Today at the Del Mar Fairgrounds I joined what seemed like thousands of others interested in hand-crafted arts and crafts, artisanal food and baked goods, toys carved out of wood, unique metal jewelry, original music and every other thing like these you can imagine, typically found at the world's best street fairs. I admit, I expected to find a bunch of older ladies, hair done up, looking for quilts, silk flowers, and selling things that had no practical use at all. My mind's stereotype was pleasantly blown.
The vendors were as diverse at the world in which we live - young, old, gay, straight, Americans, immigrants, families and eclectic individuals whom I imagined live in funky outposts in small town Arizona or New Mexico, or coastal California towns no one has ever heard of.
It was packed. And it was cool. There was a happiness and peace in the air. Those of us buying were doing something "good", supporting local artists directly, and those who were selling were clearly proud of their creations, many very in touch with the ebbs and flows of this crazy world we live in, like the silver pendants with motivational sayings designed to make you feel ok about "making it through", or the belt buckle switchblade knife combo that comes with a card quoting the penal code appropriate to a concealed weapon (it is not one ... apparently one inch more and it would be), or the cupcakes made with some famous ingredient used by the native Americans that promote energy and are appropriate for vegans, or every kind of fruit and herb-infused olive oil imaginable.
I have been to many street and craft fairs, and this one was the best. I was struck by the energy, and the fun everyone was having supporting the artisan movement. It didn't feel like a Sunday afternoon for old ladies who drive beat up gold cars too slowly. And it made me reflect again on "community" and what it means.
Two years ago we asked our home shoppers how they spent their free time. Almost 50% said "dining out". Today, that has dropped to just over 10%. Glad I am not in the restaurant business... And in answer to that same question about free time, two years ago just 2% said "spending time visiting friends and neighbors in my community". Today that number has increased more than five times.
Maybe there's a correlation, maybe not, but there's a line in a song somewhere about enjoying what you have, not wanting what you don't. If ever there was a time to just turn it down a notch and enjoy what's right around us, including the creative gifts of others, it's now.