Having been more or less retired for a while, the no-labor Labor Day is nothing very special for me.
I did, though, observe a local custom this year: the Orange Street Fair, always held from Friday night through Sunday afternoon of the Labor Day Weekend. This happens at the “Orange Circle” mentioned in an earlier post.
For those outside the County, this is a pretty big deal here. Some years, it’s been known to attract up to a million visitors from all over the region. If anyone doubts that Orange County can still assemble some of the whitest crowds this side of the Baltic, come to the Street Fair.
What is it?
Well, it’s Labor Day weekend. Doesn’t that tell you right away that it will have nothing at all to do with reminding anyone of the people who died for the 40-hour week, or to end child labor? Or the crippling Taft-Hartley Act that began the long, slow slide of organized labor in the U.S.?
Of course, it’s just one more festival of meaningless consumption. What did you think?
Knowing from experience that the evenings there are hell, we went in the early afternoon, when crowds are less sardine-like. Attendees in the evening are there mostly to get drunk and bump into other drunks.
“Fun” is created mostly in the form of food and music. The food is pretty good for the most part, including deep-fried goop with powdered sugar and jam. The Danes know how to do this right. What more does one need to sustain life?
But there is more: brats, gyro, teriyaki, pizza, hot dogs, whatever. It’s officially called the “International Street Fair” because the streets are more or less grouped by the nationality of each food being peddled. This dates from a time when souvlaki, for instance, was a tad exotic for naranjeros. In recent decades, the County has acquired the usual mix of restaurants and ethnic groceries typical of any large urban area, but the Street Fair predates that. It was once a novelty to find Thai, Japanese, Danish, and Greek stuff all within a couple of blocks.
The food is often sold by non-profits of various kinds as their one big annual fund-raiser. Not a single labor union among them.
The music is for the usual purpose: to prevent any conversation. If a band is playing, and that’s most of the time, there’s no point in trying to talk much within a block or two. This does not, however, prevent people from trying. Only the most high-pitched chainsaw voices can cut through it, adding to the noise level. So this is where people from all over the County might run into each other once a year and be unable to communicate.
Barely represented, only in the German and Greek areas, was traditional dancing, presented by hobbyists, apparently. Let me explain this to any foreigners that might be reading:
Dancing for fun barely survives at all in the U.S. There’s dancing by professionals as a performance, and there’s dancing as a strange courtship ritual. Straight males engage in the latter only to please the females, if at all. It’s considered “fun” only by some of the females who enjoy such occasional triumphs.
Only in tiny clubs here & there does “traditional” dancing survive, usually based on immigrant cultures that were long ago assimilated in the U.S., and might not survive much in the home countries either. Their dances are often frozen in the 19th/early 20th centuries, from before mass communication began to kill low-tech self-entertainment everywhere — another way in which the Street Fair might remind us of times long-dead.
Ok, the food is on the four streets radiating from the Circle. The Circle itself hosts booths for whatever someone wants to rent them for. These might be more orgs engaged in good works of various kinds.
We’ve occasionally considered having a Green booth there, but it’s expensive and, as stated above, not the best place for communication.
Mostly the booths peddle things to hang on your ankles, things to hang in your windows, things to stick in your hair, things to hang on your door, things to hang on your neck…..
… mostly on the inside of the plaza. This is the Kaaba of consumption that the pilgrims might travel many miles, and pay dearly for parking, to devoutly circle.
You might be unemployed, getting forclosure notices, unable to communicate with each other, unable to organize around any self-interest, unable to entertain yourselves without the help of professionals, but if you can still drive, eat, and buy trinkets, life is good.