Street festivals, carnivals, outdoor free concerts, parades, beaches, races… summer draws a crowd. Big crowds.
We put on our sunglasses then head over to the nearest weekend attraction. We circle the parking area, then wait for the shuttle bus. Then we wait in line for food/drinks/games. Then we are generally jostled in a crowd, and if there is an attraction to see, chances are I won’t be able to see a thing from my 5’2” vantage point on life. Crowds, crowds, CROWDS!! …Are a Summer Classic.
Twenty-years ago during my college years, I went to any free street festival or concert event I could attend. In Rochester, New York – where we endure a solid six months of winter, 2-3 months of blah intermission weather, and a scant 2-3 months of true summer – we are in festival mecca, and Rochester sure knows how to make the most of any day with temperatures above 50 degrees.
We start with the Lilac Festival just after Mother’s Day and wrap up with the Apple Festival around Columbus Day. There’s pretty much a festival or outdoor event every weekend in between. The bigger festivals (Lilac, Rochester International Jazz Festival, Park Avenue Festival, Corn Hill Festival) count their attendance in the hundreds of thousands.
The experience is largely the same: Lots of walking, punctuated by standing in a ridiculous line to get anything. This includes deep fried-everything, meh beers, ‘fresh squeezed lemonade’ sold out of a lemon-shaped stand, and overpriced event-related merchandise that will break or be meaningless an hour after you’ve left.
Then there’s the line for the port-a-potty. It is a brief ‘glimpse into the life of a refugee’-moment once you get to the head of the line and you are so grateful for your chance to use, literally, a sh!t house (excusez-moi).
All of society comes out to these events. The entire spectrum. And I am forever astonished by the clothing choices (or lack thereof), surpassed only by my astonishment at footwear choices. Use your imagination.
The Firemans’ carnivals and affairs like the corn festival and garlic festival are tucked away around western New York and draw their local crowds, but there is one venue where the quiet foothills of the picturesque Finger Lakes dramatically increases in population for a weekend.
Watkins Glen International racetrack.
I don’t know the actual gate-count, but it seemed like half a million sun-burned, sweaty people. Huge crowd. HUGE. All there to watch NASCAR.
I think I may still be a bit shell-shocked by the whole experience. Two years ago, The Husband and I attended an Indy series race at The Glen and I absolutely loved it. I was unprepared for NASCAR, up close and personal.
I’m trying to imagine what the expansive grassy fields surrounding the track will look like in a day or so after all the campers, tractor-trailers, and coolers are dragged out. All I can picture is that scene in Dances With Wolves after the epic buffalo herd stampedes through John Dunbar’s outpost.
As time goes on, The Husband and I are more and more picky about which crowds we’re willing to endure for a perceived reward of entertainment. It’s no wonder that most weekends we are content to sit on our porch with cool drinks in-hand and fresh food on the grill.
We wave to the neighbors all the way across the street, put on our favorite porch-party music, and flip on our neon beer sign at dusk. For a whopping crowd of two.
Crowds. It’s a true summer classic, whether we like it or not!