it begins with a parade: new and antique fire engines from each of the local volunteer companies, bagpipers, little baton twirlers, little irish step-dancers, the boy scouts, the girl scouts, and the odd snowplow. enough american flags to clothe a small nation. everyone stands to sing 'god bless america'.
then there are rides, which occupy a couple parking lots and the intervening street or two, and food. we yankees have soaring rates of obesity for good reason. our fare may not be refined or nutritious, but we sure have a lot of it. cotton candy, fried dough, corndogs, candy apples and beef on weck are encoded in our DNA. finally, there may or may not be a beer tent and live band, depending on the size of the community.
and that's it. it's really pretty simple. here in western new york, we so love our festivals that, in july alone and within ten minutes of my house, we have at least six that I know of - canal fest in tonawanda, old home days in amherst, kenmore days in kenmore, st. mary's festival, st. john's festival, and the italian festival (where emphasis is shifted to the edible). festivals are an integral part of the summer, like water wars and popsicles for breakfast. they mean a whole month of cotton candy. a whole month of feeling faintly nauseous because your friends force you onto rides that swing and spin and fly and spin in directions your inner ear was never meant to go. a whole month to glorify being american.