The Wyandotte Street Art Fair is a collection of artists, crafters and food vendors, but to me, it’s a collection of memories. Yes, I’m going there. Cue in the ukulele version of Over the Rainbow as I get schmoopy and reminisce about my old family memories and notice that I’ve been building my own lately.
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been coming to the art fair. It was just part of our summer. Sometimes my family would buy things and sometimes they wouldn’t, but we always hit up our favorite food places. The Italian sausage place, the Polish sausage place, gyros, the strudel place, funnel cakes and elephant ears. I was so excited. We were always running into people we knew (well, that my parents knew.) It was the place to see, and the place to be seen. A place where memories were made.
I had my first elephant ear at the Wyandotte Street Art Fair. We already had our food and my parents kept saying we still needed to get an elephant ear. My older brother was excited but I was thinking: “An elephant ear? What is that!? Like a real elephant ear?” My mom had pointed out someone walking by with an elephant ear and I even saw the booth from a distance. Woah, it was an elephant ear. Deep fried, of course. But it seemed small to be a real elephant ear, so it must have been a baby elephant, right? (This probably wasn’t my first elephant ear, just the first one I remember.) After I tried it, it was comforting to know it was just dough and sugar, and not an elephant’s ear. I think I fell in love that day.
Sometime around that age, I also was introduced to funnel cakes. They weren’t shaped like funnels. Why do they call them funnel cakes, I wondered? But when something is covered with that much powdered sugar, you just don’t care after awhile. Have you ever noticed that a funnel cake and an elephant ear are really the same thing? I think it just comes down to a texture thing. Personally, I think elephant ears win just because of the name.
As the years went by, we always always went to the art fair. Even when I went away to college, it seemed I found myself at the art fair during the summer. It wouldn’t have been summer without it I guess. And then I got married and we moved to Wyandotte, in a house that’s within walking distance to the fair. How cool is that!? We wouldn’t need to scope the neighborhood for parking spots or anything. We got the keys to our house in July, the week of the fair. That first year we walked downtown ready to eat some good food and take in the scenes of what was now “our” community. We weren’t visitors anymore; this was “our” town.
My wife is Japanese, and you know what, they don’t have elephant ears in Japan. “What!? You don’t know what an elephant ear is?” I remember asking. At the fairs in Japan, they have things like fish on a stick, or octopus tentacles in fried batter, but no elephant ears. So with great delight, I showed her the ropes and now she knows and loves elephant ears, along with Polish sausage and sauerkraut, butterfly chips (fully loaded, of course), and all that other good stuff.
Each year, even if we were busy or had other plans, we always made it our business to head to the art fair at least one day. It felt so great to be a part of our community. We didn’t run into anybody we knew, but we still enjoyed it. Then two years ago when my wife was pregnant, we were walking the fair thinking, “Woah, next year, we are going to be those people down here with a stroller … and a baby.” I guess we were starting a tradition.
So last year, we were down at the art fair, not with a stroller, but with one of those baby carrier deals. This was totally different. We still had our agenda of eating all the food we wanted, but little Ellie had her own agenda of crying and wanting to go home. I couldn’t blame her though. It was grossly hot, and nastily humid. Oh no! “We need an elephant ear, stat!” It just wouldn’t be the fair without an elephant ear. I remember walking home with Ellie crying in the baby carrier. My wife and I were pecking away at the elephant ear over her head gobbling it up the whole way home. Ahhh, memories.
This year, with Ellie almost 18 months old, we’d have more freedom. We could be more leisure in our over indulgence of food, oh yeah, and the art. I forget there is art there, too. And this year, we knew people we could possibly run in to! But on to important things. We needed to choose where to eat dinner. Tough choice.
Aya went with the pulled pork sandwich from and I went with the Italian sausage. We both split one of those butterfly chips and topped it off with an elephant ear. This would be Ellie’s first ever elephant ear tasting. And she sure did like itâ€“a little too much. I know she won’t remember this and in one year, she may too wonder, “An elephant’s ear, really?” just like I did. But I’m glad that if she does, it’ll be at the same fair in the same city that I did as a kid.
As some people stroll up and down the rows of artists looking for that perfect gift or just something cool to buy, I was just thinking how I can remember something special from every art fair since we moved here. We’venot only been growing traditions here, but also our family. We love this place. It’s our community, it’s our town, and we like to call it home.