Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Laurel's Main Street Festival 21 Years Ago

Laurel has held its Main Street Festival on the second Saturday of May for more than 30 years. At 7 AM, the street is closed to traffic. Vendors start setting up their booths.  At 9 AM, the parade starts.

Our church is at Sixth and Main Street. Every year we have games for kids, a crafts booth and a book sale. This year I worked at the book sale.

Our younger daughter is going through stuff at their house, getting ready to move. She found a letter I wrote to her 21 years ago while she was living in Colorado. In the letter, I mentioned the Main Street Festival:

"Phil and Margaret and Margaret's friend, G., showed up at about 2, when Margaret was supposed to work (running one of the kids' games). They all wore "Stop the Stadium" buttons. They brought one for me. I said I was no longer opposed to the stadium. I had had a change of heart. When I arrived at the festival early in the morning, I'd caught the end of the parade. They had saved the best for last: the Redskinettes!  How brave they were to come out on such a cold and rainy day in those skimpy costumes, which were now plastered to their shapely little bodies. The Redskins band was there too. When they struck up "Hail to the Redskins," my heart and my resistance melted. The stadium might not be so bad. In fact, it would be wonderful. I wondered how long it would take me to learn to play the clarinet." 

I wasn't really in favor of the stadium. Our streets were congested enough as it was.  The Laurel Clergy Association opposed the stadium because people going home after church would get caught up in heavy stadium traffic. The owners of the Redskins endeared themselves to no one when they said, "Well, just change the time you have church." Eventually, the Redskins built a stadium in Landover, slowing traffic on I-495 ("the Beltway")  to a crawl on game days.

How times have changed. Although the question about where to build the stadium was settled long ago, a new controversy has arisen over changing the team's name. I'm also somewhat amused by my reference to the "shapely little bodies." What was I really saying about the Redskinettes, I ask myself. I think I was putting them down. Back then, I saw them as airheaded bimbos. After watching a TV series recently on tryouts for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, I changed my mind. I now see these women as real athletes who take their dancing seriously. Sure, the cheerleaders are mostly about NFL big business--the costumes, the big hair, the loss of a place on the squad because your short legs don't look right in the tall boots--but the tears of the losers are real, and, for the record, some of the winners are rather plain when you see them up close.

The Festival has also changed. The food, for instance. Now you can get Pad Thai and falafel, which  few of us had ever tasted in 1994. The merchandise in the craft booths has also changed over time. Beany Babies are out; knock-off apparel for pricey American Girl dolls is in. This year, for the first time, a group of Amish rented a booth and were selling handcrafted wooden items. Several women, wearing long, black aprons and little white caps,  came in to use our restroom and stayed for awhile to browse the books. 

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