Saturday, May 3, 2014

Still Life With Robin: On to the Fair!

by Peggy Robin

I need to keep this brief, as I’m in a rush to get to the Flower Mart, the National Cathedral’s annual spring fair, which is held each year on the first Friday and Saturday in May. This is the Flower Mart’s 75th year!

Like the Cathedral, which is fairly meticulous modern copy of a medieval English Gothic cathedral -- but with numerous whimsical contemporary touches (the Darth Vader gargoyle, for one, the moon landing in stained glass, for another  -- the Flower Mart is a present-day version of the thousand-year-old tradition of the cathedral fair. It’s the big to-do, the time and place where people gather for fun, for trade, for show, for everything under the sun, both in its medieval and modern incarnations. There are craftspeople come to sell their wares, there’s food and drink, demonstrations of various arts and sciences. There are games and children’s activities, and lots and lots of performances, both inside the cathedral and out. People come from all over the globe to participate, and the whole local community is welcome, too.

I do have one regular complaint about the Flower Mart, though. It’s the selection of food, which seems to me to evoke the culture of Ocean City far better than the global village. Sure, there’s a stand for Chinese stir-fry, and another for German pretzels, but nothing you couldn't find on the boardwalk on beach weekend. What are the real tastes and smells of the fair? Funnel cakes. Soft ice cream. Kettle corn by the bagful. Are there really no healthy foods that can be sold from a booth or a food truck?

The around-the-world nature of the Flower Mart is better represented in the craft tents. Stroll down the pathways to find weavings from Peru, Balinese batiks, hand-knit sweaters from Ireland, silks and cashmeres from Turkey, Navajo silver and turquoise jewelry, and other traditional trinkets ... like those custom made creations spelling out whatever you want in that venerable American folk art of Scrabble-tile necklace crafting.

The performances are equally eclectic, from the timeless fairy tales acted out in the children’s puppet show to the German Men and Boys Choir, to the Taiko Drummers to Hungarian Folk Dancers, and a whole lot of others I haven’t got time to list. The one thing I didn’t see this year -- and this is shocking, it it’s really gone -- is the performance this year by what seems to me to be a virtually required Cathedral Fair English Folk Dancing style - the Morris Men. If the Flower Mart lacks a bell-jangling, stick-wielding bunch of bearded guys stomping around scarily, then I supposed we’ll have to settle for the Youtube version: ...and wait till next year for their return. (Or if I’ve simply overlooked the Morris Men in the schedule, and someone can videotape them, by all means, send me a link to the show!)

On the other hand, there’s are those who claim there’s no dance form on earth more annoying than Morris dancing, and by “those” I mean the gang at NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” who recently made fun of the art form with the help of ballerina Misty Copeland on the “Not My Job” segment of the popular radio quiz show:

But enough of the Morris-Men-bashing…I’m late to the fair!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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