Festivals in search of a vegetable


Ah, spring. You look up one day and realize that there are leaves on the trees! Welcome back, leaves and flowers! We’ve missed you. It’s time to open the windows, hose off the lawn furniture, and move outdoors.

Garden centers are crowded with people buying outdoor plants and bird baths. This year, they decide, we’re going to get the tomato plants in early and maybe grow some squash. Let’s get two or three plants so we’ll have enough. (Note to neighbors: I hope you like squash, for there will be squash to share with everyone, including the mailman, the UPS driver, and anyone walking past the house. Squash for all! And Swiss Chard!  Have a bag or two. Or three.)

If there is a down side to summer it’s that people tend to show a lot more skin when they are out and about. We see bulges and bad wardrobe choices. For some inexplicable reason, women of a certain age pull out their favorite pair of white polyester shorts or slacks for the summer. While those shorts may have fit them fine 20 years ago, there really isn’t enough stretch in that polyester to fit them now. But wear them they do and off they go to the local town festival. (My mother used to refer to these events as the “Cellulite Festivals.”)

In the middle section of the US, communities tend to adopt a particular fruit or vegetable to be the theme of their festival. Corn, apples, strawberries, potatoes, peaches, and melons are all honored at these local events. It’s basically an excuse to get outside and enjoy the warm weather. There’s a parade with homemade floats, the high school band provides the music, and local students compete to be named the King or Queen of the festival.

There are the food carts, of course. It’s no longer enough to fry potatoes, onion rings, and mushrooms. Fried cheese is just so yesterday. Now there is a competition to find something new to dip in batter and fry in oil: candy bars, cookies, sticks of butter. No wonder so many of us look bad in our summer togs.

If you are a recently elected mayor of a town without a festival, I’ll warn you that most of the popular produce selections have been claimed. Whatever you do, sir or madam, steer clear of squash and Swiss Chard. Both are perfectly fine vegetables, it’s just that so many of us have had bags of it thrust in our arms when we happen to walk our dogs past a neighbor’s house. At this point, we don’t feel like celebrating squash.

Decisions like this are the burden of elected office. It might be best if you picked a colorful citizen from your community’s history to honor. Not too colorful, of course. Or how about flowers? Or trees? Who doesn’t like a tree?

Can your local police department handle crowd control? I ask because my advice would be to go for honesty and just call it the Fried Junk Food Festival.

That would pack them in.

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