Diversity sure can taste good


PITTSFIELD -- Helen Schiffman, 92, was enjoying -- greatly -- her barbecued chicken at the Ethnic Fair on Sunday afternoon.

There was, to her, one troubling aspect of it, however.

"I just hope I don't spill any of this onto the street," she said. "I just don't want anyone to be upset."

She was assured by a reporter that the police would probably let it slide if she were to be caught littering. Schiffman was unconvinced.

"You know, the worst thing about this is that I always carry a little cloth or napkin to pick up [litter]," she said. "And today, I forgot it!"

The 2012 Pittsfield Ethnic Fair featured food and music from many parts of the world, as befitting a community as diverse as Pittsfield. There were a total of 28 food and drink vendors at Sunday's event on South Street. Foods included bratwurst and knockwurst from the German-American Club of Pittsfield, Tikka Masala and Aloo Patak from the House of India restaurant, Irish soda bread from the Irish-American Club of Berkshire County, chicken and rice from Lucia's Latin Kitchen, chicken curry from Malaysian Flavours restaurant and many other vendors.

"It's close, it's local and the food is great," said Mark Sumy of Pittsfield. He and his friend Wendy Hansen were eating sushi, dumplings and spring rolls from Shiro.

"The fo-o-o-o-d!" sang Hansen when asked about the biggest attraction at the fair. "I like some of the jewelry, too."

There were several vendors selling hand-crafted jewelry and other items, as well as vendors offering books, carvings, clothing, glassware, purses, hats, soap, dolls and the ubiquitous bouncy house, hosted by the Pittsfield High school girls' basketball team.

"I do not know, sir," said PHS girls' basketball coach Joe Racicot, when asked by a reporter when the "bouncy house" gained fame in the United States. "We didn't have one when we were kids. I do know it's popular."

And, of course, with several thousand people in one place, it was also a good gathering spot for those running for office. Democratic candidate for U.S. senate Elizabeth Warren stopped by later in the afternoon, posing for pictures, shaking hands and sampling some of the cuisine.

The weather wasn't completely cooperative. After a very sunny and hot first hour, rain began coming down at about 1:30, although it cleared up about 20 minutes later.

"It's New England," sh rugged Tim Triand of Benn ington, Vt., who was visiting the area with his family. "It rains for a while, then it doesn't."

Still, organizers expected anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 on Sunday. Ellie Per sip, one of the members of the planning board for the fair, said the annual attendance, if the weather is reasonable, often pushes 30,000.

Persip said more than 30 volunteers worked the fair, with their principal job being to make sure the streets are clean.

"They make a couple of sweeps throughout the afternoon," she said of her refuse crew. Meaning, of course, that Mrs. Schiffman probably had nothing to worry about.

There was one final set of observations recorded by The Eagle on Sunday.

Two young boys on bicycles were at the northern end of South Street, surveying the scene at about 1 p.m..They were aged 10 or 11.

"Dude, what is this?" said one. "There's, like, these carts with stuff on them and food places. And one of those big bouncy rooms over there. Plus, they blocked off the street. This is weird."

"Dude, calm down" said the other. "It's probably Third Thursday."

"Dude, wake up, it's freakin' Sunday," said the first biker.

"Yeah," said the second, pondering that point for about two seconds. "You got enough money for a hot dog?"

And they were off.

To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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