On February 2, I hied myself over to Trader’s Village, a huge, permanent flea market/craft fair/festival site located between Interstates 20 and 30 in Grand Prairie. The occasion was the Chinese Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by the Vietnamese as Tet. Now, Tet actually fell on February 7 (a Thursday), but for reasons of accessibility and practicality, the Tet-in-DFW Festival was celebrated on February 2-3, the weekend before. Vietnamese-Americans are nothing if not practical.
Let me start out by explaining a little about Trader’s Village, which bills itself as “a Texas Sized Marketplace.” They’re not exaggerating. This place covers 120 acres, which puts it at well over half the size of Six Flags Over Texas, which is just up the street a ways in Arlington. At last count, there were over 3,500 vendors, selling everything, as they put it, “from paperclips to bulldozers.” They’re not kidding, either. I myself saw people selling pets, concert T-shirts, tires and rims, go-carts, jewelry, every kind of gimcrack, knock-off, and ticky-tacky item you could think of, cards, socks, caps, bras, CDs, DVDs, fruits, electronics, furniture, silk flowers, tools, overpriced foods, you name it. What I didn’t see was a single place that sold books, which is where I would have spent a lot of time, though there may be some booksellers around — didn’t see everything, after all. What I did see was a lady who drove around in a portable snack stand. I’m not joking. It wasn’t a catering truck as such, just a snack stand on wheels. Never seen anything quite like it before.
We parked near the “Hawg Pen,” where you’re supposed to park your motorcycles, so we’d have a convenient way to find our vehicle in the massive parking lot. Here’s the entrance we came in by:
See the yellow banner? That’s the festival we came to see. Now, let me tell you: I thought the festival would just kind of spill out all over Trader’s Village, but at the time I didn’t take into account how big the place was. Here’s a typical “street scene” inside Trader’s Village.
Reminds me a lot of the State Fair, actually, though somewhat more permanent. I was curious about that watch tower up there in the background, but I never did make it over that way. This place was frickin’ huge. It doesn’t have a Midway, as such, but it does have some cool kiddie rides.
I was especially taken with this airplane, which I suppose was just there by way of decoration. Pretty.
I have to admit that I saw very little of Trader’s Village, so I can’t give you a blow-by-blow of the whole place. That would take forever anyway. We were eager to get to the Green Expo, where the Festival was. As it turned out, it was as far from where we parked as it could possibly be without actually being outside Trader’s Village. This, however, did not deter us, and soon it was within our sights.
The Lunar New Year Tet Festival 2008, or “Hui Xuan Mau Ty” in Vietnamese, was very much conducted with the Vietnamese-Americans attending in mind, and was frankly somewhat impenetrable to those of us who respect the culture but don’t know the language. Most everything was labeled in elegant Vietnamese rather than English, from the displays to the booths hosted by particular businesses. There were a lot of insurance and telephony companies represented there. But not everything was unfamiliar; for example, we ran across this Vietnamese cultural icon immediately upon entering the pavilion:
That’s right, Ronald McDonald. He was making little items for the kiddies; I couldn’t see exactly what, as he had quite the crowd there. Here’s a shot of the interior of the pavilion, once we got past the clown:
Most of the booths you can see in the background were food booths, selling everything from chicken-on-a-stick to classic Vietnamese pho soup. If you’ve never had pho (which is properly pronounced something like phu-uh, according to a Vietnamese friend), you owe it to yourself to try it. There are all kinds, including meatless varieties for the vegans among us, and it’s tasty.
This entry is continued in Part II, which will be up soon.