Browsing articles in "food festivals"
Apr 6, 2014
Tina George

Today is National Tartan Day

If you’re Scottish, and you want to flaunt it, throw a plaid over your shoulder and walk with pride. (And if you’re not Scottish and want to do the same, we won’t rat you out!)


In 1997, April 6 was declared National Tartan Day — a day for people of Scottish heritage to show off their family colors.

My family is from Clan Ross from the Highlands of Scotland. And in 2009, I wrote this column about my own Scottish ancestry.


Granny, the tartan will be worn with pride

(originally published on March 31, 2009)

My family has a checkered past.

And those checks are blue, red and green.

I’ll be wearing that blue, red and green plaid next Monday, not as a fashion statement, but as a tribute to who I am. Or at least where I came from.

April 6 is National Tartan Day. And with my Scottish heritage behind me, I’ll be wearing the plaid pattern, or tartan, that represents my family, Clan Ross.

There are a lot of rules and traditions about how and when tartans should be worn — as kilts, scarves or banners. But all those aside, I just like that I have a physical symbol of my ancestry — an ancestry that begins for me with my Granny.

It’s her tartan that I’ll be wearing next week. It was something of hers that I really wanted after she passed away in January. Granny was never overly concerned with our distant past. She couldn’t tell you about the military victories or losses of Scotland or the holiday traditions and rites of passage. But when it came to our family’s history, she was the one who knew everybody — and everybody’s mama.

She was my last grandparent. And she was the only one of my grandparents who got to know me as an adult.

The best thing about Granny was that, even though she had some definite ideas about what she wanted for me, she never pushed me toward anything. I told her I didn’t want to get married or have kids. But when I came back years later and introduced her to my husband (NR sports writer Jeff Mills), she never said I told you so. She just told me how happy she was that I had found someone of my own.

And when I told Granny I was pregnant, she was over the moon. She couldn’t wait to meet that new baby.

Granny got to meet my son a little over a week before she died. Something pushed me to take an impromptu trip to Georgia to see her and show off my pride and joy. Two days later, she was taken to the hospital. She didn’t come home.

Speaking in Southern drawls that slowly replaced the Scottish brogues of our ancestors, many of my family members told me that they believe she was just hanging on until she could meet my son. She had talked about how she had lived a full life and that there wasn’t much left on this earth for her.

I don’t know, maybe that’s true.

But I do know that the first time she laid eyes on my son, her whole face lit up. And when she reached out to grab his little hand, and he smiled at her, I nearly lost it.

I’m still sad about losing my Granny. But I know that I have all the things in my life that she ever wanted for me. And just as she taught me about family, I’ll pass along our history to my son.

I’ll start next Monday when I wear a little bit of blue, red and green.

Kim Mills also has embraced her Scottish heritage by tasting haggis and taking bagpipe lessons. Contact her at 373-7014 or kim.stacksmills@news-record.com.

Arts Entertainment editor Kim Mills moved to Greensboro in 1999 and is still finding new things to do. Whether it’s movies, music and theater or food, festivals and fun, there’s always something going on in the Triad.

Recommended Reading

Apr 5, 2014
Tina George

Masses find spirituality beyond the church pews

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That morning the congregation was packed in – cheek, by jowl, by spectacles – and the overflow crowd peered in through the open doors to hear from one of the stars of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, although it was hardly a solemn sermon.

For the next hour those assembled listened intently to William, roared with laughter and took part in a lively question time as the microphone was passed from hand to hand. Not an experience you imagine you’d have at your local St John’s Anglican, but I’d wager everyone in attendance that morning went home feeling just as, if not more, uplifted and inspired. Their quest for a spiritual experience fulfilled.

As our churches are abandoned and the Scout halls where political parties once met, sit empty – these two institutions in permanent disrepair – the hunger for communion with like-minded souls is growing. Especially among women who are not content to sing along to the same old hymn book or obey party rules set by institutions run by men.

Traditionally, church homilies addressed some of the moral issues women faced – mostly dilemmas of faith and family – but they didn’t meet the desire for a true engagement in the wider world beyond hearth and home. The notions of “what if” and “why not” were never on the agenda. Although “because I say so” was a well-worn theme.    

When you look at the topics on offer for discussion at writers’ festivals, which run the gamut of the political, cultural, fantastical and myriad matters psychological and philosophical – no wonder they are bringing in the crowds, all eager for something more nourishing than the current arid political debate can provide.  

Writers are deluged with invitations extended to attend as speakers at festivals. They come weekly from Byron Bay, Broome and Beaconsfield. (And that’s just the “Bs”!)

Two weeks ago I was at the inaugural Beaconsfield Golden Words gabfest in Tasmania. You’ll recognise the name because it was where gold miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell were rescued after two weeks underground in 2006.

I was privileged to host a remarkable event – the Richard Carleton Address given by his colleague, friend and celebrated local son, Charles Wooley. Not 100 meters from the Chinese restaurant where we sat that night, journalist Richard Carleton had collapsed and died while covering the mine cave-in.

That his family was there to listen gave the evening an extra poignancy. Wooley’s provocative speech sparked a lively debate on the ethics of modern journalism that reverberated next morning, even in the Rotary tent serving sausage sandwiches. 

The Golden Words festival, like so many others – be they poetry, music, or food festivals – offer regional towns the chance to fill the void left by half-dead churches, political parties and irrelevant media outlets. Newspapers are folding, TV and radio stations run syndicated content from the capital cities. Politics are often run by remote control from party HQ. Social media doesn’t offer that same real connection.

A town’s desire to pursue shared passions, build social capital and even to re-brand its identity – in the way Beaconsfield wants to be known for something more than “that place those blokes got trapped back then” – is to be celebrated, admired and supported. Regional communities know they are not defined by the headline that their mine or factory is closing. They have so much more to offer.

Sometimes I look at the hard men and women who are presently conducting our nation’s Commission of Audit, running a ruler under the figures to see whether our future will be more or less “bleak” and think they’ve missed the big picture of who we are and what sort of society we aspire to be. 

“It’s the economy, stupid!” 

You’re bound to find that being discussed under canvas by the banks of a river somewhere in Australia this weekend by people who know they are being short-changed. A monetary surplus or deficit isn’t the only indicator of how we’re doing as a nation.

This weekend I’m at the second Newcastle Writers’ Festival. The steelworks closed in 1999. Far from withering and dying, the city was reinvigorated in “unimaginable ways”, so said The Newcastle Herald.

“Closing the steelworks has allowed Newcastle to grow up, to become the capital of a region that is now, finally, seen across Australia for what it is: a beautiful place to live, with a host of natural advantages, plenty of work and a great sense of community.”

This Sunday the good women and men of Newcastle will be getting together to discuss “What does it mean to live a good life?”

As I say, the magnificent Christ Church Cathedral may have a few empty pews, but at the Newcastle City Hall it will most likely be standing room only.

Wendy Harmer is the Editor in Chief of The Hoopla. www.thehoopla.com.au


29 comments

  • It is so very encouraging Wendy, to participate in a growing movement of examination of the real issues of life and living rather than the ludicrous bronze age mythologies of the church, mosque, temple and synagogue. Beaut cultural icons as they are, museum pieces to our cultural childhood, may our growth into adulthood continue apace, either leaving the pews ever emptier or perhaps transforming their use and utility into something of value.

    Commenter
    Glenn Jacob
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 05, 2014, 9:16AM

    • A splendid piece by Wendy Harmer. No doubt many readers will connect with her picture of our society at large as seeking some form of communal spiritual experience, something to lift our lives above the arid round of the pursuit of material gain, to relieve us from the heartless deadlock of our political debate.

      I was reminded of these words in a poem by the English poet, Stephen Spender. Written in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, ‘After they have tired of the brilliance of cities’ describes the despair and disillusionment of those times and then delivers these words.

      …let not those who follow after -
      The beautiful generation that shall spring from our sides -
      Let them not wonder how after the failure of banks,
      The failure of cathedrals and the declared insanity of our rulers,
      We lacked the Spring-like resources of the tiger
      Or of plants which strike out new roots to urgent waters.

      The ‘constant craving’ (that K.D.Lang sang about), the yearning for a life of the mind and spirit beyond our material existence, lives, I believe, in every one of us.

      Whether the ‘pews’ be empty or full, it is no surprise to read that art and gifted artists like William McInnes are magnets to large crowds of people seeking to keep alight that flame of spiritual search.

      Commenter
      Philjhinton
      Location
      Corrimal, NSW
      Date and time
      April 05, 2014, 9:44AM

      • A “spirituality” where we are our own god is appealing, as it requires nothing, is infinitely malleable, and we are always right, while at the same time providing a nepenthe for the divine. We won’t speak of “god” as that suddenly makes it not about us. We all crave “communion”, but reject sacrifice and anything in which we, individually, are not the main focus.

        Commenter
        Joel
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        April 05, 2014, 10:48AM

        • This thing called sacrifice gives me pains. Most people lead good lives, most people are charitable. We sacrifice our time to provide lives for our families and yes, believe it or not, ourselves. If there is indead a God, then God help us if it is actually based around the doctrine we have been provided, because when does sacrifice end and living start?

          Commenter
          TheGimp
          Location
          Perth
          Date and time
          April 05, 2014, 2:34PM

        • While Wendy’s article is and excellent one and the comments following all making lots of sense, your tendering of “an other side of the dice” ) ( I was going to say ‘another side of the coin ? …. but there is quite likely way more than 2 sides to explore here! :-) ! ) ) ps … I;m going off to look up ” nepenthe” …. haven’t the slightest clue what that means :-) !

          Commenter
          DGNEP?
          Location

          Date and time
          April 05, 2014, 3:47PM

      • So,as a society we have become more spiritual, but less religious.
        More and more parents with atheist beliefs send their kids to faith based schools because they like the values they teach. Oh the hypocrisy! In our post modern society where “right and wrong” is so often managed by a simple “paradigm shift”, our children must get terribly confused, but then again, it is nothing that a little cognitive behaviour therapy won’t fix eh?

        Commenter
        Steve P.
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        April 05, 2014, 12:33PM

        • Are the children confused, Steve P? Are they as confused as children who are told at the defenseless age of 7 or 8 that they will be burned alive for rejecting the bald assertions of know-nothings writing thousands of years ago about events outside of space and time? It’s an irrational ad hominem fallacy you deploy, this feeble idea that those skeptical of a god concept never yet defined and defended not by data but by fallacious appeals to force, lack morality. Believe or die. This is the unvarnished message of the monotheists. That tax-free religious organisations have hijacked education to the detriment of the public system is the fault, perhaps the design, of successive under-funded governments in a tax-averse nation, not the responsibility of those seeking to educate their children in what they see as the best possible environment. As an evangelical preacher’s child and having attended a church school, I can assure you that none of the so-called ‘christian’ schools minister gospel to their flocks. Given the core message of Calvary is an irrational argument based on threat, this is nothing that upsets me.

          Commenter
          JohnA
          Location
          Surry Hills
          Date and time
          April 05, 2014, 2:06PM

        • John A- “the core message of Calvary is an irrational argument based on threat”- Putting aside the fact that “Calvary” is not mentioned in the New Testament, I think your simplistic rejection of the Bible’s message is rather sad. The crucifixion and resurrection are indeed the central message, and the crucial question (pun not intended) is whether the story is true, and of course what it means for us if it is true.

          Commenter
          David Morrison
          Location
          Blue Mountains
          Date and time
          April 05, 2014, 2:28PM

        • John A. what are you on? Can you cite evidence of any mainstream Christian denomination teaching kids this? Why on earth would you want to tax religions? Do you seriously expect people to give to the Salvos if they are taxed? They are not a business. The Catholic school system saves the taxpayer billions – or has, especially when nuns and brothers taught in them – and you want to tax them? This is the same bigotry we have seen for 2 centuries in this country and that is currently on display in the US (see New York’s latest on tax benefits for religious schools). Wendy’s spray is the usual stuff – show me spirituality and I’ll show you infinity – but I’m sick of those who have benefited from the religions of this country banging on about tax. What hypocrisy.

          Commenter
          Small Mac
          Location
          Leeton
          Date and time
          April 05, 2014, 4:42PM

      • Modern society wants a spirituality that stands up to the rigours of intellectual reason. The pews are empty because people don’t want to listen to things that don’t make sense

        Commenter
        Bodhidharma
        Location
        Mascot
        Date and time
        April 05, 2014, 12:47PM

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        Apr 5, 2014
        Tina George

        Best adventures on the US East Coast

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        Apr 5, 2014
        Tina George

        Are Humane Farming Practices Entering Into the Public Conscience?

        I asked Chef Jared Van Camp on the November 2012 Dinner Party if we would ever have food in grocery stores like the food that we have in restaurants: food from small farms with the emphasis on humane standards. Produce in stores has been organic for years, but we haven’t been seeing meat from small farms emphasizing the humane treatment of the animals. Indeed it seems that no one can even agree on the terminology of what signifies humane treatment. Cage-free? Free range? Pasture-raised? And what about processing? Processing and the conditions therein are rarely mentioned. Seemingly unfathomable, many animals are transported up to 1,000 miles in horrid, cramped conditions on top of each other to be lead to a processing plant where hundreds at a time are forced to slaughter within earshot of each other. I wondered when humane conditions in farms would become a topic people cared about.

        Jared’s response was interesting. “It is considered the Top Chef vocation of our chef culture to disseminate information.” This is why so many small farms are listed on menus, even if not yet in grocery stores. The chefs are providing information and supporting their local growers and producers of vegetables and meat. Jared predicted a trickle-down effect from restaurant to grocery store. He may be right, but there is still a ways to go.

        At the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Chicago this spring, artist Douglas Gayeton talked about his work visiting small farmers across the country and his project highlighting the way we discuss our farming practices and food, as well as working with high school students to persuade Washington to reconfigure factory farming practices. He spoke immediately after Executive White House Chef Sam Kass furthered the First Lady’s message of “Let’s Move!”

        At the Good Food Festivals, during the same weekend in Chicago, over 60 small family farms were represented. Although not all had gone through any sort of certified humane inspection process, when interviewed all explained animal conditions that were free roaming in open air and pasture raised. Processing happened by driving small batches to processing plants less than two hours away. While this is still more than I was hoping for — Gayeton spoke of mobile processing units that go to the farms, rather than the other way around — it is much better than 1,000 miles.

        Taking things one step further, Whole Foods, a sponsor of the Good Food Festivals this year has invested in the Global Animal Partnership Program, which was implemented in stores as of 2011. They have established a 5-step program that allows larger farmers to start ameliorating farming practices at a pace which can happen gradually enough to not be financially impossible, and yet be significant enough to affect the animals’ quality of life. Much like turning the Titanic, Whole Foods is smart not to ostracize farmers and build a ladder which will help them get to the humane treatment of animals while also elevating the knowledge base of the consumer at the same time.

        For example, below are the 5 steps for humanely raising pigs. Whole Foods suppliers must at least meet Step 1. They also carry suppliers from the other steps. The consumer can see which meat is from which step and can choose accordingly, thus, allowing farmers to start gradually, entering at level 1, while allowing consumers to know what they are eating and how that meat has been raised and handled.

        Step 1: No crates, stalls or cages
        Step 2: Enriched environment
        Step 3: Enhanced outdoor access
        Step 4: Pasture centered
        Step 5: Animal centered: No physical alterations
        Step 5+: Animal Centered: Entire life on same farm

        In short, Whole Foods is using their corporate might to do the right thing and bring us all along with them.

        In Chicago, restaurants from all over city offer meat and fish from small farms because the meat and fish is so much better. Erling Wu-Bower, Executive Chef of Nico Osteria, who did a cooking demonstration with fish at the Good Food Festivals, was clear. “Freshness has to do with how the fish is killed, handled and raised, as well as time.”

        While it is difficult to have this discussion without talking about price (corn subsidies make factory farming less expensive than pasture farming), rationale (since when did super-sized meal portions become a divine right at breakfast, lunch, dinner, in our drinks, in our ice cream, in our doughnuts, in our chocolate and in our pancakes?), obesity and food deserts, the assistant Manager of Publican Quality Meats, Darin Latimer, said it best. “Factory farms can’t hide anymore.”

        Jim Slama, President of Good Food Festivals, now in its 10th year, explained that through public awareness and pressure, small changes are coming down the factory farm pipeline. “Gestation crates have been banned,” he noted, and companies like Chipotle and Whole Foods are demanding better.

        On the consumer spectrum, any pricing increases for small farm meats, which tout benefits like no antibiotics or growth hormones, as well as not hacking off chicken beaks due to small living quarters, doesn’t seem to hurt Chicago’s booming restaurant business. Last time I went to Publican Quality Meats, specializing only in artisan small farm meats, pâtés, charcuterie and more, it was packed on a random Tuesday around 11 a.m. The line was sizeable and everyone seemed pretty happy.

        Perhaps this bodes well for future animal conditions and thank you to Whole Foods and the restaurants that support small farmers. There might be hope that the public conscience forms around this issue, for humane reasons and human health reasons — do you really want to eat meat with injected hormones and bruised, tough and pumped high on anxiety from abusive living conditions? — and that things start to change en masse for the better.

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        Apr 5, 2014
        Tina George

        Lambertville plans first food festival, streets closing for ‘foodie’ food …

        LAMBERTVILLE — A new food festival with 12 “foodie” food trucks, 15 tables showcasing city restaurants and a beer garden serving three Yards Brewing Company craft styles is planned for Thursday evening, June 12.

        The first Lambertville NiteFare will close three downtown blocks of North Union Street and is sponsored by the Lambertville Area Chamber of Commerce.

        Chamber President Wilson Weed said yesterday, April 3, that the idea is to make more people aware that Lambertville is “the premier location for restaurants and quality food. I know our restaurants are the best, but when I go to Philly sometimes people don’t know that.”

        The details are still being hammered out, Wilson said, but he anticipates that, even as a first-time event NiteFare should draw about 10,000 people. If it does, he said that would make it one of the largest food festivals in New Jersey.

        And Weed thinks it will attract visitors who will return again and again to the riverfront city. He described the food trucks that will be here as “the type of food truck foodies love. This type of food truck market typically attracts young professionals, from their late 20s through mid 50s who like to eat out and research good place to go out.

        “They’re looking for quality food, variety and service, and that’s what Lambertville is.”

        Weed said the Chamber of Commerce plans to run a free shuttle from nearby parking lots to the festival, similar to what it does each year for Shad Fest.

        Visitors will buy food a la carte, he said. Those who want to sample the Yards will show ID to get a bracelet and will be limited to three beers — hand stamps will keep track.

        “We want people to enjoy” the food festival “and still get home safely,” Weed said.

        Table space is being provided to up to 15 city restaurants at no charge, Weed said, and participants have the option of selling food or putting out information about their eateries.

        Nonprofit groups will benefit, he said, because the Chamber of Commerce is getting kegs of root beer and allowing volunteers to sell it and keep proceeds.

        He said local bartenders and “bouncers” will be hired for the beer garden, keeping with the goal of benefiting the local economy.

        Weed said NiteFare will be similar to Night Market Philadelphia street food festivals, just smaller.

        “We want to showcase our restaurants, Lambertville as a shopping destination and a place we like to call home,” Weed said. “Lambertville is Lambertville, we’re not any other city. We’re a river community very proud of our family-owned businesses. We don’t want to be like anybody else.”

        More Hunterdon County news: NJ.com/hunterdonFacebookTwitter

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        Apr 5, 2014
        Tina George

        Florida food festivals guide: What’s on the menus in spring 2014

        When most people think of Florida, they think of sun and beaches – but don’t forget that Florida is a foodie’s paradise as well.

        In nearly every part of the state, no matter what time of year, there’s bound to be some sort of food festival that leaves attendees loosening their belts a notch or two.

        Given the Sunshine State’s unique agriculture and proximity to the ocean, it’s no surprise that the local food festivals offer a varied menu. Yes, there’s the normal barbecue festival fare, but there’s also an offering of feasts dedicated to everything from blue crab to zucchini.

        So as we get ready to kick off summer, check out some of these popular food festivals happening across Florida in April and May.

        April

        April 4-6: 19th Annual St. Augustine Rhythm Ribs Festival, St. Augustine. If you are looking for a treat for your taste buds and ear candy too you may wish to check out this one: The 19th Annual St. Augustine Rhythm Ribs Festival will be serving up scrumptious barbecue and music all weekend long on April 4-6. Admission is $2 except on Saturday evening when it is $5 (children 13 and under are free). The event is at Francis Field on Castillo Drive. Festival hours are from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. http://www.rhythmandribs.net

        April 9-12: Miami Wine and Food Festival, Miami. Ranked as one of the top ten wine events in the nation, the festival features an array of culinary and wine events including wine tasting and interactive dinner with a top chef, live and silent auctions offering exotic travel packages, and some of the highest quality wine lots in South Florida. Admission. 305-646-7111. http://www.miamiwinefestival.org

        April 11-13: Gulf Coast Rhythm and Ribfest, Palmetto. The nation’s top Rib Masters will serve their award-winning specialties as they compete for this year’s coveted 2014 Gulf Coast BBQ Champion award. Entertainment includes a variety of local, regional and national bands performing a mix of Country, Blues, Jazz, Pop, and Rock, and for children, the Interactive Kid Challenge Fun Zone. At Manatee County Fairgrounds. Admission. 941-746-7470. http://www.gulfcoastribfest.com

        April 12-13: Florida Ice Cream Festival, Lakeland. In 2013, this festival’s inaugural year, it saw 30,000 people to the surprise of organizers. Now in its second year, the festival is set to impress yet again with two full days of music, vendors and more. Guests also have the chance to see Joey Chestnut, one of the most celebrated competitive eaters, participate in a six-minute ice cream eating contest. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday for the church and family day. Tickets are $3 each. http://www.floridaicecreamfestival.org

        April 12-13: Florida Blueberry Festival, Brooksville. This year’s blueberry festival will feature 60 artisans selling their creations alongside 20 food vendors that promise to offer a variety of blueberry treats and more. There will also be zip lining, a Blueberry Derby, a Masters Putting Challenge and a Monster Transmission Car Show. Hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for anyone ages 6 to 17 and free for children 5 and younger. http://www.floridablueberryfestival.org

        April 25-27: Pompano Beach Seafood Festival, Pompano Beach. In its 30th year, this beachside food festival promises to serve up great seafood and entertainment for guests of all ages. Friday’s hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $15. http://www.pompanobeachseafoodfestival.com

        April 25-27: The Cotee River Seafood Blues Festival, New Port Richey. This fest serves up music and food plus arts and crafts and other family-friendly activities along the river in Sims Park Friday-Sunday. Bands include national, local and student bands. Dig into fresh seafood, made-to-order sushi, and the Food Trucks of Tampa. Other highlights include the Mermaids of Weeki Wachee, a boat show, car show, kayaking and fly fishing demonstrations. For more information, call 727-842-8066 or visit http://www.nprmainstreet.com/cotee-river-seafest.

        April 25-27: Blueberry Jerry Jamboree, Spring Hill. Small, blue and tart is the order of the festival featuring live music, food, arts and crafts, and, of course, blueberries. This family-friendly event returns for the second year in a row from April 27-29 at the Rotary Pavilion on the Concourse. For more information, visit pascoblueberryfestival.com.

        April 26-27: The Great American Pie Festival, Celebration. Oh, yum, yum! Lakeside Park in the town of Celebration in Central Florida sets the scene for the annual Great American Pie Festival. The fest features demonstrations, bake-offs, pie tastings and pie-eating contests on April 26-27. Admission is free. Ticket prices for the Never-Ending Pie Buffet featuring ice creams, pies, toppings and beverages are $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. 407-566-1200. http://www.piecouncil.org/Events/GreatAmericanPieFestival/

        May

        May 2-3: Smoke n’ Blues, Bikes and BBQ, St. Cloud. Florida BBQ Association sanctioned competition for both pros and backyard teams. Festivities include live blues entertainment, bike show, crafts, children’s play area, BBQ vendors and much more. At St. Cloud Lakefront. Free admission. 407-498-0008. http://www.stcloudmainstreetflorida.org

        May 2-4: 30th Annual Pensacola Crawfish Festival, Pensacola. The bayou meets the beach at this gigantic mud bugs boil featuring Cajun and Zydeco music, dancing, crafts and games, crawfish races, crawfish eating contest and a complete range of foods from boiled crawfish to crawfish pies and poboys. At Bartram Park. Adults $5, children under 12 free. 850-433-6512. http://www.fiestaoffiveflags.org/

        May 2-4: Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, Fernandina Beach. The Pirate Parade is the kick-off event for the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. Includes stage performances, putt putt tournament, blessing of the fleet, best decorated boat contest and more. In downtown area. 904-261-5841. http://www.shrimpfestival.com/

        May 10: Windsor Zucchini Festival, Windsor. For the past 30 years, the folks in Windsor celebrate the zucchini with a zucchini contest, zucchini carving a Duke of Zuke Zuqueenie Pageant and even zucchini ice cream. Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. http://www.afn.org/~windsor/page2.html

        May 17: Newberry Watermelon Festival, Newberry. Some of the favorite festival activities started many years ago and still continue today, including contests for watermelon eating, seed spitting, hog calling, pie/cake baking, and of course the “Big Melon.” Melons are from local growers and are provided free to festival goers. At the future site of Destiny Community Church. Free admission; fee charged for parking. 352-278-5190. http://www.newberrywatermelonfestival.com

        May 17: DeSoto County Watermelon Festival, Arcadia. Held annually in May, which is the height of watermelon harvesting season. Features a variety of pageants, contests, vendors and activities. Historic Downtown. Free admission. 863-494-2020. http://www.arcadiamainstreet.com

        May 17: 24th Annual Tupelo Honey Festival, Wewahitchka. Honey is a local delicacy in Wewahitchka, and one day a year people come from all over the world to sample the sweet nectar. Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. http://www.tupelohoneyfestival.com/

        May 23-26: Blue Crab Festival, Palatka. Florida’s largest Memorial Day celebration. Includes Memorial Day Parade, seafood cook-off, live entertainment, helicopter and airboat rides, arts and crafts, antiques, and more. Downtown. Free admission. 386-325-4406. http://www.bluecrabfestival.com

        acutway@tribune.com

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        Downtown Hershey Association wants to hear ideas for a vibrant community – The Patriot

        The Downtown Hershey Association is inviting residents to share their thoughts on making Hershey more exciting during an interactive session with the community at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, at the Hershey Story on Chocolate Avenue.

        The association is a group of volunteers dedicated to trying to make the downtown more vibrant. The 25 members include township officials, small business owners, seniors, the Hershey Partnership, the historical society, churches, the Hershey entities, non-profits, civic organizations, economic development professionals and other residents.

        Helping with Thursday’s presentation is the planning firm of Derck Edson.

        Chairman Ed Uravic presented the organization’s philosophy before the Derry Township supervisors in August.

        At that time, he said the organization does not plan to use taxpayer dollars. Instead, it will raise money through local businesses, government grants and individual donations.

        The association is meant to complement, not replace or duplicate, efforts by government or private businesses, he said.

        Residents have already left a long list of suggestions for downtown Hershey on the organization’s website.

        Many suggestions harken back to a time when the downtown was a social hub. One poster on the website said it clearly: “I want an iconic town like we had before.”

        Some of the more nostalgic suggestions include: bring back the trolleys, build a Five Dime where people could sit at the lunch counter and order a malt, install an ice skating rink for winter fun, rebuild the Cocoa Inn, and attract small shops where employees live on the second floor.

        There were also lots of suggestions for coffee shops, boutique stores, a book store, good restaurants, art shows, outdoor concerts and food festivals.

        Some longed for a healthy, organic grocery store like Wegman’s or Trader Joe’s. Some envision condos or small apartments for seniors and young professionals. One thought a movie theater showing independent films would be a good idea. Another suggested an aquarium.

        Nearly everyone posting suggestions on the website wanted to see a downtown friendlier to walkers and bicyclists.

        In a 2011 survey, residents named revitalizing downtown as their number one priority for their town. 

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        Masses find spirituality beyond the church pews

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        That morning the congregation was packed in – cheek, by jowl, by spectacles – and the overflow crowd peered in through the open doors to hear from one of the stars of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, although it was hardly a solemn sermon.

        For the next hour those assembled listened intently to William, roared with laughter and took part in a lively question time as the microphone was passed from hand to hand. Not an experience you imagine you’d have at your local St John’s Anglican, but I’d wager everyone in attendance that morning went home feeling just as, if not more, uplifted and inspired. Their quest for a spiritual experience fulfilled.

        As our churches are abandoned and the Scout halls where political parties once met, sit empty – these two institutions in permanent disrepair – the hunger for communion with like-minded souls is growing. Especially among women who are not content to sing along to the same old hymn book or obey party rules set by institutions run by men.

        Traditionally, church homilies addressed some of the moral issues women faced – mostly dilemmas of faith and family – but they didn’t meet the desire for a true engagement in the wider world beyond hearth and home. The notions of “what if” and “why not” were never on the agenda. Although “because I say so” was a well-worn theme.    

        When you look at the topics on offer for discussion at writers’ festivals, which run the gamut of the political, cultural, fantastical and myriad matters psychological and philosophical – no wonder they are bringing in the crowds, all eager for something more nourishing than the current arid political debate can provide.  

        Writers are deluged with invitations extended to attend as speakers at festivals. They come weekly from Byron Bay, Broome and Beaconsfield. (And that’s just the “Bs”!)

        Two weeks ago I was at the inaugural Beaconsfield Golden Words gabfest in Tasmania. You’ll recognise the name because it was where gold miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell were rescued after two weeks underground in 2006.

        I was privileged to host a remarkable event – the Richard Carleton Address given by his colleague, friend and celebrated local son, Charles Wooley. Not 100 meters from the Chinese restaurant where we sat that night, journalist Richard Carleton had collapsed and died while covering the mine cave-in.

        That his family was there to listen gave the evening an extra poignancy. Wooley’s provocative speech sparked a lively debate on the ethics of modern journalism that reverberated next morning, even in the Rotary tent serving sausage sandwiches. 

        The Golden Words festival, like so many others – be they poetry, music, or food festivals – offer regional towns the chance to fill the void left by half-dead churches, political parties and irrelevant media outlets. Newspapers are folding, TV and radio stations run syndicated content from the capital cities. Politics are often run by remote control from party HQ. Social media doesn’t offer that same real connection.

        A town’s desire to pursue shared passions, build social capital and even to re-brand its identity – in the way Beaconsfield wants to be known for something more than “that place those blokes got trapped back then” – is to be celebrated, admired and supported. Regional communities know they are not defined by the headline that their mine or factory is closing. They have so much more to offer.

        Sometimes I look at the hard men and women who are presently conducting our nation’s Commission of Audit, running a ruler under the figures to see whether our future will be more or less “bleak” and think they’ve missed the big picture of who we are and what sort of society we aspire to be. 

        “It’s the economy, stupid!” 

        You’re bound to find that being discussed under canvas by the banks of a river somewhere in Australia this weekend by people who know they are being short-changed. A monetary surplus or deficit isn’t the only indicator of how we’re doing as a nation.

        This weekend I’m at the second Newcastle Writers’ Festival. The steelworks closed in 1999. Far from withering and dying, the city was reinvigorated in “unimaginable ways”, so said The Newcastle Herald.

        “Closing the steelworks has allowed Newcastle to grow up, to become the capital of a region that is now, finally, seen across Australia for what it is: a beautiful place to live, with a host of natural advantages, plenty of work and a great sense of community.”

        This Sunday the good women and men of Newcastle will be getting together to discuss “What does it mean to live a good life?”

        As I say, the magnificent Christ Church Cathedral may have a few empty pews, but at the Newcastle City Hall it will most likely be standing room only.

        Wendy Harmer is the Editor in Chief of The Hoopla. www.thehoopla.com.au


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        Texas VegFest will educate about plant-based living

        After learning about several vegetarian and vegan food festivals in Dallas and Houston, Adrienne Lusk and her friends decided it was time to create one in Austin. With live music and vegan food trucks, the third annual Texas VegFest will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Fiesta Gardens.

        “Whenever you have something like VegFest, you think there won’t be anything for you and it’s really the contrary,” Lusk said. “We try to strive to create an event where everyone can feel comfortable.” 

        Fletch Brendan Good, communications director for the Vegetarian Network of Austin, said VegFest provides an opportunity for any skeptic to sample a variety of vegan and vegetarian food, including vegan donuts and barbecue. 

        “Reaching people who aren’t interested in plant-based living is the toughest proposition,” Good said. “The best we can hope for is that people try the food and that they see that it tastes good and that it’s not just twigs and berries.” 

        The festival will host speakers — including chefs, doctors, activists and even an ultimate fighter — to discuss veganism and vegetarianism. There will also be environmental and animal awareness activities.

        “If you do have health issues … you really can reduce those symptoms and issues through a plant-based diet,” Lusk said. “And there’s this whole winding system that puts a lot of environmental strain by having a meat and dairy diet.”

        The UT student organization Students Against Cruelty to Animals will have a table at VegFest with Austin for Animals. Alex Bean, president of Students Against Cruelty to Animals, said the organization hopes to educate a larger audience. 

        “For this festival, we want to let people know that we exist,” Bean said. “There are a lot of great organizations that are experts on these subjects that we want to get involved with so that we can be more effective in the community. Even if you go meatless for a few days a week it’s a huge help to animals and the environment.” 

        UT student group University Vegetarians also plans to attend the festival. University Vegetarians chairwoman Vanessa Chorush said VegFest is a great opportunity for vegetarian students to get involved in the community. 

        “I chose UT mainly because of the environment and that it’s open to diversity,” said Chorush. “This festival is symbolic of why I chose this city. It’s a smaller specialization within a bigger place. When there are larger community events, we try to go have a UT presence.”

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        Mouths watering for food festival

        Mouths watering for food festival

        FOOD fanatics are in for a treat at the Alcester and Forest of Arden Spring Food Festival to be held later this month.

        Organisers report that bookings for the fifth spring festival, to be held on Thursday, May 17, are well ahead of previous years despite a far stricter policy this year on both the numbers of each food category and a far closer scrutiny of quality of the products offered.

        The festival was recently covered in a national magazine, Country Homes and Interior’s, which declared Alcester one of the three “Best Food Festivals in Britain”.

        To cope with the crowds experienced at the first autumn festival held last October, the Park Ride base has been moved to much larger and well-signed car parking on Adams Way on the Arden Forest Industrial Estate and Dudleys Coaches are providing an additional coach.

        This year many local organisations are working with the organisers to ensure continued success, including the Scouts, Alcester Round Table, Alcester Town Council and the Court Leet.

        The event will take place in High Street, Church Street and around the Town Hall with disabled parking available on Henley Street, and entry is completely free.

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