SantaCaliGon Days is a family tradition for Sherry Muse and her sister, Julie Rizzo. The weather Monday wasn’t going to deter them.
So with rain falling and threatening to put a damper on Labor Day festivities, Muse, Rizzo and Rizzo’s son, Henry, 8, made the drive from St. Joseph, Mo., to Independence for the final day of the three-day street fair that brings many thousands to its historic town square.
“We grabbed the umbrella and came out,” Muse said.
About noon, for a time, it appeared that the sunny weather predicted for the afternoon was going to break through, after all, and people started to stream onto city blocks packed with booths offering crafts, food and games.
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Two gents in 19th century finery promenaded through the streets as the first mayor of Independence, William McCoy, and the Rev. Hemingsworth of the Second Baptist Church, telling everyone who would listen about what’s behind the fair’s multisyllabic name: Independence was the point of departure for the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails.
“We’re going to make this a city people want to come back to,” the mayor said.
That optimism hadn’t yet reached the carnival-style fairway where the ferris wheel and other rides were running nearly empty and rows of game booths stood as silent as their heaps of stuffed animal prizes.
“Hey, we’re open over here,” the minder of a pick-a-duck booth said to whatever passersby were in earshot.
At the Gutter Topper of KC booth, salesman Nick Budreau was having better luck pitching to an interested couple. “We don’t mind if it rains,” he said. “It really helps promote our product.”
But the product that really drew the lunchtime crowds was the food. Ah, the food.
There was pizza and funnel cakes and hamburgers and brisket. Dill pickles. Rib-eye steak sandwiches. Italian sausage and Polish sausage and Cajun sausage. Onion blossoms, crabcakes, shish kabobs and pork rinds.
So many calories, so little time.
And did somebody say deep-fried Snickers bars?
“It’s the reason I come here, “ said Zeus Manumaleuna of Independence, taking his first bite.
His son, Worthy, 6, had chosen the deep-fried Twinkie. Now, soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside, the spongy eternal snack cake had been transformed.
And speaking of the eternal. Not far off was a man from the Gideons offering free Bibles. And in the other direction, for those interested in an answer for a fee, was psychic and palm reader Sister Star with her daughter, Anne.
Challenged to predict the weather for the rest of the day, Anne foretold: “It’s going to be a little humid, but it’s going to be good.”
The weatherman wasn’t doing any better.