Canadian Coffee Break: The Street Fair Season
The Canadian Coffee Break brings together some of the finest Canadian minds in Southern California every week for a topical, lively round-tablesque discussion over very dark coffee. Won’t you join us.
- Live bands
- Sausages-on-sticks; grilled corn
- Greasy, rachety, dangerous-looking carnival rides
- Entry fees
- Festival goers
- Parking situations
Montreal, where I lived for a decade, is known as the land of festivals. During the summer, a mix of inebriated tourists and locals turn the island’s streets into a city-wide Lionel Richie fantasy. It’s not unusual to find the streets packed to capacity at 3 in the morning, with clubs going in some cases until noon the next day. People seem to have nothing but good things to say about Montreal. This civic culture of celebration, no doubt contributes to the city’s reputation. Los Angeles, by comparison is infamous for terrible reputation (not that anyone here really gives a crap). This I think, is due in no small part to L.A.’s perceived lack of a public life. Having lived here several years now, I can see how one might see this city as being somehow insular, but I’d counter that there’s no shortage of public events. For every Sunset Junction, for example, there’s a year’s worth of monthly Midnight Ridazz, (which I’d argue qualifies as a kind of moving street fair). The trick in L.A. is managing to keep abreast of all the public revelry the city has to offer, which is one good reason for Losanjealous to bring back the monthly Benevolent Society event listings.
As much as my instincts are pushing me to have an epic showdown between LA and Toronto street festivals on my keyboard, I’m gonna curb my urges. After all, it’d be a futile endeavor – Sunset Junction and comparable LA street fests annually remind us what’s fucking rad about our much maligned city and most fests in Toronto find a way to unite an otherwise factionalized town.
If anything – I would say that is the primary difference. In Toronto, the ’Taste of the Danforth,’ ’Caribana,’ and most effectively, ’The Ex’ (Canadian National Exhibition) all manage to attract members from all of Toronto’s diverse communities in addition to touristos Americanos, neighboUring Ontario-folk, and our provincial neighbors. There’s hardly a child in the province that doesn’t make it down to The Ex every August to partake in some mole whacking, some bumper boating, and some smack-laden cotton candy consuming. Perhaps more noteworthy, according to The Free Encyclopedia, Caribana is the largest street festival in North America. I recall one year Puff Daddy (his moniker that day) even showed up to dance like I wish I could. Brrrrriiiittz. Though I may be wrong, I can’t think of any LA festival that attracts just as many folk from Silverlake as it does folk from C-P-T or comparable numbers of Inglewoodians and Hawthornians. Mind you, that shit is probably impossible. God damn you for your bizarre size and cumbersome transport Los Angeles!
On another note, god bless you for your bizarre size and cumbersome transport Los Angeles!
One of these days I have to drop a line about Toronto’s ’street meat.’ One of these days…
This is a tough subject for me to write about, since my parents were murdered by a street festival. My memories are hazy at best. I recall sneaking off to Buskers (The Halifax International Busker Festival) around 8th grade. I bought some “sweet” board shorts (the style at the time), and watched someone eat fire on a unicycle. Standard busking.
The great/worst thing about that festival is that it’s right on the harbour. Great because of the view, the sound of lapping waves, and the occasional tall ship sailing past. Terrible because Halifax dumps raw sewage into its waters, leaving greasy surface puddles sprinkled with tampons. And condoms. Rumor has it a local tried to kill himself by jumping off the McKay Bridge, but survived the fall, only to nearly perish from the bacterial infections he acquired whilst in the water.
Feces smell aside, street festivals in L.A. are a whole different breed–living in a town with a healthy economy lowers the level of desperation. Suddenly they’re CHARGING people to enter. And the live music is often in the genre of “bands you’ve heard of,” rather than “local bar bands” and “junior high kids in kilts playing the fiddle for beer money.”
But as much as I love Beavertails (a flat, Canadian pastry sprinkled with diabetes-inducing toppings), there’s something magical about corn on a stick. Therefore, in the arena of street festivals, like murder and movies but unlike hockey and music, the U.S.A. beats Canada. Or at least Los Angeles corn on a stick and exorbitant prices beat the wafting smell of Halifax’s untreated sewage on a hot August day.
Growing up in Pakenham, population MAYBE 200, and growing up on a dirt road, we didn’t have many street festivals. One time I decided to open a store at the end of my driveway where I tried to sell Go-Bots that I didn’t want, another time my neighbor’s car broke down – those are the most exciting things that happened on my road.
I should speculate a Canadian street fair wouldn’t and couldn’t compare to a festival here in Los Angeles. You’re guaranteed automatic excitement when you have people yelling, “Ayayaeee!!” shooting their pistols in the air, running around in a circle, getting into their El Camino, and then driving away.
I’m aware of the Tofu festival. My grandparents own a slaughter plant in Pakenham (yes, they’re packing ham in Pakenham), and with it being one of the biggest industries in Pakenham (followed closely by John Barr’s Francis Fuels and Scoops Ice Cream – which is only open 4 months a year) I should say the street festivals in Los Angeles wouldn’t and couldn’t survive in Pakenham.
But hey – what do I know?? I can’t even sell Go-Bots I don’t want.