It’s festival time!
Pretty much every weekend in September out where I live is filled with a festival.
I like to think it’s because suburbanites are big Dylan Thomas fans, which is to say, like he said, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Which basically means fall starts, the days are getting shorter and all that follows.. That covers gray weather like we’ve been having, eventual leaf raking, squirrels trying to squirrel away in your soffit and pumpkin spice stuff everywhere.
Next we have Halloween, which has turned into another playtime for adults. Then a local radio station immediately starts playing Christmas music, 24/7. Then we eat a lot of turkey.
To keep the mood light in a dark season, no one is even mentioning the Chicago Bears by this point.
That’s followed by snow, which is useless in these parts, then an inevitable arctic cold snap or two, one of which sometimes happens just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
So, yeah, rage, indeed. Or at least hold a festival.
To that point, this past weekend, in my neck of the northwest suburban woods (or lack thereof), there were two big festivals that focused on Hispanic heritage. The towns held them on Mexican Independence Day, which happened to be a Saturday this year.
I got a taste of one festival while buying shrimp out of the back of a truck in Elgin.
Hey. Fabian Seafood is awesome. It’s a family-run business based in Galveston, TX. They drive up a truck filled with Gulf Coast seafood to various points in the Midwest, where the ocean ain’t.
If they come to your town, I highly recommend you try them. Then, get on their mailing list so you know the next time they’ll be around. Plus, they give you a discount for bringing along the postcard they mail you.
Anyway, while we seafood lovers waited for Fabian to set up outside an Ace Hardware, cars filled with people celebrating Mexican Independence Day paraded down the street.
The revelers waved big Mexican flags, honked horns, waved to people waiting in line for seafood and seemed to be having a good time. A noticed that a good many of the cars held kids. And it did seem very family friendly.
The caravan went on for about 45 minutes or so. (In fact, the Fabian truck arrived a bit later than usual. They said they had to go to Midway to pick up some fresh snapper. They noticed the parading down that way, too. They drove through Cicero, no doubt. It’s named after a Roman, and almost 90 percent of its residents are Latinos.)
The Elgin parade really pissed off some of the crabbier people waiting for the shrimper to show up. In ways you can probably imagine.
I heard someone make a smart ass comment that they should have an Italian celebration, too. And that she should put a sticker on her car or wave an Italian flag somewhere.
Which would be fine with me, and probably with a lot of other folks.
After hearing a bit of this nonsense, I said to the woman waiting behind me something about not seeing anything as boisterous as this parade. Unless you count St. Patrick’s Day.
I said it louder than I should have – but it didn’t get the intended rise out of the crabs waiting for seafood.
The woman behind me laughed. She used to live in Naperville. She said she wouldn’t have seen anything like the Mexican caravan in that town. I think she meant that as a slight burn on Naperville.
Naperville, of course, is the most perfect place. Ever. All those clickbait internet listicles say so.
By the way, this coming weekend, there’s an Irish Festival in Naperville. I’ll be anxious to see the AP ranking. And wonder if they show the Notre Dame/Ohio State game during it. And Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, happens Sunday into Monday, too. Such a busy month!
Anyway, my line buddy found the parade amusing, as did I.
We both did find one thing distressing about the parade.
See, some of the parade people were letting their kids stand up so their heads stuck out of sunroofs. Others kids poked their heads out of car windows. Some teens sat with their fannies on car window ledges.
This brought out my inner TS Garp. And if you haven’t read The World According to Garp, you should.
Anyway, in Garp mode, I worried that somebody, particularly some kid, was gonna get hurt.
I was like that the night before, too. Best Fest Buddy Tom and I took his three grandkids to see fireworks. The pyrotechnics were being shot off from a footbridge over the Fox River between East and West Dundee.
Starting time was supposed to be 8. They didn’t. Nobody blocked off the street year, either – at least when we arrived at Rosie O’Hare’s around 7:30 or so.
The kids wanted to mark their territory for maximum viewing. Tom wanted Guinness.
So the kids left their chairs along a street corner, Chicago winter-style. The kids and I headed to the outdoor seating area – after Tom had already scampered ahead to order two pints.
That these were proper glass pint glasses normally would be much appreciated by me. Not so much with three antsy tykes anxious to see fireworks among us.
I made sure the second and final round came out in plastic.
Meanwhile, the kids turned out to be attention magnets.
Tom claimed a woman even kissed him on the top of his bald head and asked him to marry her. Because of how adorable he was with the kids.
“Why? What did I do wrong?” is what Tom said he told the woman. She was already married anyway.
Apparently the kids are that cute. They can turn some women into potential bigamists.
Meanwhile, I headed to the street corner. Some folks don’t understand street dibs. They had taken the spot where we had left the chairs.
I didn’t argue. I just mumbled.
The kids joined me. And we moved the chairs about three feet and up against the fence for the outdoor area for the pub.
A woman in the pub area noticed us. She was impressed with my apparent grandparenting skills. Or at least the comedy that is me watching kids ages 8, 6 and 5.
Part of that comedy most likely came from my worried facial expressions. No one was going to dart out into the street on my watch.
Relief came when public safety crews finally blocked off the road. The fireworks finally happened after 8:30.
We went home with a souvenir, even. A smoky piece of one of the fireworks wafted toward Tom. I put it in my memory box. Or on a cabinet in my bathroom. One of those.
The fireworks happened as part of the Heritage Festival in West Dundee. I didn’t attend this year.
I did hear that festival from the balcony at my house, from less than two miles away. I went to bed Friday night as a rousing version of Bohemian Rhapsody wafted through my windows.
The following night, classic rock mashed up with traditional Mexican sounds from the Fiestapalooza acts playing just a few blocks from my home.
Tom and I and the kids went to that festival in Carpenter Park during the afternoon.
It was fun. I almost bought a hat. Or not. The kids collected free stuff. Tom and I had $12 drinks served in cute, plastic mini Patron bottles.
During the course of the day, the crowd grew to several thousand people.
Tom lives at the end of a block that’s not even a quarter mile from the park. We let a Mexican paletas cart vendor park in front of the house. Nice old guy. He gave the three kids free frozen treats when he left.
A teen couple also asked nicely if they could park by the house. Parts of the short street had been marked with cardboard signs on wooden sticks by the village as no parking zones.
A family walking by who knew Tom asked if he wanted a headboard for his granddaughter’s bed. That was nice, too.
Nicest of all was that night when a man and his girlfriend walking by asked if we minded they were cutting through what they thought was part of Tom’s yard. I said it would cost $20.
The guy asked if he could pay with beer.
We laughed. Ten minutes later he came back with a six pack.
We talked for a bit. Tom gave him a shot or so of Tullamore Dew.
Turns out, the guy lives in the subdivision north of where Tom lives, just the other side of a retention pond and a few houses down. Been there for 10 years.
Never too late to meet a neighbor, is it?
The guy and his girlfriend headed back to the fest. In a bit, so did we. To pick up the grandkids, who had returned there with their mom, who left them there with cousins.
My Garp kicked in again. Plus, it was past their bedtime.
The fest was rocking. Google tells me that would be “balanceo” in Spanish.
It all reminded me of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, in a good way. At least from what I saw, it was mostly friends and families having fun together. People were really into the music, singing along and cheering.
It didn’t seem to be the party-til-you-puke nonsense that Irish festival season can be at some places. It was more like St. Patrick’s events at the Irish American Heritage Center. Or the Milwaukee Irish Fest.
After retrieving the kids, I headed back to my house. I carefully drove through the gantlet of cars lining the side street where Tom lives. Being Garp again, I was looking out for kids. (Unlike the asshole we saw earlier in the day who didn’t stop at the blinking pedestrian crossing light by the park and almost hit people.)
Back home is when I heard the aforementioned music mix. First from my front steps. Then from my bedroom.
The Mexican music stopped first, probably because of the rain. The Heritage Festival band kept churning out the K-Tel hits until 11 or so.
I went to sleep feeling pretty much fest-ed out.
I need my energy for this coming weekend.
There’s a Fall Fest in the park by me competing with an Oktoberfest a few minutes away in East Dundee. That’s the town around here with the big St. Patrick’s parade and ensuing Irish Mardi Gras-like partying afterward.
The act headlining Oktoberfest Saturday is a Prince tribute act. I hope they sing in German. Or at least play (or wear) Purple Lederhosen.
Alas, I will probably be in Wilmette for the Irish American Movie Hooley when the pretend Prince act takes the stage.
That’s not to say I won’t have had a bratwurst, helped paint a pumpkin, heard some more rock music from 45 – 75 years ago and/or watched a Wisconsin lumberjack show beforehand.
Either way, have a pumpkin spice frosty. I dare you.