Sweet Poteet

So, my daughter and I went down to the Poteet Strawberry festival this last weekend; we've been to it before, at least twice - but it now seems to have grown, and grown on steroids. Wow - we didn't recall having to wait in a line of cars for about a mile outside of Poteet to get up to one of the parking lots. There weren't near as many vendors, lining the walkways of the festival grounds . . . and there certainly weren't as many outside the grounds in previous years. Across the street from the festival grounds was am unbroken row of street-food vendors, everything from aqua fresca, to tacos, to gorditas, to fruit drinks in hollowed out pineapples, freshly cut slabs of watermelon, fruit cups, shortcake, roasted corn, BBQ brisket, sausages and roasted turkey legs.

This was not confined to the streets of Poteet, either. All the way from 1604 to Poteet along Route 16, everywhere there was a church or a business, or a cluster of homes, there were pavilions set up, barbeques smoking away, and tables and chairs set out, invitingly. This is Poteet's once-a-year-big bash, the celebration of strawberries - strawberries that were for many years, the main cash crop. Well, one has a feeling that the strawberries are just the excuse, the starting-point, and an ongoing decorative motif. There are only a few local growers of the sweet red heart-shaped fruit these days; only those local growers are allowed into the grounds, to advertise their harvest as real, genuine, for-real Poteet strawberries.

So - why has the Strawberry Festival gotten ever bigger, even if the strawberries in the market are more likely to come from California, or Mexico, or someplace else than Poteet? Ah - I theorize that the real purpose is to have a midway and carnival rides, to listen to live music and watch the fire-eater, to eat kettle corn and cotton candy, to engage in games of skill for the prize of a stuffed animal, to look in wonder at the display of white Bengal tigers, and generally have a good time. In the era of cable television, of movies and Disney World and other such permanent, carefully designed and gorgeously appointed amusement parks . . . this is a throwback to another and a more simple time, that of the late 19th century, when folk living in a rural area had neither the time or the money to travel very far.

So amusement had to come to them, and not stay for very long, for the traveling lecturers, the traveling circus, the Chautauqua and the revival meeting - well, they could not afford to stay in one place for very long, either. This was a big country - still is a big country - and just as our ancestors did, we crave loud music and bright lights, exotic animals and excitement, to meet with our friends and encounter strangers, to consume interesting varieties of foodstuff-onna-stick . . . but in carefully metered and regulated doses. Not too many of us can stand it all on a 24-7-365 basis . . . so for the great most of us, local festivals like this will do very nicely.