> In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Asheville loves festivals: not a weekend goes by in the summer without a festival happening somewhere in town. They vary from large (Bele Chere) to small (Downtown After 5) and cover just about every variety of art and craft. Most of these are geared towards bringing people to Asheville but one of them is not.
LAAFF (Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival) is for the locals. It’s not that the Festival doesn’t welcome anyone who wants to come but it is put on by the organizers in order to celebrate local artists, local crafts, local foods, and local people. The festival takes place in September, traditionally a slow period between summer and the October high season.
Lexington Avenue is billed by the festival’s founders as ” the street that is the Heart, Horror and Glory of fringe living in A’ville”, and while this may have been true ten years ago at the Festival’s inception, time and prosperity have dulled a little of the edge. The street is still home to tattoo parlors and hippie shops but, like so much in Asheville, there is a benign quality to it which attracts people of all types. Nevertheless people-watching at the festival does bring to mind Greenwich Village on its funkier days!
Last year James and I were too busy to attend but this year we seem to be planning our time better and we were able to take time out to walk from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast over to Lexington Avenue for lunch and a peek at the goings-on.
We started at the top of the Avenue which afforded us with a great view of the mountains in the distance in the clear blue September sky. One of the first thing one notices about this festival is the people. People dress up. Tutus and fairy wings abound, hair comes in all colors, and we even saw a man dressed up as a mermaid (unfortunately he was walking away from me and I could only get a back shot). One of the things I loved was the children. I couldn’t help imagining how much our daughters would have loved an excuse to dress up and parade around!
This young man was doing a brisk business making spider balloon hats. He was very serious about it as you can tell from the intent expression of his face. All in all the balloon creations at LAAFF were outside of the usual giraffe and fish creations.
And how cool are these–earrings made out of airplants! Of course, I don’t think I would actually wear them but I give the artist great props for creativity!
By now James and I were a little hot and thirsty and, while there was plenty of water, lemonade and other drinks for sale, our eye was caught by a tea room advertising “bubble tea”. We first came across bubble tea when we lived in Singapore where it was a hugely popular drink. Cool milky tea of all flavors is poured over ice and small tapioca pearls (or “bubbles” ). It is served with an extra wide straw so that you can sip up the pearls along with your tea. Upon entering the Dobra Tea House, we realized that we had just entered a temple to tea! The menu alone was as thick as a small novel with copious explanations of each type of tea being offered. These are serious tea people!
Every year a car painting party takes place in which anyone who wants to can help decorate a donated car.
And while we didn’t see any bike jousting (bad timing) it is a relatively safe activity involving bubble wrap, banana seats and bouncing bikes Definitely a must see for next year!
Lunchtime! (I did mention that we went to town for lunch?)
While LAAFF, like all Festivals, was replete with food stalls, James and I decided to opt for the cool and comfort of inside dining. There was a small Japanese Restaurant we had been wanting to try on Lexington Avenue and it had a window counter where we could enjoy our lunch with a perfect view of the people walking by! Heiwa Shokudo is a Japanese owned and operated restaurant which some say has the best sushi in Asheville.
Nearing the end of the street we came across the Asheville Hoops stand. James and I have a fondness for the Asheville Hoops having had a member of the group live in the house next door to us last year. She used to practice in the dark in the basement with a fluorescent hula hoop and once even tried a fire hoop in the driveway. (There is a great video of this here)
And of course it wouldn’t be a festival in Asheville without live music!
This year the festival was expanded to two days. If you would like to see more pictures, you can visit our facebook page. And you might want to plan a trip to Asheville for the festival next September!