i’m not a westsider, and if you’re not born there or born to people who were born there you can’t be one. i’ve observed this culture up close and personal and it’s quite clannish and exclusive. the Westside Nut Club Fall Festival is the shining glory of these folks, and they have every right to bask in its success.
i’ve been working on the Westside of Evansville for 15 years now…7 of them right across from the library where the carnies set up their pukinator-rides and tilted games. the brain-sandwich- line became a source of fascination to me, snaking around the building by 7am. winding by my office window, for 5 full days faces peered in while i peered out, wondering why on earth folks loved brain sandwiches sooo much, watching as the people in the booth (not youngsters) worked feverishly to keep up with the orders. i ate lunch from the booths every day: corndogs, onion rings, bean soup, pork chops, funnel cakes, caramel apples, corn-on-the-cob, apple cider, and so much more. at least one day we’d plant someone in the brain sandwich line. we were obligated to go to the booths of the groups we support—and Every school and church in town has a booth. during lunchtime the streets are full, but by the time i left at 6pm or so, the evening crowds were already overflowing.
when it’s dark and all the lights are on at the carnival, on the rides, down the boulevard and over the booths, it feels quite magical, though you can hardly move through the crowds. the grease is hanging thickly in the air over the hordes making their way from the stage at the west end to the rides at the east end and back again, over and over, stopping to stand in line or talk or stand in line and talk. the week is filled with talent shows, the king and queen contest, the tug-of-war; a pet parade, a light parade, and a morning shriner/tractor parade. it’s generally pretty safe, but there’s a significant police presence to be sure.
this one-of-a-kind fall festival raises hundred of thousands of dollars for the Nut Club as well as the non-profits who run the booths. each westside school gets about $10,000; reitz and mater dei (westside high schools) get $15,000/each. all of the schools get a portion and if you write a good grant request, they’ll help.
frankly, i don’t care for it. maybe i overdosed during my franklin st. years, or maybe i just am grouchier, but i haven’t been down there since 2004. sadly, i can’t think of one thing i’d like to eat from there and i’m not too keen on running into every student or patient that i’ve ever known. i’m glad, though, that many people take their vacations for this event (really) so that the show goes on and on like a brain-sandwich-line.
the weather’s beautiful this week, so i might have to head on down…maybe…