Figueroa-Levin: Haven't I been at this street fair before?
I remember the first street fair I ever went to. I had just moved to Manhattan and it appeared one morning on a closed-down stretch of Broadway across from my building. I thought it was fantastic. There was a ton of food, music and a bunch of vendors selling everything from tweezers to glass beads to those retro-looking tin signs praising coffee.
I remember the second street fair I ever went to.
There was a ton of food, music and a bunch of vendors selling everything from tweezers to glass beads to those retro-looking tin signs praising coffee.
During the spring and summer, the exact same fair cycles among closed streets with the exact same formula. After the third one I stumbled upon, I realized they were all exactly the same. It's like there's a street-fair machine that just spits these things out throughout the city. When it gets really hot out, the smoothie stands are overrun with insects. There are health department standards for festival food vendors. I can't imagine flies are sanitary.
Middle-aged women trying to become jewelry designers as part of their midlife crises descend on the inexpensive glass bead tent like vultures. Why are these seemingly good-quality glass beads so cheap? Is there a factory in China that cranks them out in large quantities? Are they hand-painted by children my toddler's age making low wages? Why does everyone have to push each other? The exact same bead tent with the exact same beads will be at an identical street fair in a couple of days.
And what the heck is a Mozzarepa? An arepa with mozzarella? A sandwich? An unholy alliance of cheese corn and oil?
While street fairs are sponsored by a wide range of nonprofit groups, almost all of them are produced by one of three street-fair promoters. Independent street fairs are fantastic. Small crafters, fun T-shirt designers and good (free of flies!) food from carts that aren't franchises.
I'm sure closing down chunks of Broadway is an awfully expensive, elaborate process, and that the only organizations that can do it over and over are large fair factories, but I wish indie, unique-to-the-neighborhood street fairs were the norm. I'm sick of seeing the exact same thing everywhere I go. How many tin signs does a gal need?
Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and @ElBloombito.