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Tuesday, September 1

season ends, reflection begins

The Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts is a show I love to do. A few blocks from home, throngs of people, good sales, family friendly and a festive air that puts everyone in a good mood.

This year I asked to be moved because the merchant behind our usual spot has difficulty accepting we are there, blocking her driveway, affecting her business even though she makes a fortune selling goodies on the sidewalk. And she lets you know at every possible moment that you are not welcome. I chose to move out of a shady, protected spot and take my chances away from that kind of negative energy.

So, we got a wind tunnel, no shade and the scenery across from us was the food court.

Loved it.

The merchants behind us were friendly, my chair wasn't tilting on a curb cut. It was good. Was the odd wind pattern a problem? Yeah. But, you know, after the weather we've had this year, I think I could deal with almost anything.

I was a little tense because this show pays for our pilgrimage to see the kids. At noon I was working on accepting the fact that we might have to wait until Spring. But the skies cleared and the people came. At the end of the weekend, my last customer put our sales one dollar over last year, our best year at Elmwood. Phew!

And that brings me to the reflection part. When the season started this Spring, many art carnies were wondering just how bad things would be with the economy and all. My very first show was disappointing and I was concerned. But as the season went on it became apparent to me that the economy wasn't going to be a problem for me. Even with the horrific weather we had all Summer, sales were good. I believe that had we enjoyed sunny skies this year, my sales would have been the best yet.

Why? How is that possible?

I've got a theory. I believe that our upstate NY community has been living with a recession mentality for a long time. Our houses sell at reasonable prices, I don't see a lot of conspicuous consumption. Somehow this area always pegged as one of the poorest, acts like one of the richest when it comes to art and music and festivals and sports.

People come out in droves for Allentown and Elmwood, the hockey and football teams sell out, as do the concerts and the theaters. Come early for Shakespeare in the Park or you'll be watching from the hood of your car. Last week we went to an art museum to see the premeier of a small documentary. They sold out the first show, added another. Then another. And a fourth. And on it goes.

I watched two woman walking behind my booth yesterday. Each carried a metal branch with enameled bells that jingled as they walked. They were laughing and waving the branches, being silly in the cool Summer air. Friends, I thought, out for a day at the fair. I smiled, too.

One of the poorest cities in the nation? Feels like one of the richest to me.

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