Anatomy of a Tired Festival
After nine years of living in downtown Indianapolis I finally made it to the annual Strawberry Festival fundraiser for Christ Church Cathedral on the Circle. I’d always wanted to go. June in Indiana is lush and green and a festival of strawberries sounded so perfect. I imagined farmers from all over the state bringing in flat after flat of fresh berries. There would be different strawberry desserts, all topped with fresh whipped cream sweetened with just a touch of sugar. Kids would run relay races around the Circle while balancing strawberries on a spoon. A few random, but good-natured strawberry fights would erupt. Especially exuberant young mothers would dress their babies in those funny little strawberry costumes.
Many of my co-workers planned to take a break from work to walk over to the Circle. I couldn’t wait to join them. But when I got there, this is what I found!
See those tents? Those aren’t booths for farmers and their berries or even fun games! They’re cafeteria lines where you and a bazillion other people wait in line to get a standardized strawberry dessert that with the works costs six bucks! And we’re talking food from vats. It was like a FEMA set up, only better organized. The festival website says that the 18K shortcakes (an impressive number) are homemade (and then frozen) for the event. In the one other tent that wasn’t a food line was a seniors band that played jazz standards. They were cute and obviously having a good time, but you could hardly hear them over the crowd.
And that was it. The assembly lines were enough to make me wonder how the word “festival” even got attached to the event. Did it used to be quaint? Katie called it a “strawberry distribution center.” Karen had warned me that I might be disappointed, but my other co-workers were thrilled with the event, and evidently so were the scads of people lined up for processed berries. I’ll probably catch it from the multitude for whom this passes as a good time, but fresh strawberries are better than this. I take some consolation in the fact that the Cathedral raises over $100K for local charities from this venerable “festival,” which is pretty amazing. Perhaps it just needs a fun overhaul.