Saturday, August 1, 2009

Local celebrations

I was reading Tanya's blog about a local festival in her town. It looked so charming and uncommercialized and unpretentious. In the photos everyone seemed to be having a good time, from the children to the older people. These sort of local celebrations used to happen in the United States quite a bit, especially in small towns, but they are disappearing, to be replaced by big corporate sponsored events.

We have a fairly large two week music festival in my city; they rope off a section of the street near the river, fence it in and set up large stages where famous and local people and groups perform. Of course, it's an absolute madhouse mob scene, and you can't even bring in a cooler with your own refreshments through the gate - you have to buy it all onsite. The lines for restrooms and vendors are famously long. I've never gone to it.

My kind of festival is the Sesquicentennial celebration my home town had the year I graduated from high school. The main street through town was closed off to erect carnival rides. There was an art show at the library, concessions manned and cooked by the Eastern Star lodge ladies and good cooks from all the churches (Are Methodist or Baptist cooks the best? ) and a dunking booth where for a dollar you could try to put the high school football coach, the mayor or local luminaries such as the dentist into the tank. That dentist roamed the town the entire week in period costume, complete with top hat. Everyone in the town seemed to dress up in 1820's clothes, or as close as we could manage.

My dad's garage and gas station was at the corner of the two main streets in town, across from the court house, so he had to close for the week due to the blocked off streets - no customers could reach him. He didn't mind. It might have been the first time in over 20 years he closed for more than a day at a time.

Several years later, the town created"Septemberfest" (I guess "Octoberfest" was taken!). For a week, they close the downtown to install the carnival and have all the trappings of a local wing-ding - parades, food booths, concerts and a beauty pageant (one for the ladies and one for the prettiest baby - boy or girl). My dad closed his business every year during the festival and let the carnival hook up to the water supply at the garage for free, earning their gratitude.

Septemberfest has grown and changed, but it still seems to have that lovely local innocent flavor . I'm never there when it happens, but I read about it in the local paper, to which I still subscribe. There are corporate sponsors, sure, but they are the likes of Dee's Drive-In, Mildred's Flowers and the People's Security Bank. It's a celebration of small town culture that definitely goes against the grain of modern American life. It's a dying breed. Don't blink or you'll miss it.

1 comment:

Tanya said...

I've been to small street fairs in my mother's California town but the Japanese community festivals have a smaller, less commercial feel about them. I hope they don't die out here too.