Festa Italiana. OK, I'll confess - the Italian Festival is my least favorite Peekskill summer event. I got the carny midway experience out of my system decades ago - the trailer-transported rides and impossible-to-win games with their veneer of flashing lights and gaudy colors. Three nights of very loud music - inescapable for downtowners like me - gets old quickly.
This year, however, I had tons of fun. This was partially due to my being away for most of the event. On Friday, as the vendors and rides were setting up, I left for a magic convention in Rhode Island. I got back at 3pm on Sunday with a houseguest in tow - magician Mandy Davis from London - England's "Diva of Deception." She had never been to New York, and Peekskill was her first stop. I wanted to show her a good time, which turned out to be no problem. It's pretty easy to impress a guest when you have both a flea market and a glitzy festival going on steps from your door.
First we hit the Attic Treasures Flea Market. Mandy collects bears. She immediately found and bought (for $5) an adorable little teddy bear in its own little glass case. (Have fun getting that home, Mandy...) Probably lucky for her, most of the vendors were already packing up. We headed over to Brown Street and the Italian Festival.
First we just scoped it out, strolling through the midway. We played one game - a silly ball-rolling-into-uphill-holes kind of thing. Since we were the only two playing, one of us was guaranteed to win. The prize was a stuffed-toy lime green star which probably wholesaled for 25 cents. (Between us it cost $6 to play.)
At that point we were hot and hungry. While a couple of Peekskill eateries had booths at the festival, unlike other downtown festivals, most local restaurants were not represented at the Italian Festival. First we went to the BeanRunner, but there was a show about to start there, and we just wanted to relax and talk. We walked over to Twelve Grapes, which had plenty of tables available. Mandy was impressed by the great food and extremely warm, welcoming atmosphere.
After a hang on my terrace, from which we could clearly hear the festival performance of the Wiz Kids, we headed down to the bandshell to hear Daisy Jopling's set. As usual, Daisy had a big crowd, including lots of Peekskill pals I of course needed to say hello to. Mandy couldn't believe I could just walk out my door and be in the midst of so many friends. Afterwards, we went up to say hello to Daisy, who was doing a brisk business selling copies of her brand new CD. We started talking to friends Raeford and John who shouted, "come on, follow us!" Suddenly we were running across Division Street, into a building and up three flights of a dark staircase. We emerged at a window that overlooked all of Brown Street, with a magical view of the entire Festa Italiana, all lit up.
We then wandered down Brown Street again as the vendors began packing up after three long days of festivities. There were end-of-the-night deals to be had - we got two enormous meatball heros for $1 each. As Mandy and I sat and ate we chatted with a Peekskill Police officer who was absolutely hilarious. I wish I'd gotten his name. He could be a stand up comic. Maybe he is on the side. I told him how impressed I'd been at the rapid response of the PPD on two occasions when I'd witnessed fistfights from my loft window. He advised me not to call so fast - to give the combatants more time to wear themselves out so they're easier to subdue. He was joking! (I'm pretty sure...)
Mandy had more Peekskill adventures later in the week (stay tuned) and she had a fabulous time here. Who knows? Maybe Peekskill will become a tourist destination for Londoners!