Friday, April 8, 2011

The Homeskillet's ode to the 4th Avenue Street Fair

What would modern living be without the proverbial fair? It's been in the fabric of what we do and who we are since the beginning of townships forming, communities coming together and neighbors that just wanna show off their cute dogs and apple pies. Heck, I'm sure there were some cavemen that got together on some regular basis and shared like different ways to prepare Mammoth or had some contest such as “Best Use of Rock as Weapon”. There had to have been. We're human. We like stupid crap like that.

Well kids, I am here to tell you that I am no different in my appreciation and participation in any way, shape or form of fair. Back in California, near my hometown of Carmel, there was the Monterey Squid Festival, the first place I ever ate calamari as a kid and was not even close to being horrified to find out it was octopus. Up north from Monterey, we had the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the Castroville Artichoke Festival, the Watsonville Strawberry Festival, etc, etc, etc. So, as you can see, festivals were a big part of me growing up; and they still are. No matter where you live, be it metropolitan or rural no-wheres-ville, I'll betcha right now they're planning the next fair or festival as we speak.

Deep in the hidden confines of the Ozark outback, I am nervous as to what “affair” they are putting together.

Nevertheless, here in Tucson AZ, my home now for over 6 years, outside of the rodeo (which is a school and state business holiday, I am crapping you negative) and a bunch of other stuff, we have the bi-annual 4th Avenue Street Fair.

4th Avenue is the hip shopping and restaurant district, second only to maybe to Congress Street, which tends to be a bit more upscale. 4th is full of funky shops, casual dining, great bars, tattoo parlors and the like. But, before summer hits and right before the holiday season, the long stretch of road becomes filled with all sorts of vendors and artists all pandering their wares under tents in usually pretty high temps. This spring fair was no different. It reached 100 by 1pm.

Still, they come out every year, sometimes twice a year, to sell their goods, only to pack up and head off to the next street fair or festival. What a life. I couldn't imagine selling Kokopelli decorated crock pots for a living, and that living being one of some new age nomad. Not for me.

(This guy actually has a great product, serving pots that stay cold for hours, but the designs on the side are comical and he's kind of a douche...)

But, seeing as the Homeskillet is my food blog, the main focus of our visit to the 4th Ave Street fair is, of course, eating.

Now, She-Ra and I like art just like the next person but, lemme tell you here, outside of my buddy Josh and his occasional arrival at the fair ( or the stuff that Pop Cycle does to old records and vintage toys ( ) most of the artwork is pretty horrendous. Not to mention, how many times did we have to get harassed about getting DirectTV? Really, a good portion of the 4th Ave Street Fair is kinda dumb...but the mullet count is usually pretty high.

The high point of the fair, for us anyway, is the food. There's always a bevvy of local fare, such as fry bread, Sonoran Mexican food, along with the usual lot of burgers and dogs. We can go to Lindy's anytime ( but it's only at the street fair that we can get our foot long Polish dogs at the Piggy Wiggly. Yep, that's what they call it.

First off, when you approach the stand, you are immediately hit with that wafting grilled aroma of several different kinds of meats and a pile of onions, horseradish and all sorts of slathery goodness.

Sure, just like any other kind of street fair, you-can-only-get-it-once-a-year kind of product, it's a little pricy: $8. BUT!, look at the size of this thing. I mean, it's pretty intimidating.

Our tradition, once we are properly mustard and hot sauced, we sit on the corner, eating our massive sausage (that sounds kinda wrong, right?) and watching the parading lot of fair goers, trying to not only count the mullets but the inappropriate jean shorts (on men!), bad prison tattoos, fannypacks, hairy backs and unattended children. Yessiree, it is always quite the spectacle.

It takes a while to get through the sausage but once you made that thing your lil' food bitch, the end result is not only having to not worry about eating for the next, oh, day, but also the gloppy mess that resonates on your hand afterward.

The rest of the day is usually spent running into friends, considering buying yet another Alice in Wonderland print from Pop Cycle, perhaps buying that sweet but spicy chipotle lime BBQ sauce (which we did) and trying to drink as much water as we can. Otherwise, the only vendor we spend a decent amount of cash on is the guys from the Garlic Festival (

All I gotta tell you is their products are a staple in our kitchen. Sure, we always use a lot of garlic in our cooking as it is but these guys have it down pat, as far as rubs, sauces, shakes and infused oils are concerned. We buy enough to get us through till the next time they arrive but, oh man, I always get excited when the newest street fair arrives because I know the Garlic Festival wizards will be there with their patented garlic gharni and spicy garlic mustard. Holy yum balls!

Usually after the fair we head home, count the loot then take a nap. Walking around 4th Ave for a few hours in the hot sun while avoiding gothy teenagers in Marilyn Manson shirts and 'the end is near' religious freaks can be pretty exhausting. It's always a fun time, if not for a good laugh, but the food is always the star and our corner is always empty, waiting for us to sit down, watch the free show while eating way too much tubed meat.

But, do I really need DirectTV? I mean, those guys were so...insistent. Gosh. 

 RIP Mary's Taco Bar...I was pretty sad to see it all boarded up and closed down. This place was awesome and really helped when drinking at Che's or the Wench went a bit too far. Those tacos were amazing. Cheers!

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