On Saturday, I went to the lakefront to attend my first Ethnic Arts Festival on the North Shore in Evanston. It started at noon and I was fortunate enough to find parking off the beaten path a little after twelve.
The weather was perfect. It was sunny, dry and not too hot. As I walked into the park, I saw families out cooking or just socializing. Each had claimed their spots and their music was as diverse as the theme of the festival itself. As I got closer, I saw an array of tents situated all around. There were flags representing different nations circling the pond.
I leisurely strolled towards the tents and silently reminded myself of my shoestring budget. So, I looked at the wonderful wares from a distance as I saw all types of jewelry, dresses, hats, baskets,drums, you name it. It would have been so easy to blow the budget, so I walked in the middle.
And then, these headbands that only cost $4.00 caught my eye. I thought, now that will go with my outfit and it started. I picked up one and I also saw a pair of earrings that I could not leave hanging there. That was my first damage for the day.
I continued on after I tucked my new headband and dangling earrings into my bag. At that booth, I spent $10 and they charged me $1 for taxes. Oh well! I stayed away from the booths as I again observed their wares from a distance. Artifacts, hats and lots and lots of jewelry. Whew!
But then, it happened. The music! I thought of Denise Levertov’s poem called Tree Telling of Orpheus. These lines have stayed with me. “But the music! The music reached us.” I heard the music. I walked towards the inviting sounds. I was able to find an empty seat and I saw a woman singing and playing a bass along with three other musicians.
There was a guitarist, a drummer and one guy actually played an accordion. An accordion! I had not seen one of those in years. I had only planned to listen to a couple of songs, but the group was so good, I ended up staying until they finished their set. Before I left, there was nowhere to sit and many people were standing and dancing to the rhythm. I later discovered that the lead vocalist and bass player’s name is Megitza and her group is called The Megitza Quartet.
I got up and headed back to the tents remembering that I had to pace myself. I again looked from a distance until… yes, until, I saw a fan. A hand-woven fan! It was only $8.00. I picked it up and it fit so perfectly in my hand. I did not see the woman sitting there observing me. She said, “It is from Ghana.” That did it. I thought of my Ghanaian co-worker whom I fondly remember and said, “I’ll take it.” I walked away smiling and fanning.
Then, there were the food stands and booths. I had not eaten so I had to get something. I had so many choices. Gyros? Hotdogs? What? And then I saw the vendor who had sold me a Sandy Special at the Farmer’s Market the week earlier. I decided to try their tacos. I bought two and spent $6.00 at $3.00 each.
I went to a table where others were eating and enjoyed the tacos and a little more sun. I noticed that more people were coming and it was getting more crowded. When I finished eating, I slowly walked towards my car. I had only spent $25.00 and I was quite happy with my finds.
On the way out, I saw a tent called Children’s Crafts. It was very well-staffed and the children could walk up and create something. They had a lot to choose from as they got their hands busy during the fest. How thoughtful! Whoever thought of that idea should be hugely rewarded.
More people were pulling and up and parking had become very scarce. I felt that I was leaving just in time because I was able to enjoy the fest in a stress-free fashion. I left the festival and made one more stop on the way home.
After I had been home for about an hour, the weatherman came on and said that there were tornado warnings out. Sure enough, a downpour did come shortly afterwards. I thought of the vendors who had to put up their wares. I thought of the many people out on the lakefront who had to run for shelter. I felt bad for them, but I thought of my time at the festival and said, “Lucky me!”
Lynn M. July 19, 2015