On Thanksgiving Day, hundreds of people are gathering at the Fruit Bowl, a recreation area near Moab managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Utah State Trust Lands, for a high-line performance festival known as GGBY.
The day’s events on Thursday, Nov. 22, include “Monolithic Bounce,” “Arm Balance,” and “Dirtbag Rope Play.” There will also be cliff-side coffee, power yoga and tribal dance before the gathering’s Thanksgiving potluck at 5 p.m.
This year’s GGBY (Gobble Gobble Bitches, Yeah!) Highline Gathering features fifteen high-lines — ribbons of nylon webbing stretched between two anchor points above a 400-foot canyon.
The high-line is all that supports the performers at the Fruit Bowl. A leash secures each performer to the high-line to ensure their safety if they should lose their focus, but the exposure is still unnerving — an abyss of space visible past both edges of your feet.
High-line performing is like walking a tightrope. A person walks a length of nylon rigged between two anchor points, learning to balance as they inch across the narrow, bouncy, flexible bridge. From there, they may expand their balanced walk with tricks, juggling, yoga, and other creative forms of the sport.
Also included in this year’s gathering are lines intended for high-line participants who are just beginning. The introductory lines have an extra line rigged above the one being walked across to give physical and psychological support. People can attach a safety leash to the upper line as an extra tether, or just grab it with their hands if they feel they’re losing their balance.
“It kind of adds that extra boost,” said Scott Rogers, one of the event organizers for GGBY. “You don’t need as much skill, necessarily, but it gets you a feel for the exposure and just the experience.”
Rogers said the event attracts a spectrum of high-line performers and walkers, including some internationally recognized professionals.
The festival’s signature attraction is the “Space Net,” a synthetic web-like platform that will be suspended above the Fruit Bowl canyon on Friday, Nov. 23, starting at 8 a.m.
“This year we’ve got kind of a new formation of multiple different Space Nets,” Rogers said. “We’re hoping to rig several of them this year, and they’re all kind of interlinked.”
Other events and activities scheduled throughout the day on Friday include “Sacred Mobility,” “Rigging Analysis,” “Thai Massage” and “Self Care is Health Care.”
GGBY began 11 years ago as an informal gathering of high-line performers who share similar values, like empowering and supporting one another.
As more people began to take part in the annual event, concerns about safety and impacts to the surrounding environment prompted land management agencies to ask the organizers to get special-use permits and formalize the gathering.
The nonprofit Slackline U.S. began working alongside the high-line performers to organize the event beginning in 2017, said Jennifer Jones, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Moab assistant field manager for recreation.
Rogers described the community of high-line performers as “very mindful and peaceful and respectful, as a whole,” and hopes that these traits will continue to characterize the sport as it becomes more popular.
“It’s not the most affluent community and user group that participates in sports in Moab, but it’s certainly one of the more enriching,” he said.