ANNUAL PAWPAW FESTIVAL ‘12, ATHENS OHIO:
So, last week, about the same time I wrote the Avatar post, I went to the pawpaw festival in Athens, OH. For those of you who don’t know, like I didn’t, a pawpaw is a fruit like a pear, that has a soft texture like a banana. Everything there has to do with that fruit, except for some arts and crafts. I looked at some jewelry, and some cups that people had made. I love homemade crafts! But, also there were t-shirts, and beer, and the burrito buggy, and an open air concert.
As far as the people that were there, I saw hippies and hipsters of all ages. So, at the risk of being crass, a lot of tie dye and flannel shirts. And that’s cool! Even I self-identify as a hipster: I just really like art. Te whole thing was open air, and you could hear acoustic bands hawking alternative energy sources. The music was very mellow, except for some upbeat rockabilly thrown in. I must admit it wasn’t really my taste, but it’s Appalachian culture, and I was glad people came together to celebrate the American pawpaw fruit.
After I got tired of the music, I headed over to the dog park and played with some dogs. There were a couple German Shepherds (Eva and Jazz) doing obedience training behind a fence. The trainer let me pet them. I also met a cocker spaniel, a big black great Dane puppy named Peter, and an especially endearing three-legged pitbull named Stitch. Stitch actually approached me, and the owner said, “Oh, he likes you!” So, it was kind of a special disability relationship. To me, the dog park was the main attraction! And of course that pawpaw beer! I’m 26 and still look young enough that they ask for ID.
I must take issue though, with the parking. The parking took me the longest to find and there was no place to park even though it was an open air festival. But, the workers were helpful, and we parked on a hill, and let the ramp down. I think about half the population of Athens, OH was there. Pawpaws are a big deal there, apparently! I spent some time talking to shop owners. They were all self-supported artists!
It was a fun time in the Ohio sun. Nice opportunity to observe Athens, OH culture, and pick out fashion trends in music and clothes. I’ll remember Stitch for a long time, because he came up to me. And hey, I learned what the heck a pawpaw is! I must say, it was very refreshing. I know I’m all about sci-fi and technological progress, but when you get down to it, I like the woods, and the natural creativity that it inspires in me. I always feel like an alien, but wooded areas are like my home planet. Heck, the woman making the cups was a Trekkie, who gave me the Vulcan salute! We’re everywhere!
It felt really good. The atmosphere in the festival is busy, but very relaxed. It was the Pawpaw Fest’s 20th year celebration, so it’s actually a cultural tradition hitherto unknown to me. Great for me as an ethnographer. And everyone participates, so you can just relax, have a pawpaw beer (or juice.); people were very open to questions, and friendly. It’s a nice chance to get together with artists, bands, pets, etc. and just have a good time in honor of this unique American fruit!