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The Importance of Being Ethnic - The Pittsfield Ethnic Fair, August 7th, 2011 Noon - 6 p.m.

Title music: "Blow Wind Blow" by Steve and the Tailpipers

This year the Ethnic Fair will be on two blocks of South Street in Downtown Pittsfield going from Center Square to Housatonic Street. Free and family friendly. The fair celebrates the many cultures that make up the Berkshires and beyond.

Getting back to our own personal ethnic roots by actively learning about other ethnicities is the starting point of our society beginning to heal itself. One beautiful early evening last summer on my way home from work while crossing with the green light and friendly walking icon in the heart of the new and exciting Korea Town I was grazed by a cyclist. I was stunned and thought "Oh my god I almost got hit and I was just minding my own business." I turned to look at the guy and said "You ran a red light." he turned back, gave me the finger and said (as he looked back at me and not at the road risking yet another unsuspecting pedestrian collision) "Fuck you!" The crowd of mostly tourists erupted in laughter and applause because they had just witnessed a real NYC moment. I could hear people going "Yeah you tell ‘em!" I didn’t respond back because frankly I was scared.

I continued with my head down walking towards Penn Station, home to the ever growing legions of homeless, feeling powerless against the increasing wave of insensitivity that’s coming at us at the breakneck speed of an out of control cyclist. I counted my blessings. Mainly it just made me think. When did the words "Fuck you!" become the new "I’m sorry"? Is it out of fashion or is it the new way of being? This NYC moment resembled what people commonly see on reality TV. These common everyday interactions are now bringing out the nastiness in us instead of compassion. I thought back to the all the fun we had the weekend before at the Pittsfield Ethnic Fair 2010 and the answer just came to me. The best way for people to feel more compassion towards each other is to learn more about the different ethnic cultures they come from and share that. What better way to do that than to spend a day at the Ethnic Fair and embrace the great diversity surrounding us.

Coming together as one culture celebrating all cultures this one special day of the year has become a ritual for us. Last year it was all about the varied foods available from local restaurants representing all the corners of the globe. There was the great BBQ showdown Jack Jack’s vs. the Mad Jack’s and Jack Jr. (aka Steve) was there to pontificate on the merits of each but alas by the time we got to Jack Jack’s the ribs were gone and Mad Jack’s stuck to the basics leaving us to try their unbelievable ribs another day so we ventured forth. The Italian Club brought out the big guns with the grilled polenta and marinara sauce for $5 a bowl really good but I could go for seconds ...or thirds for that matter. Delicioso! But it left room for more. Next up Lucia’s Latin American food booth had run out of Arroz con Pollo (we’re definitely going early this year) but we sampled the skewers of chorizo, beef, onion and peppers in a secret special sauce a garlic basil oil variation of chimichuri that was again, delicioso (same in Italian or Spanish). Then to top it off Pappa Joe’s Ristorante deep dish Chicago style sausage pizza for $2 whatabahgan! Washed all that down with Heinekens yeah, it’s family friendly but there’s still a beer tent, come on already! Other types of food were left on the table like one of our favorites Flavours, the great Malaysian restaurant on McKay St.

As far as entertainment goes, there was the incredible Akwaaba African ensemble, the Veronica Robles Mariachi Group, The Women of Joy Gospel Trio, the Rakish Paddy Celtic Band and the Mark VI Polka Band. In addition, there was the popular Berkshire Bataria, the Youth Alive Step Dance & Drum Line for the Glee crowd and opening ceremonies with the Clann Cathail Bagpippers. We were mesmerized by the Birds of Prey Raptor Project which you can see live and uncomfortably up close in the accompanying video. This year there will be lots of booths featuring handicrafts, temporary tattoos, jewelry, clothing and more from around the world.

For more information please call 413.443-6501 or go to the website: www.downtownpittsfield.com/events.php

P.S. I’m on board with cyclists that are helping us reduce our carbon footprint and I applaud this rogue peddler for that but I’d like to bring this guy to the 2011 Pittsfield Ethnic Fair and really see if that nasty attitude of his can’t be fixed with a little culture.

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