TAKE A STROLL DOWNTOWN
The Desert Sun – Palm Springs, Calif.
The Desert Sun
A breeze blows through town as people wander out of their houses, their offices and onto the street.
Senior citizens and families mix with bikini- clad girls and the punk rock boys who chase them, while children carrying ice cream cones dodge in and out of the crowds.
It’s Thursday in downtown Palm Springs and once again, as it is every Thursday, Palm Canyon Drive between Amado and Baristo roads is shut down so tourists and locals alike can wander unhindered among the street vendors, free to sample kettle corn and enjoy live music.
Started in 1991, VillageFest boasts more than 200 booths where vendors sell everything from handmade arts and crafts to hot dogs on a stick.
Downtown businesses also stay open late Thursday to take advantage of the crowds and everyone is invited to bring their dogs to enjoy the night air.
On this warm summer evening, as the sun sets behind the mountains, a cooling breeze helps everyone relax and enjoy the festivities.
The breeze ruffles street vendors’ umbrellas and passes Mark Barrios, owner of “Henna by Mark” as he talks to Maria Weaver and her friend Sue Smith, both of Cathedral City, about getting her boyfriend’s name “inked” onto her ankle.
“It’s an all-natural way to test out your tattoo to see what it would look like,” he said.
Abandoning Barrios to his growing line of customers, the breeze blows by some nearby rockers, skaters and emo kids, friendlier and better dressed versions of goths.
They stand on a street corner and hang out a store window to listen as electric cello player Marston Smith sends haunting sounds into the atmosphere.
Smith, sporting a black kilt, stands in front of an electric fan that blows his long blond hair back in a David Bowie-like performance.
It’s in direct contrast to the comedic antics spilling from his lips.
“It’s not that hard,” proclaims the self-styled “Lord of the Cello.” “I’ll do it with two fingers.”
Momentarily distracted by the fire displays at a nearby booth, the breeze whips past Susie Mills who has been bringing her pet pig to VillageFest for the past year and a half.
“It’s a real tourist interest,” said Mills. “Kids bug their parents to come and see the pig every week.”
Meanwhile, tourists, locals and a pig aren’t the only ones enjoying the breeze as night falls on the Coachella Valley.
“Everyone brings their dogs and they all wind up in here cause I have free cookies,” said Robert Brugeman, owner of Cold Nose Warm Heart.
Leaving the dogs behind as it nears the end of the weekly, citywide celebration, the wind finds those who run ahead of it — the Desert City Sport Bike Riders.
Mike Hague and Chris Latrace, both of Palm Springs, join the group every Thursday night.
Unzipping their red leather riding jackets, they take off their helmets and lean back on their bikes to people-watch.
“We’re here any given Thursday,” said Hague. “It’s the greatest thing in the world.”
Glance: If you go
What: Palm Springs VillageFest, a street festival that offers entertainment and hundreds of vendor booths offering food, arts, crafts and other items for purchase.
Where: Palm Canyon Drive between Baristo and Amado roads.
When: Every Thursday, 7 to 10 p.m. from June to September; 6 to 10 p.m. October to May
This is part of an occasional series featuring places and activities that are unique to the Coachella Valley but that even longtime residents may have never experienced, figuring there will always be time next weekend.