How to keep from going into ‘summer festival overload’

I can smell it from this office. If I opened a window, I could hear it. If I went on the roof, I could probably see it. And pretty much the rest of the city.

It’s here, and I am overjoyed.

Summer festivals are back in the Valley. Right now, the African-American festival downtown is rife with great food, fun, games, music, people and fried stuff. The sweet smell of barbecue is wafting through downtown, leading me on a Bugs Bunny-esque mission for dinner.

I walked down and was greeted by the familiar sights of a Mahoning Valley festival:trailers selling foods of all kinds, booths filled with games and inflatable Sponge Bobs and those weird plush bananas, dancing in front of a live band, kids running around being kids, people running into friends and saying hi, the inevitable Chinese auction and basket raffle.

When festival season begins, it aids in the rejuvenation of the Hibernated Midwesterner. Once we’ve officially thawed out (i.e.: when it’s warm enough to tolerate a night Indians game), you have only to smell a sausage sandwich to fully emerge from the winter cocoon.

But, you must show restraint. I know, a re-enactment of Eric Cartman’s 60-second run of glory through Casa Bonita on “South Park” seems like the thing to do. At first exposure to a summer festival, you want to munch down some Idora Park fries while throwing baseballs at those stupid milk bottles with the other hand, then wiggle to some polka music while plopping tickets into some auction baskets, then finish with a ride on the Scrambler whilst scattering powdered sugar into the breeze (because it never stays on top of the funnel cake where it belongs), emerging a tired, full, sugar-dusted mess.

So, here’s some ways to take the onslaught of festivals in moderation and still have a full summer:

Try and pick the unique part of each festival to enjoy. If you are at the Greek fest, enjoy some smelts. If you go to Brier Hill fest, play some bocce. The sausage sandwiches ain’t going anywhere.

Remember that most carnival games are designed to destroy your brain and drain your wallet. Stick to balloon darts (make sure you pick the most inflated balloons) and the little duckies where everyone gets a prize.

Make a calendar in your phone or a datebook with dates of the best fests near you. This will help you budget your cheese puff and bingo intake.

Sometimes, two festivals are going on at the same time. Hit up one for dinner, and one for entertainment.

Take time to learn something new. The Simply Slavic festival coming up on June 15 has some great information booths. Last year, I learned a lot about Jon Bon Jovi.

Slow down and mingle. Festivals are a great time to bump into classmates, ex-coworkers, etc. If you’re busy trying to sample every food truck, you might miss someone you actually want to talk to.

And, heavens to Murgatroyd, save room for the Canfield Fair.

What’s your favorite festival? Share your fest strategy with me at ssepanek@tribtoday.com, or comment on this story at www.tribtoday.com.