Thursday, August 27, 2015

Preparing for the Fair

It is late August. Hopeful, summer-hyped parents are posting photos on Instagram and Facebook of bright, shiny back-to-school grins. Hair is parted and smoothed in extraordinary care. Even picture day at school won't compete with this coiffed perfection. In addition, I've seen photos of what appears to be the same freshman college dorm room decked out in variations on a theme. Bright batik wallhangings, furry pillows that have to replace the cuddles of the beloved pets left behind, and edgy posters that are the hallmark of first impressions--except that these kids have already gotten those nasty first impressions out of the way through social media. With last week's cool spell, it seems everyone is moving forward to fall.

And so, with the Arden Fair approaching--that definitive slash that knocks the crown off Summer's head--I am letting go of Arden as a camp experience. I am going into my third Arden Fair, and as I do, it feels as though I am beginning my junior year at Arden University. But first--the Fair. It was the one thing we hadn't experienced prior to moving to Arden. I had done to other fairs. The Ephrata Fair (Longest Street Fair in PA) and the Mount Gretna Arts Festival. Even the Denver Fair which covers the area at a local park.

Arden Fair has a different vibe. First of all, it is only one day--not a whole week or weekend. In twenty-four hours it is like the whole thing never existed. The fair started back when Arden was a summer community as a way for artists to sell off their wares before they returned to winter over in the cities of Wilmington and Philadelphia. This is the 108th Arden Fair. Only in Arden would someone point out that this is a mystical number--the same number as beads on a mala. Meditate on that! If I had known that little tidbit, I would have submitted a T-shirt design based on the exultation of that number. I had the winning design for the fair T-shirt last year. (Pretty good for an incoming sophomore.)  The other thing that makes Arden's fair unique is the homemade nature of it all. This is not some slick traveling carny show. Right now the town is busy sorting donated books for a book sale, practicing making pies for the pie contest, sewing homemade banners to festoon the main avenue. Jennifer Curly has finished recruiting folks to person the children's games. Toby Ridings is running the tenth annual Peddlers, Potions, and Practitioner's Holistic Marketplace in the Buzz Ware Village Center. People don't realize what her decade of contributions have meant in terms of maintaining our community building. Buzz Ware better beware, because she is making the case for some sort of annex named after her.  Jan Rudzinski will make iced coffee. I wish I could list all the volunteers, because the list is staggering. The Arden Club keep tabs. The list contains over 300 names, which is an amazingly high percentage of the adult population of the Ardens. A percentage of involvement you'd be hard pressed to duplicate in any other community in this country.

My husband's job for set-up (and he takes a day off work for this) is to climb ladders to hang garland. I know why he volunteered to do it, but I cannot watch. His dad fell off a ladder two years ago, and I have a vivid imagination. Last year, I was in charge helping the featured artist set up and attend to the gallery art show (one of the only air-conditioned spots in town). This year, I am going to be at Linda Toman's ceramics booth selling art maps I designed as a fundraiser to get a labyrinth built in the Ardens. Linda is also the Grand Poobah of banner making. Just when I think the flags around town have reached saturation levels and she can take a breather, she finds a way to bring more embellishment. That's when I realize that I am the only person to have set silly limitations. You cannot have too much color. The banners and flags are spectacular, one-of-a-kind and definitely not of the variety you can order from a catalog.

Linda's husband Pat is running the show this year. A gentle but assertive leader; he is a good one to undertake the task. The first year we helped to set up, we were given a lunch of pizza and a dinner of fried chicken and potato salad. Somehow the fried chicken got axed. I may have to petition Pat to bring it back. I am like Pavlov's dog. After one fair set-up, I associate hanging banners and setting up booths with fried chicken. If they don't serve it, I will have to run out and get it anyway.  I'd be willing to sacrifice the pizza if necessary. Even I know it isn't about the chicken. We contribute because the fair brings money into the Arden Club which provides most of the programming and events in the Ardens, from our pool and lectures, to our concerts and dinners. It is a huge undertaking, but the money generated is worth it. If ever there was a team-building exercise or, in this case, town-building, it is this. Look what we can do when we all work together.

I cannot begin to describe all that happens at the fair. Concerts, German beer garden (Edmond Bischoff's Brats and German potato salad are my favorite fair foods), Antique show, kids' rides and games, artisan wares, book sale, plant sale.  Check out the Arden Club webpage to find out more. And come. It is always the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend which is September 5th, this year. 10AM-6PM. Let us show off our villages in the best possible way. You can't miss us. Just look for trees and flags.

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