Festival season is here. I didn’t get to the Park Point Art Fair until after it had closed on Saturday, but that was OK. I was only really there because I wanted to check out the gluten-free fair food. Auntie M’s Gluten Free Fair food tempted me to make the drive to the end of the Point.
I went to a few art festivals when I moved to Duluth, conditioned, I think, by the Lakefront Festival in Milwaukee. A major regional festival, with 170 artists, at a major art museum, conditioned me to expect some art that seemed impossible to want in my home. Art that challenged me.
Smaller festivals, like the ones we see in Duluth, they function almost more like interior decoration festivals — objects of immense beauty, but beauty that doesn’t make me rethink my space, my community, my identity.
So when I slip back tomorrow, it will be with a desire for the footlong egg rolls from the mobile Taste of Saigon and gluten-free treats. And if some art challenges me, I’ll take it. If you saw some art that challenged you, let me know.
I was late getting back to Park Point because I stopped at Far West Fest, a street festival in Gary/New Duluth. Trips to Gary/New Duluth have been rarer for me since the excellent Vietnamese restaurant that used to be out there closed. So I was excited to see the community in action.
[All above pictures in this post are from event FB pages.]
Gary/New Duluth and Fond du Lac amaze me. There is a slight culture shock, always. It feels like home — this is the housing density, the lot size, the ancient apartment buildings crammed with units on the main drag alongside ramblers with modest yards, that remind me of Milwaukee life. These are the kind of homes that my family aspired to, the kinds of homes that working in factories made possible. Except the factories are gone, and so those same homes don’t mean what they used to mean.
This neighborhood feels like the car my grandparents owned, which in the late 1970s was a nice car. If you can find one still running, it still very much is a nice car — comfortable, with a solidity that is impossible to match in the crumpling plastic of today’s cars. But these cars are hard to find in the same condition my grandparents kept theirs in. That’s how Gary/New Duluth feels to me.
And then there are parts that are completely alien, like the building with billboard-sized text on its side: “Gun Emporium.” The Emporium was closed during the festival (which makes sense, given the immense space given to wristbanded beer consumption) so the picture below is from its website.
However much a gun shop is alien to a city kid (guns were for criminals, in my childhood), when I think about purchasing a gun, I think about the part of Gander Mountain shops (when they existed) that I never spent money in, but visited with a kid’s fascination for the technology.
This emporium has an opulence, if the pictures are accurate. Is this the “neighborhood gun shop,” or is this the regional business with a legacy location? Probably the latter, but a reminder that New Duluth is a different community from Duluth or from my Milwaukee roots.
Not that the rest of the neighborhood is that different from Hillside or Lincoln Park — Gary has a restaurant that opens for breakfast and closes before dinner; I guess this complements the bar next door. Between the Milk House and the Minit Mart and, a few blocks down, the Family Dollar, shopping is probably convenient. (I spent my young adulthood basically living out of what one could buy at a Walgreens.) But there are so many empty storefronts — what kind of business would work?
Far West Fest is an infusion into the community. Maybe a little too much emphasis on the drinking to loud music for my taste, after dark, but that’s my taste, nothing more. I avoid Bayfront for the same reasons.
Meanwhile, after filling up with gas, I kept going west. After all, I was at Far West Fest … through Fond du Lac … over the St. Louis River, so pretty, straight into Wisconsin?
I will never feel right heading deep into western Duluth, winding my way into the state to our east.
I started the day at Rhubarb Fest, a fundraiser for CHUM, that closes at 4 p.m., avoiding the culture of outdoor loud that Far West Fest raises.
[From the Fest FB Feed]
I sat with friends sipping oh so sour rhubarb lemonade, taking in the sun. Rhubarb festival is a tradition for me, the flavor also the flavor of my childhood, rhubarb being plentiful in the backyard when I was a kid.
I get a tasty smoothie from Whole Foods Co-op and feel like my membership has paid for something cool. I listen to music, I pick up a poster from the young lady dressed as Supergirl, knowing the CW TV Station is paying for a booth that benefits CHUM, and suddenly I like the station just a little more.
I watch the Duluth East robotics team. I see the Master Gardener. It’s ritual, this festival, so maybe I have less to say. But perhaps I love it that much more.
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