Saturday, August 21, 2010

#4: The East Race Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival

On a misty Saturday such as this one, perhaps there's not much you want to do besides nap and watch an entire season of your mindless favorite TV show.  Rainy days call for inside activities, right? 

If you're willing to get up off the couch today, you'll find others out and about as well.  After a stop by the Farmer's Market to stock up for the week, I stopped by the First Annual East Race Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival, happening today from 10am-10pm.  All weekend festivals like this one have the same model: booths set up for alternative medicines, local artists, and lemonade vendors to peddle their wares.  Area bands play hour sets, and there's usually some dignitary from the city who speaks on behalf of the community organization that has organized the event.  What I love about these festivals is that once you recognize the basic framework, you can appreciate how the local flavor makes each festival a little different.

For the East Race festival, it was the All-You-Can-Eat sausage and corn dinner (a steal at $8).  [Polish] sausages and corn are staples in South Bend.  Corn is obvious--Indiana is in the corn belt--but the explanation behind sausages requires a bit more history. 

Among the many different ethnic groups that settled in South Bend, the Polish have had a significant presence since the Civil War.  It is evident at the many Catholic churches scattered around the city, the celebration of Dyngus Day, the paczkis sold at the Farmer's Market ... and the mass consumption of Polish sausages at the East Race Festival.

Another part of the festival that caught my attention were the booths set up by several Amish families.  One was selling homemade fudge and baskets; the other what looked like marbles.  A sign encouraged the curious spectator to "Feel them!  They're not marbles!"  How could I say no to that?  I discovered, that no, they were not marbles, but squishy beads that expand in water.  They're useful to keeping plants fresh and hydrated.  Since I had just bought a bunch of sunflowers at the Farmer's Market, I had to buy a package ($5). They were just like those foam creatures that "grow" that you found in your goodie bag as a kid...except they have a purpose!
How they started...
One hour in...
Three hours in...

That's another thing I love about festivals -- you can find unusual items you never would come across in stores.  Now I plan to spend the rest of this misty day watching not TV, but magic expanding beads.

Location: at the corner of East Washington and Hill Streets
Hours: 10am - 10pm

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