Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pitthnicity



I was reading about the Pittsfield Ethnic Fair recently on Valley Kids Stuff 's excellent events calendar. It was going to be a rain or shine event, and since it was both raining and shining that day, we decided to chance it and make the trek.

To the Berkshires...



We made it out to the first couple blocks of North Street in Pittsfield, which were blocked off for the fair. Unfortunately the rain followed us there. But getting out and gearing up, we noticed the foul weather didn't seem to have too much of an effect on attendance; plenty of people were milling about still. We drew closer to a gaggle of umbrellas crowding around some tents near the police station.



We muscled in under the canopies, and what do my eyes behold...



...but a show by famed wildlife expert Jonathan Woods, showing off some raptors..!





Booyah... Kestrels, owls of all types, eagles hawks and falcons from around the world, all of them up close and personal...





...this alone was worth the rainy drive for me, everything else this afternoon would just be gravy.



And speaking of gravy, as soon as the raptor show was over, we made tracks for the main street where the food and fun was in progress....



At one end was a trailer/stage, where bands were playing all afternoon. According to the fair program, the scheduled acts included the Albany Ballet, a Puerto Rican music and dance troupe, and the Daniels and McManus Farell school of Irish Dance. I don't think any of them were playing when we showed up though; these guys sounded more like a bluegrass band. Still, bluegrass is ethnic...



And they were good enough to hula-hoop to.



They even played a little long, sucking it up until the final act of the day showed up, the Akwaaba African Drum and Dance Ensemble, which were running late..

They sounded like they'd be interesting, and we wanted to hang around and check them out; so we spent our waiting time walking back up the street, checking out the different booths.



I suspect this section of North Street is ethnically diverse with or without a fair, judging by the myriad of eateries lining both sides of the street.



We sauntered up and down, and Kelly was finally tempted by some spinach pie from a multicultural bakery booth...



"Have some.." and I did.



Pretty darn good. Next up, a little curry chicken, from the Indian guy...



...which was munched on while listening to some Polish polka music from another stage about half way up the midway. It's addictive stuff, and two passerbyes found themselves drawn in...



There seemed to be a little something for everyone.



Back down the way, I could see a flurry of colors and activity behind the far trailer-stage. We moved back down closer. The Akwaaba were imminent...

They came marching out onto stage and took their positions. A short introduction informed us that the leader of the group is a music teacher who was originally from Ghana in west Africa, where he began his study of the music as a young man. They then broke into a chanting song, while the audience listened placidly.



The small audience slowly began to grow larger, but there wasn't too much excitement from the half soaked western mass folk. Then, inexplicably, the whole group stopped and filed off stage, disappearing back behind the trailer again. Everyone looked at each other like, "...was that it?"...

Then a few minutes later, some rustling from behind the stage, some beats, some low chanting... it sounded like they were singing to themselves back there. Not practicing but full, long songs. More curious looks around the crowd.



And then, the Akwaaba suddenly came dancing right out into the audience.



They chanted louder and sang and called to each other, getting right in people's faces, as they slowly made their way in a tight group through and around the audience. Some younger kids scrambled out of their way in confusion, while others gave this unexpected situation a wide berth, making way for the troupe.



Maybe this was their way of getting acclimated to a cool audience and vice versa, maybe it was just a standard part of their act.





Whatever it was, the sudden shock of close contact and unexpected routine seemed to energize the audience, and heads were soon bobbing and feet tapping, as everyone watched with fascination. The group slowly made there way back to the stage, and then the real dancing began.





They were fantastic. By this time the rain had broken, the crowd had grown denser, the head bobbing fiercer, and the hula-hoops were a-flying.



They even had me shuffling my clumsy feet a little, with the bloggerette in my arms, bouncing to the rhythmic beat; much to her delight. Unfortunately, it was also the last show of the fair, and as they wrapped up, we realized it was time to go. Still, it was a fine afternoon, rain or not, and a great wrap up to the Pittsfield Ethnicity Fair...

3 comments:

Mary E.Carey said...

Great account! I love the way it builds to the excitement of the Ghana band with a little break for some of the excellent food. I love the ethnic fair, which I remember from waaaaaaaay back.

Tony said...

Good, I'm glad the 'flow' came across...

We were going to check out the natural science museum right nearby, they're having a frog exhibit that looks cool, but it was too close to closing time to make it worth it. Next time.

Sara said...

Thanks, Tony!