9/27/2009

News Flash : Woman's Extended Birthday Takes 30 Days to Celebrate

October is my birthday month !
My birthday falls in early October, and autumn brings a series of festivals and events, many of which I have attended since I was a baby. Over the years, the line between individual birthday celebrations and fall festivals has become blurred, and I tend to think of the weeks from late September through early November as a long celebratory period of favorite things I love to do. Of course, I share these fun events with my nearest and dearest, and have even gone so far as to have dragged various past boyfriends from all over the country to attend, so the joy isn't mine alone.
Oktoberfest- some day I'll get to Munich for the REAL celebration
My little town on the prairie is well served with a wide variety of surprisingly decent Asian restaurants (perhaps due to the student population of nearby universities) but lacks choice in other ethnic eateries. The Big City nearby offers a token spot for many ethnicities, but quality varies considerably. Taking in a festival or two, even if the food represents primarily junk food offerings for that culture/cuisine, provides variety we don't normally get in the boondocks. So it is no wonder I look forward with excitement to the local Oktoberfest and Greekfest. The fact that my family heritage is German, and son # 1 is half Greek via his father (ex # 1), gives us an added excuse to celebrate.

I love the Dallas Greek fest - OPA !!!!
The biggest fall event in these parts, by far, is the State Fair of Texas. The largest fair in the USA, this event offers something for everyone. In days of old, it existed as a primary venue for farmers and ranchers, a central place where they could bring in their show animals or garden produce for a friendly competition, and gather together to learn all the latest info about tractors and farm-related implements, trends, or methodology. The midway evolved to entertain the kids while the parents caught up on the ranching/farming business.
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I grew up a city child in the 1960's, and my family spent most of our day at the fair looking at cooking competitions, craft exhibits, seeing the latest in vacuum cleaners or new-fangled gadgets being sold. Ginsu knives, anyone ? My parents often took us to see the Dallas Musicals that also appear at this venue (road shows of venerable Broadway stalwart productions. This year's offering is "Mary Poppins".)
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I spent a memorable 3 weeks working at the fair, one year while in high school, as part of a service project for Junior Achievement. Our job was to hand out Heinz pickle pins at the Heinz booth. After days of saying 1000's of times, "Welcome to the Heinz pickle booth! Would you like a Heinz pickle pin?", I ran off one afternoon with a boy I had a mad crush on. We played hooky from our job and hid from our boss on the other side of the fairgrounds, ate Belgian Waffles (crispy waffles with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and powdered sugar) while lolling on the grass under some trees, alternately eating our treats and making out. Is it my imagination, or was it a real experience, that I seem to remember fireworks going off across the reflecting pool near where we lay ?
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Nowadays my little brood tends to follow more or less the same path each visit : visit the exotic animal petting zoo ( the kids, no matter how old, never seem to grow tired of this one), munch on Fletcher's corny dogs while listening to the Killdares ( hubster loves this new wave Irish band), daydream about new car purchases at the auto show, and finish off the day at the midway, watching the kids go round and round till they start to turn green. Most years we take in a show as well - the best one was the flying circus dogs, a few years back.

"Our state fair is the best state fair, don't miss it, don't even be late" is a song my mother used to sing
The festival season for me is not complete without a quick trip down to Houston for the International Houston Quilt show, one of the largest quilt shows in the USA. I don't even like to sew - dismally failed that section of home economics in school - but this is still a fun event. Modern quilts are works of art that are often three dimensional and abstract in design - this is not your grandma's quilt show. This is ART !!! I do have several friends who quilt, some in traditional styles, some in the more abstract modern styles, so it is fun to see their work and who has won various competitions . Along with the quilt gallery is a HUGE market hall full (several football fields big) of vendors, selling everything from custom jewelry, hand-woven baskets, fabric and sewing supplies, beads and jewelry-making tools, ready-made clothing, crafts, Christmas items, home decor, antiques and more.

One of the many beautiful quilts at the Houston Quilt Show
The fact that I love and miss Houston, where I lived for over 12 years and which I still consider, in many ways, to be my young adult home, just adds to the experience. I've got old haunts to visit - Murder By the Book ( the nation's premier book store specializing in murder and detective fiction), many other shops and favorite restaurants , as well as my alma mater, Rice University. There are many great little spots to visit en route, as well - the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, the world's largest outlet mall in San Marcos. Did I mention I've got birthday money to spend ? I just love this time of year !

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