Intersections – Every day a festival
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I would like to propose a new festival in Decatur. Don’t groan and tell me, “We’ve got a festival for that.” We don’t have a festival for Mondays. Mondays alone while wearing pajamas. There aren’t enough festivals for anti-social people or people with no skills. Living in this town is tough on me. I actually overdosed on festivals this weekend.
Friday was the Homecoming Parade for Decatur High School. We wandered over to see what the fuss was about. My high school didn’t have a parade. My town didn’t have a town square to parade around. When the parade started, I heard the Decatur cliché, “Where Mayberry meets Berkeley.” Then a new neighbor said, “It’s the Brooklyn of The South.”
If we are going for clichés, Decatur is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. I have to clarify a few points. Brooklyn has 2 million people. Decatur has 40,000 people on a good day, when there’s jury duty going on. Decatur is not like Brooklyn except both cities have air. As soon as celebrities start naming their kids Decatur, I’ll concede the Brooklyn comparison.
Decatur is not like Mayberry either. Mayberry Union High School did not have a Robotics Club. There was a robot in the Decatur Homecoming Parade. A robot in the parade! Robots are better than people, except I enjoyed seeing the neighborhood kids driving by at 2 miles per hour. I cannot explain why this is entertaining, but it is. Maybe it’s the free candy.
Normally, I don’t like parades or festivals. Too many humans. But I was lulled into the joy and camaraderie of the town until I heard two moms talking at the end of the parade.
“Are you going to the Root Beer Festival?” one asked.
“I don’t know why we would. I don’t let my kids have sugar. Or soda.”
Do you know what Opie was allowed to have in Mayberry? Sugar and soda pop. I would normally say Decatur is nothing like Berkeley. I’ve been to Berkeley many times. Then I hear a comment like that. I think about gentrification and the displacement of low-income households with the no-sugar mamas. Decatur might be a little like the new Berkeley, which isn’t at all like the old Berkeley or old Decatur. Maybe we’ll corner the market on being folksy and b*tchy at the same time. We can make a festival out of that.
By Saturday morning, I donned my beer water resistant sneakers and headed over to the Craft Beer Festival. I don’t drink beer, so volunteering at the beer festival is a breeze for me. I’m not tempted by the goods. It’s a great volunteer opportunity. Drunk people are only irritating when you are drunk. When you are sober, drunk people are the best thing since the root beer festival.
My neighbor prepared a pretzel necklace for me that also held Snickers, Skittles, Starburst, Slim Jims, string cheese, and a lot of alliteration. The best part about Decatur might not be the festivals, but the neighbors. The ones who let their kids have sugar are pretty awesome.
Sunday should’ve been a day of rest, but not in this town. We know how to do our Oktoberfests right. The Oakhurst Porchfest was the right punctuation point for the weekend. I got to see several bands. We stumbled upon the HomeGrown Brass Bands. We went to see Tony Levitas and Friends. One of Tony’s friends was my friend Ethan Davidson playing the guitar on a porch. It’s not every day that a guy playing the guitar waves to you from the stage.
We continued to enjoy Porchfest and found David Leonard on 3rd Avenue. I witnessed the raw heart and soul it takes to stand in front of real people and share a piece of yourself.
David sang, “Please don’t bury me down in that cold cold ground,” and I laughed a little. A convertible slowed down as he sang, and David called out to his fans. They were moving, but we, sitting on the lawn, were the parade.
What kind of life is this? What kind of town? A friend offered me vodka and grapefruit juice from a thermos. It was like Mayberry meets Melrose Place meets the Twilight Zone. In a good way.
In the last six months, I’ve wandered through the Arts Festival, Book Festival, Lantern Parade, and Jazz Festival. I bought artwork from the Decatur Arts Alliance Young Emerging Artists (Y.E.A!). I looked at quotes from the #gawrites art installation. I poured wine at the Decatur Education Foundation Boil & Brew.
We have three Fall Festivals on our schedule this month. There’s an actual Halloween Haints and Saints Parade. So many festivals and this isn’t counting the times we left Decatur. You know, we are allowed to do this. There are festivals and parades all over Atlanta. There’s one last chance to hear the Tour of Southern Ghosts this weekend.
I’ll be festivaled out one day. I want to use fest as a verb. I went festing this weekend. I can fest no more.
But here comes the Wine Festival and the Holiday Marketplace and the Tour of Homes. Our Mayberry is never dull. We should create a festival for Mondays. A festival of being alone and back at work. A festival of wearing pajamas in bed. A festival of looking at the ceiling and singing quietly to myself, “Please don’t bury me down in the cold cold ground.” With a smile.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.