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Where Farmers’ Markets, Taylor Swift, and Corn Dogs Converge

August 13, 2010

My route from the Biscuit Festival and the Market Square Farmers’ Market was detoured, as you may remember, by some good advice about two Sunday markets, one in Chattanooga and one in the Atlanta area. While I was able to find my way into the Tennessee First Pavilion in Chattanooga and enjoy their Latin Day, fresh vegetables, breads, pastries, salsas, and more, I fell flat on finding the market in Atlanta – and at the moment I cannot find any of my information on it.

Either way, I navigated the channels of Atlanta’s (Georgia’s) crazy drivers to the directions that I found on the market’s website. My iPhone had not failed me to this point and I don’t believe it did this time, but instead led me to the correct location that just so happened to be hosting a five-block arts and crafts show with beer garden, food stands, and live music instead of a farmer’s market.

It was SummerFest (or something) and the beautiful overcast skies of early morning Tennessee had given way to deep blue skies and full sun, probably the hottest day of the year so far in the Atlanta-metro area. There were lines of cars as I pulled into the general vicinity of the address I had mapped. People were walking in groups and carrying bags, so I naturally assumed that I had actually stumbled upon this large market that I had been told about in Knoxville. I decided to park and check it out, even though it was already pushing 4:00 and I was ready to get to Greenville, where I was staying for the night, so I could have a drink — something about being in the car all day that drives a person to drinking.

I parked about five blocks away in a quaint little neighborhood and followed the crowd. By the time I made my way up and over the little hill and caught site of what appeared to be more of a beer garden, I was absolutely drenched in sweat and thankful that I didn’t drink any more than I did the night before in Knoxville at the Downtown Grill and Brewery – quite good.

After crossing the street and getting looked over quite heavily by the security presence at the entrance to the blocked off street, it became quite apparent that I was chasing my own tail. But, I didn’t want to give up hope. I though, you know, this could be the best market ever with lots of beautiful, in-shape people donning little to nothing on their bodies, a wine tasting tent that had a waiting line a mile long, people hanging out the windows of the two bars right on the corner of the street and cops on horseback.  Then again, I could have found my way into a giant yuppie festival.

I began walking the street, lined with tents full of various forms of artwork and sweaty, mostly inconsiderate people gawking and cutting you off. I was ungodly hot, I’m talking 95-100 degrees with considerable humidity and high afternoon sun. I had been in the car, roughly, since 9:00 that morning having to drive a route that I swore I would never drive again after I hauled a trailer with all my belongings to Clemson in 2006 to attend school that fall.

So I walked, and I tried to both enjoy the happenstance of the mistake while making sure there was no farmers’ market at the end of these (straight ahead) blocks of white tents and people and hot food stands. It was like searching through a ton of records at the flea market or a rummage sale after you have seen albums by Slade and Phil Collins and Conway Twitty’s Greatest Hits and you know that somewhere in that mess of 1970’s is the album that will make all the thumbing worthwhile. Maybe it is the Spanish Folk music album that makes your day, or maybe it is the gnarly cover art that you imagine may look good in the basement of your new apartment that is full of cobwebs and spiders, or maybe you will actually find a copy of Music from Big Pink that is good condition.

Well, my “Music from Big Pink” was a hand-dipped jalapeno battered corn dog from one of the food stands posted up adjacent from the baseball field that was the impromptu amphitheater for some Nickleback rip-off. I should have stopped when I first past this midway point before seeing the next two blocks of potential food stands that turned into junkyard art, metal sculpting, overpriced photographs, and giant oil paintings that would only look good in my freaking mansion.

I stuffed the corndog in my mouth and skipped to the sidewalk behind the tents for a more express route, which was only mildly quicker, passed the three little girls still singing the same Taylor Swift song at the end of their drive way for quarters and dollars and the occasional five spot, by some half-cocked thirty somethings.

I couldn’t get out of that mess of people fast enough, nor smoke enough cigarettes to calm my nerves until I heard my engine turn over and felt the air conditioner begin to cool. I sat in my car for a moment and watched three couples wander by talking about God-knows-what, but engaged in each other. I checked my phone memorized the few streets and turns to hit I-75/85 north towards South Carolina knowing from that point I would have no problem finding Greenville.

It was nice to see so many people having a good time, so many community members gathering both at the houses lining the streets where the event was happening as well as those participating in the actual event. The heat could have been welcoming had I not had the responsibility of driving another 150 miles or so, and if I had not been in the first week of a six-week stint visiting friends and markets and playing golf and eating and camping and teaching summer camp and touring Washington D.C., then I may have been a little more liberal with my cash and purchased some art. I’m sure now that it would have looked great in my new apartment.

The walk was good for me and if had I not stopped, then I would have not been able to enjoy that corn dog – the only one of the summer, and I’m still thinking about it.

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