Sep 9, 2011

Random thoughts from the 2011 Springfield Ethnic Festival

One of my favorite local events every year – and one that symbolizes to me the end of summer – is the annual Ethnic Festival held Labor Day weekend at the Ethnic Village inside the Illinois State Fairgrounds.  

For those who aren’t familiar with the layout at Ethnic Village, bands play under a large gazebo in the center of the grounds.  The booths where the food vendors are located encircle the border of the festival.  Each booth has a sign prominently displayed that indicates the culture/nationality represented by the food for sale. 

Lately, however, the event seems to have lost some of its luster.  In some ways, it has almost become an afterthought of a larger ethnic festival included as part of the State Fair.  Still, despite fewer food vendors than during the fair, the entertainment still makes it worthwhile, and it’s a good complement to the motorcycle races that take over the grandstands at the fairground over the same weekend. 

Here are a few more observations I had over the Friday and Sunday night I attended: 

·         I mentioned above how the food vendors outline the area.  To the best of my knowledge, however, “Fish” is not a nationality.         

·         Neither is “Fi-German-o.”  Really, why kick out the German food vendor from its location during the fair and move it to the Filipino booth?  At least cover the Filipino sign entirely so it doesn’t look so tacky. 

·         I really missed the Filipino food, too.  The fake German booth had extremely ssssssllllllooooowwww service …

·         Best performance I saw during the festival – Scream' Vatos.  Hands down.  If you’ve never seen them, they’re heavy on the Santana (and other 70s funk influences), and even for a rhythmically challenged commoner like me, it’s hard to resist dancing to them.

·         This year’s festival overkill – three Greek booths (one just for desserts!?).    

·         Why am I never at this thing when the belly dancers are performing?

·         I’m not sure of the logic behind Indian and Jamaican food sharing a booth.  I see similarities in the spice factor, but geographically they’re about as far away from each other as they can be. 

·         That said, I tried the Jamaican jerk pork and was pretty impressed.  The rice was flavorful, and they didn’t shy away from the heat in the dish.  And I was able to order and finish it before Gypsy got her Reuben from the “Fi-German-o” booth.

·         I also thought the beef stew from the Irish booth was outstanding.  And the potatoes in it provided an excellent base for some adult beverages. 

·         With a smaller number of craft beers for sale compared to the fair, I opted for the mystery tropical punch – leaded, of course – on Sunday.  And leaded it was.  Even pre-made, you could taste whatever was part of the punch’s secret recipe.  One last taste of summer before the end of the weekend. 

So, that should catch me up on all the fair and festival activity from the summer.  And I don’t mean to sound too cynical or critical of the Ethnic Festival as a whole.  As I said previously, as a foodie it’s one of the things I look forward to every summer.  I just hope they have more food and drink options next year.

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