Summer Street Fairs: sometimes just a pain?
A sign of the summer approaching is when you start to see event listings of street fairs or other al fresca fetes occuring on a more regular basis. Among my favorites in Portland include the Mississippi Street Fair and the Hawthorne Street Fair. With the advent of Portland's Sunday Parkways, now in its fifth year (wahoo!), some street fairs coincide with the neighborhood's street closure to corroborate the energy and excitement of a street fair coupled with a Sunday Parkway route.
In our new neighborhoods in the East Bay Area, one way we've been started to get to know our new environs is to spend some time at some of our local street fairs. In the past month, we've gone to the East Bay Bike Coalition's Happy Hour (a street party in Old Oakland celebrating Bike to Work Day), the 12th Annual Park Street Spring Festival (right in our own Alameda's downtown), and First Friday at Jack London Square (a collection of performances, food vendors, artisans, pop-up boutiques on the waterfront, an event that coincides with Oakland's First Friday Art Murmur).
What I love about street fairs is seeing the people in my neighborhood, other families, shop owners, performers, food purveyors. I love to support craft producers; I love to mingle with others in a dense, closed-off area, let the kids do a little exploring on their own. The energy is real: other people in the crowd welcome meeting and making a new friend; there is an air of community spirit and comaraderie.
There are, however, some trends in our street fair experiences that I do not enjoy. Perhaps it takes us a while to mobilize, leave the house, and make it out to said street fair. Once there, kids and adults alike might be irritatingly hungry. Perhaps I haven't packed enough snack food to hold us over to find a proper meal or to wait the long lines at the food vendors. The food vendor selection might not offer something everyone might want, and there might be complaints as a result. There may or may not be easily accessible restrooms for our toddler who - when he has to pee - HAS TO GO right then and there. Perhaps there are just too many people, that results in taking forever to make decisions on what to eat, what booth to visit, or where to situate. There might be no water fountain in plain sight to refill the water bottles we emptied on the hot bike ride over. The sun might be going down and suddenly our tank tops leave us shivering with goosebumps on our arms.
Street fairs are a summer right of passage, they are a beacon of the warm days to come, they are a sign of the long days of sunlight that are here. We all love them. But: do some of us hate them, too?