Annual fair celebrates neighborhood’s diversity, uniqueness
Westcott is a hidden gem near Syracuse University that, if you haven’t visited already, you owe it to yourself to do so.
Named for the area’s main thoroughfare, the Westcott Neighborhood is home to a slew of ethnic restaurants, hip and quirky stores, and large Victorian homes. The result is a funky Portlandia vibe sans the pretension. Westcott prides itself on being a small neighborhood with a big appetite—not only for visual and performing arts, but also healthy, delicious cuisine. Gluten-free? Vegetarian? Vegan? It’s all there. And more.
In September, Westcott Street transformed itself, as it does every fall, into an impressive outdoor festival, showcasing the best in fine art and fine crafts. Aptly named the Westcott Street Cultural Fair, the event drew more than 8,000 people, many of whom were students in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences.
Among the presenters was the Kambuyu Marimba Ensemble, performing traditional dance music from Zimbabwe. Composed of a half dozen musicians from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, the group was a microcosm of the neighborhood that, since the heady 1960s, has come to be known as “Westcott Nation.”
Adding to the day was a dizzying array of sights and smells. Mom’s Diner served up mouthwatering, Texas-inspired barbeque, while, across the street, The Sweet Praxis tempted festival-goers with their famous artisan macaroons, made from organic, locally grown ingredients. Not to be outdone, Picasso’s (described as a “cute, new place” in the neighborhood) seduced passers-by with their savory selection of “baked, not fried” sweets. A baker’s dozen for me, please.
In addition to a highly educated, civic-minded citizenry, Westcott is home to scores of artists and artisans. The fair exploded with stations devoted to ceramics, painting, jewelry, sculpture, glass, wood, and fiber, all of which ranged from the traditional to the contemporary, from the sublime to the profane. Where else in Syracuse could you take in 4-D art by Sir Quala O’Smith (owner of one of the world’s largest collection of matchboxes) and then watch him dance himself silly, as the sun glinted off his signature Irish garb? No doubt that Sir Quala was right at home, alongside a bevy of African, Brazilian, and Morris dancers.
Even Sarah Palin and Godzilla got in on the act, judging from their prom portrait on display in one of the tents. Did I get close enough to snap a selfie? Only “Saint Sarah” knows, and, for once, she’s tight-lipped on the subject.
Designed to engage people of all ages, the Westcott Street Cultural Fair represents all that’s good about the City of Syracuse. Its earthy blend of sights, sounds, tastes, and smells is a feast for the senses—and a potent reminder of how the arts unite and celebrate our differences.