The 21st annual Westcott Street Cultural Fair awakened the surrounding neighborhood on Sunday, welcoming thousands of people of various ages and ethnicities to celebrate Westcott's diversity.
The fair is a volunteer-driven effort organized by the Westcott Area Cultural Coalition, and the planning, “never stops,” Sharon Sherman, chair and treasurer of WACC, said. “It’s to celebrate this neighborhood,” she said. “I just like to see people happy, and with the fair, you see people from different walks of life coming together that I wouldn’t expect.”
A parade from the Westcott Community Center kicked off the festival at noon, and featured a motley crew of participants that included children from area schools, political hopefuls like Gary Morris, a Syracuse Democrat running for Onondaga County clerk, puppeteers and stilt-walkers from Open Hand Theater. The parade ended in the Boom Babies parking lot, with Samba Laranja, Syracuse University’s Brazilian music ensemble, drumming a rhythm for Open Hand’s performers to dance and bounce around.
“Syracuse rocks!” a crowd member yelled as the dancing ended, giving a voice to the rest of the day’s activities.
Vendors, artists, performers and activists filled the booths lining Westcott street and the surrounding side streets throughout the day as crowds explored the area. Mom’s Diner served up barbecue, while the Alto Cinco staff—wearing sombreros, plaid shirts and, in one case, a taco costume—sold cookies and cupcakes across the street.
Craft vendors sold glass jewelry, hand-woven baskets and handmade pillows made to look like owls, while others offered henna tattoos, face painting and fall-themed baked goods. Fulton graphic designer Kimberly Daino, whose husband owns Recess Coffee House & Roastery, had a setup covered in lace and doilies that stood out among the other booths as she sold handmade prints and Victorian-esque jewelry and buttons. Alison Kramer’s 100 percent vegan “Dirty Ass Soaps” were also a crowd favorite.
Kramer, who lives in Utica, N.Y., had a rainbow of typical bar soaps on display, as well as soaps that resembeled Ramen Noodles, vintage Nintendo controllers and Goldfish. She said she had a wide range of visitors to her booth throughout the day, which was one of her favorite parts about traveling to the fair.
“I really like the energy of all the people here,” Kramer said. “It’s just a really great feeling.”
Petit Branch Library on Victoria Place held a used book sale, while the “Kid’s Corner” in the library’s parking lot had science demonstrations, arts and crafts and a mini rock climbing wall for the fair’s younger visitors. The SU Track Club sponsored foot-races for kids of all ages, even providing them with a racing number to pin on their shirts.
The Westcott street fair also had a number of booths dedicated to social justice and activism, like the Syracuse Center for Peace and Social Justice. One group even did a demonstration to protest drone warfare at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport; members laid dead in the middle of Westcott street covered in “bloody” sheets. Many also walked around the fair with signs denouncing hydraulic fracturing in the area.
Jessica Azulay of Syracuse has worked with the Syracuse Peace Council since she moved here 10 years ago, and said activism has long been a part of Syracuse’s history: “The fair is a great opportunity to connect with the neighborhood and people throughout the city,” Azulay said. “People here really connect with these issues because they live them.”
When asked about this particular element of the fair, Sherman said, “That’s just our neighborhood.” She added that the compost efforts at the fair and the Westcott neighborhood’s year-round recycling efforts are another reason why the area is considered a “progressive” neighborhood in Syracuse.
Entertainment throughout the day ranged from local acoustic and indie rock to Irish step dance, hip-hop, and bellydancing in the six different performance areas. There were also, however, a number of unofficial shows. One man juggled devil sticks in the middle of South Beech Street, near Abdo’s Grocery, while an impromptu guitar jam developed at the corner of Westcott and Harvard Place late in the afternoon.
On the main stage, the Syracuse band Grupo Pagán was the last group to perform at the fair, jamming out to their own brand of catchy Latin American rock in front of an crowd that filled Dorian’s entire parking lot. Lively dancing and a sing-along ensued throughout Grupo Pagán’s hour-long show. Finishing the night with Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” bassist and vocalist Edgar Pagan sang, “Don’t worry about a thing.” The crowd sang it back to him, cheering and clapping enthusiastically as the fair ended.
In the coming months, WACC will sponsor a new mural at 508 Westcott St., as well as the second annual Westcott Winter Weekend Art & Music Festival on Nov. 23 – 24. Visit their website for more information.