A dozen more things my family and I loved about this year’s final day of the 2008 Festival of the Arts:
1. The Sculpture Park: This venue for large-scale sculptures is always one of our favorite sites. Among this year’s highlights were Eric Baker’s remarkably lifelike “Aboreal Green” tree of steel and malachite; Josh Tobey’s whimsical “Conspirator Bears”; and Joe Barrington’s gargantuan “Spanish Goat Skull,” which my husband described as “something you might find in Ozzy’s front yard.”
2. Dessert: It’s amazing how many different, decadent, beautiful ways you can arrange sugar and fat. Of course, a Strawberries Newport is always a thing of beauty, but sugar-and-spice coated nuts, giant, frosting-topped cinnamon rolls and towering ice cream sundaes also were on the menu this year.
3. Youth Plaza: The festival this year included an enlarged children’s area dubbed Youth Plaza, with several food booths, its own stage and more room to roam. Although the changes meant having to hunt up previous fest favorites, the changes were definitely needed and an improvement.
4. Creation Station: This community art project is another perennial fave for our family. The festival organizers put up a framework and provide strips of colorful cloth that children and families can use to decorate it. This year, the Creation Station featured a giant caterpillar that families could walk through.
5. Windscapes: Could there be a better place to have an exhibit of kinetic sculpture than Oklahoma City? According to OG&E placards in the Windscapes exhibit, Oklahoma is the eighth windiest state in the country. After trying not to blow away all day today, I just can’t believe we’re not in the top 5 for wind power. Regardless, it’s fun and beautiful to watch the sculptures of falling leaves, flowers and geometric shapes move with the stiff breeze.
6. New food: Every year, I try to taste something new on International Food Row. Luckily, the festival always has some new delicacies to offer. This year, I sampled the Texas sausage hoagie, a hot link that lived up to its name topped with onions and peppers and doused in a spicy sauce on a homemade hoagie roll. It was delicious, even if it practically scorched my mouth.
7. The weather: Last year, a stormy deluge at the festival ruined my favorite pair of boots. This year, I managed to pull partly sunny and pleasantly mild temperatures and breezy, occasionally gusty, winds both times I went out there. When the weather behaves, it really is a joy to be wandering around the sprawling outdoor festival. It’s really what spring is all about.
8. Myriad Gardens: The festival provides a perfect opportunity to explore the gardens, which are always beautifully green with cheerfully flowers blooming. They really are an oasis in the city.
9. Traditions: For many Oklahoma City residents, the festival is a tradition as ingrained as turkey on Thanksgiving. I always have to get an Indian taco and Strawberries Newport, and we usually sit on the grass under one of the big trees on the Festival Plaza to nosh. For Chris, 13, our older son, it just isn’t a day at the festival until he rolls like a log down the big hill on the east side of the Crystal Bridge.
10. The Silly People: The street performance pair the Silly People strung together an array of impressive yoyo tricks for a huge crowd this afternoon. Wearing bright yellow shirts emblazoned with the words “I’m Silly,” the pair’s yoyo wizard promised the tricks would get more complicated the more applause he got. He did several intricate tricks while cracking jokes. He even told the children in the audience, “Remember, kids, all your parents can do these same tricks at home.”
11. Balloons: One of the best booths at the festival is the one selling balloons and carnations. For just $1, I was able to get Gabe the Babe, now almost 17 months, a blue star-spangled floating ball of joy. I guess money can by happiness on the cheap – at least if you’re purchasing for a toddler.
12. The Love: The festival brings together so many people -the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, which produces the event, estimates 125,000 people a day enter the grounds – from so many age groups, ethnicities and lifestyles. And for the most part, they’re all there having a good time, savoring the performing, visual and culinary arts, enjoying the changing of the season in the outdoors and taking part in a giant community event. Good times.