The Fair(s)

Thanks to Steve for posting the photos. The one of the spray-painted “ART NOT WAR” sign was actually not “technically” part of the fair(s); it’s been in that bus shelter on South U for weeks. But I thought it captured the zeitgeist well.

I biked to campus. It took all of 15-18 minutes, discounting time spent at the long light at Packard and Stadium. It was perhaps not the pleasantest day in the world to be biking in work clothes, though I doubt I’d have been any less affected by the humidity if I’d taken the bus. I’m getting used to the humidity by now, though that doesn’t mean I don’t long for it to be gone. Biking home was a slightly lengthier proposition, because I stopped at Kroger, but I didn’t find the ride difficult at all, and I rode along streets I would have never discovered if I had been hoofing it.

The fair’s first day was surprisingly tame, crowd-wise; I’m told the most hectic days are Friday and Saturday. Even with the crowds, and there were definitely lots of people, there was room to breathe, with the milling fairgoers limiting themselves very closely to where the stalls were positioned on South U and State and not venturing far off the beaten path. The long pathway running from the northwest to the southeast edge of central campus didn’t look all that much more trafficked than it has on other summer weekdays.

I even found a deserted corner of a brick wall off to the side of the entrance to the Fine Arts Library where I was able to eat a snack from the stands without anyone passing by—except one of the hungry (yet surprisingly finicky) campus squirrels, who was evidently not a connoisseur of pita bread.

Contrasted with the street fairs during the summer and fall months in San Francisco, I’d sum up the Ann Arbor experience thus far as follows:

  • Far less claustrophobic, if not in numbers of people then in terms of the space in which they are moving; the narrow confines of Union Street and Castro Street in SF are enough to make you swear off fairs forever if you’re not inclined to enjoy being trapped in a crowd and not being able to move more than a foot forward at a time.
  • The food’s definitely better, by a long shot (though no less expensive; at $3 for a cup of lemonade, it’s called highway robbery). In SF you get crappy junk and watery beverages (or, if you prefer the alternative, watery beer). Here at least the junk food is satisfying. And the lemonade is great: not too tart, but not sickly sweet either.
  • The crowds here are not as catty, snippy, snotty, or snooty. Lots of families and kids. Quite a number of dogs too, though the heat seemed a little excessive to be dragging a pooch along in. One typically eager beagle straining at his master’s leash was an amusing sight.
  • As far as what’s being sold in the booths themselves, not all that much difference, though I haven’t really lingered at any of the booths for very long yet.

More photos tomorrow, I hope.