At the risk of skewering a sacred cow, I agree with critics who contend Fargo’s Downtown Street Fair took a wrong turn. The “family friendly” mantra that has defined the fair — and is a crucial factor for success — has been tainted. Instead, fairgoers confronted an iteration that delivered unpleasant music, unimpressive street acts and beer guzzlers.
A big public event that claims it is family friendly is not when beer sales are added to the amalgam. Alcohol changes ambience and behavior. Whether it’s perception or reality, alcohol on the street erodes the sense of safety and comfort that people expect. That is especially true of parents who bring children to the fair. Folks who talked to me said so.
Police reported no alcohol-related fair arrests. Arrests do not measure conduct. Arrests are seldom made for beer-fueled, loutish behavior. The line is fuzzy between illegal public drunkenness and legal public boorishness. It’s fuzzier at a gathering like the street fair because police, as agents of the city, don’t want the fair to be seen as an unsafe drunkfest, so might be less likely to make arrests.
Fair managers compound their mistake by ignoring anecdotal reports from visitors who were unhappy with on-the-street beer-swilling and its fallout. Some fair attendees were disinclined to complain out loud, but their irritation was palpable. Others said they won’t be back. For every fairgoer who spoke up, there were scores who did not, but felt the same way and carried that message to friends and neighbors.
The street fair will thrive, beer or not. It’s a fixture in Fargo’s pantheon of eclectic attractions, one of summer’s best. But a fair without alcohol is better, not only for the family-friendly sales pitch, but also for Fargo overall. The city’s reputation as Drunktown, USA, need not be enhanced.
- Letter: Downtown Street Fair is no longer a family-friendly event
- Letter: This year's Downtown Street Fair was not vendor-friendly either
Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn doesn’t always get it right; but as the aphorism goes, “sometimes even a blind pig finds an acorn.” So it is with the commissioner and Fargo’s love affair with bicycles.
I was among critics of Piepkorn when he inveighed against the city’s embrace of all things bicycle. He said streets were not wide enough for bike lanes. He got abusive with a city employee who was designing bike lanes. He lost a re-election bid, but a couple of years later he regained a commission seat. Bottom line: He was right about bike lanes and the cyclists who are supposed to use them.
I no longer buy two-wheeler dogma. Change of heart came reluctantly after observing cyclists in Fargo and other places. It’s not about lanes and roads. It’s about attitudes: entitled arrogance dressed in efulgent spandex and faux superhero helmets. They preach “share the road.” What they mean is “out of my way!” They lecture motorists to be aware of cyclists. What they want is carte blanche to zip through stop signs and kiss off turn signals.
Final irony: The motorists who are disdained by bicyclists pay the bills for streets and bike lanes via fuel taxes and fees. Cyclists get a free ride, yet some think the road is theirs. Not all are bad actors, but enough are so that the problem is obvious to drivers and pedestrians.
Piepkorn’s early caution was valid. The city should still be cautious about peddling pedaling.