known to have terrible giggle fits.


Thanks Bill. I am so pleased you love it too!  As soon as I get home from the last Goose, I start counting down to the next one.

Bill Guerrant
Bill Guerrant

I love your analogy to Fair Day. That was part of my childhood too.

But even more, I love this:  "The kingdom of heaven is at hand, yes, and the Wild Goose Festival is it’s banquet/feast/disco/prom."

The Goose has become a very important part of our lives and (like you) we're already looking forward to the next one. To me it feels like getting dunked in the Kingdom of God.


Thanks Brenda!  Yes, I was said to learn that the Mid South Fair doesn't live there anymore.  I heard they tore down Libertyland as well.  I spent much of my childhood at both.


When I saw your memories of Fair Day, I was startled to remember that I wasn't reading a local blog. Hello from Memphis! :) I'd never heard of this festival, so thanks for sharing.