Saturday, August 29, 2009

Not What I Was Expecting

We were up at the crack of dark this morning to drive to Asheville, North Carolina to attend the Goombay Festival. The Goombay Festival is a celebration of African & Caribbean Heritage and Asheville is a very artsy community of 78,000 people about 1.5 hours north of us.

I found out about the festival on the internet. We've wanted to visit Asheville since we moved to North Carolina and so decided to invite a couple of our friends and spend the day up north. Asheville was described to us as the Berkeley of North Carolina. Those of you who know Berkeley, California know that it is a very liberal city devoted to the arts, education and protests of all kinds! I love Berkeley so I thought I'd probabaly love Asheville. It was voted the #1 place to live on's 2007 list of the top 100 places to live in 2007.

The festival was much smaller than I'd expected and after attending festivals in New York and San Francisco perhaps my expectations were too high. I was expecting some awesome crafts but didn't see anything I don't already have too much of in my house already. I was not impressed, but I absolutely loved Asheville.

There were loads of art galleries and great boutiques. Fancy restaurants and plain ones and an old F.W. Woolworth that had been converted to a who's who of art vendors except for the soda fountain, which had been kept intact. I got a Vanilla Egg Cream in the memory of the many I had imbibed during my youth in New York. Ted tried to get a hot dog for 15 cents (as a sign advertised) but when that didn't work, he went ahead and paid $1.50 for it. There were beautiful art deco buildings and old buildings with gargoyles standing at the ready. There was, of course, the Biltmore estate that resembled the Hearst Castle in Southern California and as far as the eye could see, were the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. What a beautiful place.

The best part of the day, though took place in this little park in the middle of downtown. When we arrived in the early morning, there was a pro-healthcare meeting going on. Nothing like the crazy yelling matches that have been going on in various places around the US. We hung around for that and took some pictures. When that meeting finished, the marching band for the Goombay Festival started assembling in the park. The parade consisted of one man and woman on stilts, 4 drummers, a marching band from a Winston Salem high school and 3 cars. That was it. We watched that progression until it was gone. Next, a group of people set up chess games in the park and we watched as some serious games of chess got started. Next, a band started setting up for live music. When I looked, I noticed that all of the band members were children (except for the drummer who was an adult). There were 5 boys and 1 girl and I was thinking to myself ("guess it's about time to go home"). When they started playing, I could not believe it. The young boy who was singing vocals was a little shy and quiet on the mike but his voice was beautiful. When they started playing the opening chords for Santana's Black Magic Woman, the crowd roared. They did a fabulous job. They couldn't have been more than 12-13 years old, if that. Santana could be their grandfather!People were clapping and swaying. It was a joy to watch.

We would have stayed for a few more numbers, but the cigarette smoke was getting to be too much for us, so we decided to head out. What a wonderful day. We spent a great day in a new place with friends we enjoy being with. We came for one thing and found so much more. Isn't that what serendipity is?

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