Friday, April 6, 2012

The Allure of a Street Fair

Palm Springs Villagefest

Walking among the throngs of people last week at the Palm Springs weekly Villagefest, I wondered why so much interest among so many in street fairs.

Christmas Market in Paris
I've been to plenty of them around the globe from the Christmas Markets in France, the annual Chicago Neighborhood Festivals to numerous weekly farmer's markets.  Reflecting on each of the experiences, all of them were jammed with people.  What's the draw?  What do they all have in common?  My interpretation... they celebrate the character of the neighborhood and the people who live there.

Can it be we are all desperate to embrace our uniqueness?  Could it be that we actually like making a human connection with the vendors which is fulfilling and not frustrating?  Is it because there is an increased interest in preserving local cultivators and sustainable farming?  Or is it just a throwback to the rewarding experience of street markets and bazaars dating back centuries?  Grocery chains, department stores or malls just can't deliver the same experience.

The first street markets were the beginning of retail as we know it today.  Traders would travel miles to a city center on an assigned day of the week.  In historical markets, a charter was given to certain markets to protect their rights and competition from neighboring communities.   The fictional book, Pillars of the Earth, succinctly depicts the fierce competition for staking out markets in Olde England.

With all of the hub bub with the lack of transparency in recent years whether it be pink slime, no GMO labeling or manipulating our subconscious in what we purchase at the grocery store due to product placement, no wonder we revert back to a simpler format when given the opportunity.

I'd like to think we haven't evolved into zombies who succumb to only a national chain or brand as our only choice.  By supporting local artisans, farmers and businesses too, we can ask questions directly to the vendors, we actively keep the money in our respective communities, we reduce our carbon footprint, we promote our neighborhoods' uniqueness and we can be all the healthier for it.

Now to my latest discovery at the Palm Springs Villagefest.

No, not the Henna tattoos being marketed on the street
Not the Adobada meat on the rotisserie slathered in Red Chili Sauce
It was the Kettle Corn
Kettle corn is not unique to just this one fair; it's usually at every fair.  I just had never tried it.  I probably should have tried the Adobado meat with its surreal color, but dinner was awaiting us at home.  Thanks to my friend Mary Lou who bought a bag of Kettle Corn to share, John and I became enraptured.  I don't think I'll ever be able to go to another fair and not buy this sweet and savory delicacy! 

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