If my prepubescent Sunday school days taught me anything, it's that the holy day is reserved for images of Jesus, fluffy sheep and amazing technicolor dreamcoats -- not grown men dressed as pirates eating funnel cake. Day three of the Folklife Festival proved to be a tad on the "odd" side of things as hours of looming rain and persistent cold wind turned attendees into fiends for cinnamon, sugar and human statues.
It's become obvious after three days that if you're seeking charismatic crowds, stage presence and exceptional live music, then any of the "big stages" are not the place to look. Other than the 17 bagpipers and drummers that turned my heart Celtic on Friday, the best of the best live music has come via street performers looking to score pocket change.
Blue Star Creeper
Kelly Blanchard might have skipped on the eye patch, but his orange jumpsuit, cowboy hat and goggles sure made up for it. Blanchard, lead vocalist and guitar player for Seattle's own Blue Star Creeper, stood out both visually and vocally, with a voice and presence that screamed "stop and take a listen, dammit." The psychedelic-folk-rock band also shined with its electric cello player, who was discreetly plugged into a concealed amp.
Youthful Jazz Band
Oh, to be young, cute and musically gifted. Taking the cake for both the most tips earned and the largest/most annoying crowd to maneuver around was a young jazz sextet who milked everything they had going for them -- incredible talent, a median age of roughly 15 and a ginormous crowd that seemed to have an endless supply of dollar bills. Just look at that empty saxophone case! Each member traded off on improvisational solos that were fun, confident and smoooooth. Cool jazz, baby.
The true test of a band's "street cred" is if it can sell a five-year-old boy a $15 t-shirt. Portland americana-punk band Sassparilla can check that off its to-do list. Incorporating a slew of funky instruments -- including a drum set with both a plastic and metal bucket for toms; a bass made out of a large bucket, string, and a broom handle; a small case of more than 30 harmonicas; and a steel guitar -- Sassparilla performed multiple sets to a diverse crowd. What's interesting though was their appeal to small children. Several young boys just couldn't get enough of the experience and begged to stay, giving heartfelt goodbyes when their mothers vetoed their blossoming passion for tattoos and anarchy.
The Human Statue Battle
In the red corner is Creepy Ass Albino Robo Fairy Witch ©, whose tactic of shaking her body whenever someone tipped was downright disturbing. I'm not talking a little jiggle, either. Fairy Witch would stand motionless, dressed from head to toe in white, staring blankly into the crowd ... and when someone tipped, it was like turning on a dysfunctional, soulless, life-size sex machine. The crowd kept its distance -- I can't stress that enough.
In the blue corner is Tarnished Colonial Statue Man ©, who decided to work with the crowd, not against them. First off, Colonial Man's costume was flawless, from the painted brown and turquoise outfit, to the headpiece he wore to make himself look more statue-like. In front of his little podium was a tip can that turned into quite the profitable business. Children and women (and the occasional man) would drop a dollar or two in the can in exchange for personal one-on-one photos with the "statue."
Verdict: Colonial Man was both personable and creative, going the extra mile to kneel down for small children and allow individuals to pose on his box. At no point did he scare the crowd ... hint, hint.
Best Way to Spend a Quarter
Ferret girl not only dressed the part -- I'm pretty sure seven birds died for her wings/hat -- but she had two adorable white ferrets in her possession, which she gladly let anyone hold for a quarter.
After two days of drooling over Greek, African, Thai, Indian, barbecue, and pizza, it was a slight shock to see so many people walking around with nothing but ooey-gooey desserts. Elephant ears, root beer floats, funnel cake, apple dumplings, ice cream ... it was all the rage.
With a hearty selection of shortcakes, scones, brownies, and coolers to choose from, Biringer's was the cream of the crop for Sunday's dessert madness. It's specialty was shortcake, which came with a mouthwatering $5 price tag and featured strawberry and raspberry toppings.
I haven't purposefully eaten a vegetable in two years. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, Roasted Corn stood as a niche food vendor, taking a healthier approach to traditional festival foods with huge servings of fresh, roasted corn. At $4 they were on the lower side of the spectrum, though the seasonings available were in a league of their own. For those daring, various seasonings and toppings were free to be used: lemon pepper, ketchup, butter, lime, cajun, cheese, salsa hot sauce, garlic, black pepper and mayonnaise.