Friday, September 16

[Can't never tell what you'll find]

I dig street fairs. There's just something timelessly appealing about milling around aimlessly in a crowd of sweaty people and a cloud of barbecue and cigar smoke, crafters hocking their wares everywhere you turn.

This Saturday is River Day in Saltillo (sorry, no official link, but you can read a bit about it here) and the Cooper-Young Festival in Midtown Memphis. River Day is certainly out of the question, since I have to work, but I'm secretly hoping it rains so they move the C-Y festival to Sunday, when I'm off.

I grew up attending River Day every year. My family stayed from dawn until the last line-dancer boot-scooted his way home after the street dance. We would work on the church parade float for a month before the event (and a couple of times actually won a ribbon). Over the years, I've ridden up and down main street dressed as all sorts of weird things: a nurse, an old-timey brush arbor attendee, a frizzy-haired adolescent (that one wasn't a costume). And I've ridden on or in all sorts of motorized vehicles — four-wheelers, truck trailers, fire trucks, my dad's prized Camaro — waving and pelting children with candy the whole way.

When I got to high school, I had to march with the band at River Day, which was always a chore because it's so hot in September and our uniforms were made of wool. From Hell-sheep.

There was one year that my family ran a convenience store right in the middle of town, so I spent River Day behind a counter, slinging hash and selling cigarettes to hundreds of people who really, really wanted to use our bathroom.

A year or two ago I took some of The Kids to River Day to revel in the small-town goodness with me (that's where that story I linked to came from). Amber got her face painted, and we all found some really cheap goodies at Parker's Dig (there's no thrift store in Memphis or Nashville where you can get a shirt for a quarter). Then we took to the bleachers to watch the parade, grateful that it was my brother and not me marching in the band in the hazy September sun.

I haven't been to River Day since then, now that I think about it. And while it isn't what you might call my scene (Jamie, a fellow Saltillo native, called it "tedious," and I tend to agree with him for the most part), it's still a significant event in my life that I regret I when I miss. I'm sure my family will be there this Saturday all the same — my dad decked out in his Civil War gear; my grandmother working the crowd, taking photos; my brother and his girlfriend riding around the back roads on his four-wheeler; my sister and nephews buying a funnel cake from a vendor; my mom mingling absentmindedly, her thoughts actually fixated on the year that Grandaddy died the night before River Day.

While my day will be spent in the company of slate-colored cubicles and the ticking of a dozen scattered keyboards, their whole day will play out to a soundtrack of off-key gospel music and the jumbled chatter of hundreds of deep South drawls.


Blogger J. R. said...


Loved this post. I wish H'vegas had some sort of thing like River Day; the closest we get to such community is probably the Christmas Parade and the endless Pancake Breakfasts put on by the Rotarians, but nothing so quite all encompassing.

As for The Hipster Handbook- I have read it. And I am one of those people that debate the merits of Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics and about the impact of the DFA producing The Rapture and so on.

And I promise- no more discussion of Dashboard- I never really dug them (him?) anyway. Too acoustic. Too hard to dance to.

Fri Sep 16, 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger theogeo said...

I hope my comment on your post didn't sound as bitchy to you as it did when I did a next-day (sober) read.

Anyway, River Day is quite an experience. I can't believe H'ville doesn't have something comparable. Perhaps that's your calling -- to found a modest street fair with a dinky parade and lots of wicker baskets for sale.

Fri Sep 16, 08:46:00 PM  

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