Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 61 - La Fete de Marquette


I have never been to La Fete de Marquette. Since moving to Madison some years ago, I have always known La Fete de Marquette as the little festival with a big presence. It has always been one of the local events I wanted to attend, but I never made time to do so. This remained the case even when I moved into the neighborhood where the festival occurs each year after buying a home several years ago. Given my desire to attend the festival, I knew I needed to make a visit to La Fete de Marquette a priority. In turn, I decided to make a trip to the event a part of my “I have never…” journey this year. With the festival occurring this weekend, Rachael and walked down to the festival this evening.

The evening crowd
Upon arriving at the La Fete de Marquette grounds, Rachael and I walked in the festival gates and took a position near the back of a large crowd standing before the festival’s only stage. For a few minutes Rachael and I looked over the crowd in an effort to identify the lay of the festival grounds. Watching on, we took note of the people and places surrounding us as we attempted to formulate our plans while at the festival. As we determined what we wanted to do first, I took in the crowd around us. The high-spirited group bobbed to the sounds of blues music, talked in groups, and laughed as they enjoyed food and drink from nearby tents. Everyone there was warm with joy and a ubiquitous feeling of relaxation. Deciding we too would partake in the festival’s theme, Rachael and I decided first to grab a beer from the beer tent before exploring the festival grounds. In turn, the two of us headed into the beer tent directly behind us and took a place in line.

A mini Eiffel Tower on the grounds
After entering the beer tent I immediately took notice of the mass of people standing before the festival bar. Despite the bar’s incredible length, lines wound far toward the back of the beer tent. It was clear the crowd was growing as the evening progressed, which made me excited for the evening’s events yet to come. After waiting in line for some time, Rachael and I grabbed some Capital Brewery beers and left the beer tent to explore more of the grounds. At first, we walked closer to the stage to get a better view of the performer, Kenny Neal, and his band as they powered through modern blues songs with unfettered energy and soul. We listened for a few minutes before I realized I had not yet eaten anything that evening. As a result, Rachael and I began slowly working our way back past the crowd and toward a variety of food tents. As we got closer to the tents, I took note of the vast variety of choices littering the area. Nearly every restaurant in the Williamson-Marquette district had a presence, with several other restaurants from around town filling the gaps. With such diversity, I knew I needed time to mull over the choices before landing on something to eat for the evening.

The market
As a result of my indecision, Rachael and I continued past the food tents into what I thought was the back corner of the festival grounds. As we passed the last of the food tents I was surprised to see a banner reading “La Fete de Marquette presents: Miller’s Market” stretched over a long dirt path lined by massive tents. As Rachael and I approached the area beyond the banner I craned my neck to look in the large covered areas. Inside each tent booths of goods, art, and other wares line tables and display cases. Each tent was a full retail space filled with items from local retail stores and artists. Intrigued, Rachael and I wondered into one of the tents a looked around. Beautiful fabrics, jewelry, art pieces, and home goods surrounded us as we walked through the space. Drawn in by the ever-changing field of goods before us, I nearly failed to recognize a friend of ours, Leslie, standing behind one of the booths. There to sell her art, Leslie hurried back and forth to help an unending flow of customers at the tables surrounding her. I smiled at the sight of so many people helping support a local artist as we approached one of her tables. We quickly said hello to Leslie as we looked over her pieces, doing our best to avoid interrupting her ability to help customers. After a brief conversation, Rachael and I continued on, leaving Leslie to her work and us to our ongoing exploration of the La Fete de Marquette grounds.

Ferris Wheel!
Following our walk through the market area, Rachael and I exited through the back of the tent to find a Ferris wheel positioned on a small portion of closed street just off of the festival grounds. For a few minutes we stood before the bright yellow spinning wheel listening to people laughing before Rachael broke the silence, “Do you want to go for a ride?” She said gesturing toward the Ferris wheel. Delighted by the idea I responded, “Yeah! I haven’t been on a Ferris wheel in years!” Together we walked over and took a place in line. With the sun fading, I was hopeful we would make it on the ride in time to catch the last moments of sunlight on a calm summer night. I was happy to find the line moving quickly as the wheel started and stopped, which left us standing at the head of the line in a matter of minutes. Eventually boarding the Ferris wheel, Rachael and I loaded into our seat and took the ride. We rose over the substantial crowd below and fell back to the Earth as the wheel spun. The dimly lit sky cast a golden light over the festival grounds and illuminated the tips of the buildings in downtown Madison. A gentle breeze blowing past us, we looked out and took in the sights as the wheel turned. “This is summer… I haven’t felt this in a while,” I said looking at Rachael. She smiled in response before wrapping her arm around mine and resting her head on my shoulder. Arm in arm we sat through the rest of the ride, ultimately making our way back to the festival grounds once our ride had stopped. I don’t know how perfect can really be defined, but I know that was moment was as close to it as possible.

The aerial view of the crowd

Once the ride stopped Rachael and I walked back to the festival grounds, grabbed something to eat and drink, and found a spot to listen to the forthcoming act, renowned Blues singer Marcia Ball. During our rest of the time at the festival we listened to Marcia’s music as we caught up with people we ran into and spent time with my friend, Ross. With night setting in, we made the most of our time talking and joking with the sound of Blues swirling in the air. Time passed quickly as we spent time engaged in spirited conversation at the festival and slowly wandered the grounds with Ross and his group. Eventually, we heard Marcia wrapping up her set and took note of the dwindling crowd around, which made us realize midnight was quickly approaching. In turn, Rachael and I brought our conversations to a close, said our goodbyes, and found our way back home.

Marcia Ball

After attending La Fete de Marquette for the first time, I can say my first experience with the festival was a very positive one. In hindsight, it definitely lived up to its reputation and to my expectations. With good drinks, great food, outstanding music, and amazing people, La Fete proved the perfect way to spend a July evening. As a result, I’m hopeful I will be able to find time to attend the festival again next year. With it so close to home, I don’t really have any reason not to attend, and after such a good time tonight, I would be a fool not to...

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