Neewollah 1: Chili Experience

One of the things my new town is known for is Neewollah, a ten-day festival that “is the oldest and largest annual celebration in Kansas. The city of Independence will grow from a town of 10,000 inhabitants to 75,000″  http://www.neewollah.com/. Today I experienced my first festival activities, and I thought I would share.

The day began looking overcast, so I prepared for chilly weather, but of course was wrong. I still haven’t figured out Kansas weather. The sun popped in an out, and then the clouds moved in. The wind picked up, bringing a slight chill, but the general mugginess of the air made me feel warm. I guess my solution is going to have to be layers.

The first event of the morning was a 5K race that I did not participate in. I am not a runner. It does remind me, however, that someday I want to participate in the 3 Day Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, so I better get back on track in the eating healthy and walking department.

Following the 5K was the Fun Run for all the school kids in town. Sarah was participating. I’d say there were more than 100 kids wandering around in brightly colored t-shirts (a different color for each school). Sarah was lucky and got purple, our favorite color. Before the race they took school pictures. Sarah couldn’t really find any of her friends, so she looked uncomfortable waiting with the purple clad kids. What also struck me, perhaps for the first time, was the fact that Sarah is not white. I know she’s not, her dad is Japanese and Korean, but it was so glaring as she sat in the midst of blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids from Independence, KS. Perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but it just really struck me today.

She’s also still suffering somewhat from ‘new kid” syndrome. We ran into one of the girls that Sarah talks about all the time, and the girl introduced Sarah to her Dad as “she’s the new kid.” I’ve never really been the new kid, so I don’t know how long that stigma lasts, or if it is even a stigma. Sarah seems okay with it, but I know it sometimes hard because she wants play dates and things but I am shy about meeting people. So maybe I’m making it worse.

Anyway, back to the race. Sarah seemed to have a good time. I think she probably walked more of it than she actually ran, but what the heck. I don’t know that she has ever actually run a mile. I’m proud of her for trying.

Next was the event I was waiting for.  All morning the wind brought interesting smells to my nose, the traditional smells of fall leaves combined with a little spiciness that meant chili was cooking in preparation for the contest. Three dollars buys you a dish, a spoon, a napkin, a bottle of water and enough chili to wreak havoc on bathrooms for the rest of the day. The first chili I tasted was the best, but it was also the most surprising. Alligator chili! I never thought I would try something like that, but oh was it good. None of the other chili recipes really stood out for me. I avoided the super spicy, not feeling up to gastronomic challenges like that today. It is always interesting, I think, standing in line with hundreds of other people in a competition over spice. I loved listening to all the jokes that never fail to happen at a chili cook-off, as everyone recognizes that our decadent overindulgence can only lead to one thing at the end of the day. Sometimes you just have to love the craziness we humans invent.

Meanwhile, Sarah was drawn to the numerous bouncing activities. I wish I had the camera with me when she competed with a bungee cord contraption to see how far she could get a beanbag before she was snapped back in a flying plunge. Her face was fabulous with wide-eyed excitement and joy. Later she went on the obstacle course slide, but it wasn’t the same.

The clouds got thicker and the wind got stronger. Our bellies were beginning to slosh with chili goodness. We decided it was time to head home, but first bought tickets for our next step on the Neewollah adventure–the town’s production of Music Man this evening.

It has been a fun start. Now I need a nap.