Monday, September 14, 2009

14 SEP 09: Fest-Fallen

It used to be set up perfectly. An air-conditioned event on a steamy summer Sunday - absolutely free, and perhaps with free food thrown in. And since it wasn't held at a church, there was no pressure to leave a "love offering" somewhere.

The event I'm talking about is the annual Columbus International Festival. Did you know this year's festival was held Sunday? I'd admittedly forgotten about it. Maybe if someone had explained how the Muscogee County School sales tax will help students improve world geography scores....

The Columbus International Festival was a fixture at the Civic Center for years. But this year, the event was held at Peachtree Mall. That seemed like a step down to me - unless someone decided the best way to serve "international food" is by lining up for lunch at Sbarro.

Yet the poster promoting the International Festival promised food from many cultures. I'll take them at their word on that -- although the Subway stand at Peachtree Mall does offer "Italian B.M.T." and Chicken Teriyaki sandwiches.

WXTX "News at Ten" showed something I'd never seen at a Columbus International Festival before. There apparently was a short parade by a marching band inside Peachtree Mall. It was a sure way to distract guys away from watching football games on TV's at Radio Shack.

I'm not sure which country the marching band represented. But maybe Peachtree Mall should stage parades more often. I encountered one several years ago on a Sunday afternoon, inside "Plaza Las Americas" in Puerto Rico. After the celebrants with a small band passed by, I asked someone if Gloria Estefan had just shown up.

Much of the fun at the Columbus International Festival comes from the stage presentations by various cultures. Perhaps the biggest thrill comes from South Pacific performers handling "fire sticks." Well, it thrilled me until a young man dropped one a few years ago - and the Civic Center stage did NOT go up in flames.

In the past, International Festivals were enjoyable and educational. I even won an umbrella one year as a door prize. And I still have the "Unity Pledge" card from my first festival 12 years ago - promising to "promote and practice friendship, cooperation and understanding among the various cultures of our city...." The card really challenged you to do that, by misspelling "and."

The pessimist might say the move to Peachtree Mall means the International Festival has lost some of its luster. But the optimist might contend it shows Columbus actually has become more accepting of diversity - especially for a city with no "majority" ethnic group. As long as law officers don't stir up the pot, by firing on people who look a little different....

As for local events: next weekend's Shrine Circus and Harris County Rodeo seem to dominate the local publicity right now. In a way, they're more diverse than the International Festival - because trained tigers and bucking broncos tend to injure humans without regard for gender, race or national origin.

Now as we promised, let's get caught up on some other local headlines we've missed in recent days:

+ The board of "One Columbus" endorsed the Muscogee County School sales tax. In fact, it seems the only vocal opponents of Tuesday's question are the usual anti-government suspects -- the ones who wish the remaining local radio talk shows discussed things other than college football.

+ The intersection of Ninth and Veterans Parkway was closed, to improve the ride for drivers across railroad tracks. The work is expected to continue today - which I think means freight trains won't make the Government Center windows vibrate so much.

+ Motorcyclists filled downtown Columbus for the annual "Bikes on Broadway" weekend. Some of us they'd bring back the bicycle races on downtown streets. At least those bikes created a nice breeze for the spectators as they hurried by.

+ The Muscogee County Juvenile Justice office set up a free car wash, so local wrongdoers could fulfill community service sentences. I'd want my car washed by the people convicted of money laundering -- because they'd probably be the most experienced with soap and water.

+ Columbus Regional announced anyone under age 19 will be barred from making patient visits to hospitals, for the duration of flu season. That's the way to encourage our teenagers to be caring and responsible - send them to R-rated movies.

+ The University of Alabama announced a record fall enrollment in Tuscaloosa, at about 29,000 students. This is obviously a big boost for the city's economy - and imagine what would happen if Nick Saban wrote a new book.

+ Georgia, Auburn and Alabama all won their Saturday college football games. But with the exception of Auburn, Columbus TV viewers were unable to watch any highlights during newscasts until late Sunday night. Local cable systems and ESPN should address their thank-you cards to "Hey Lee" at WTVM.

+ The Atlanta Falcons opened their season by mashing Miami 19-7. The game was so lopsided that Falcons radio play-by-play man Wes Durham didn't even bother calling the last two minutes, when Atlanta kneeled three times. Did Durham have to take a three-percent pay cut this season?

(I didn't realize until this weekend that tennis star Serena Williams is a part-owner of the Miami Dolphins. If you think that line judge calling a foot-fault made her upset....)

+ Instant Message to Jimmy John's sandwich shops: That's a really daring step you're taking. A former Alabama football player named Jimmy Johns is going to jail on drug charges - yet you're NOT changing your name?!

SCHEDULED TUESDAY: Is a piece of Columbus history being abandoned? We plan to check....

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