My first Fringe

Our writer reflects on the "state of Fringe"
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Pete Wayner

My first impression of the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival was a man with a white painted face, candy apple red nose, fingerless gloves, and blue pantaloons. He steered a 15-foot tall steampunk tricycle blasting fire into the night sky. He and a cadre of other clowns made up Circus Orange, the act that kicked off Fringe this year. As they wound their way through a crowd of hundreds in Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park Friday night, they actually, and perhaps unintentionally, epitomized what Fringe means.

 

I gaped, my nostrils filled with the smell of butane, and my face bristled in the heat of pyrotechnic fire and flares. I felt uncomfortablewho were these clowns? Why were they howling, laughing, gesticulating wildly on their crazy trike? But at the same time, the spectacle drew me in. I couldn’t look away. Excitement and wonder compelled me to follow in the clowns’ wake, along with scores of others, encompassed in curiosity.

 

 

And that is Fringe.

 

As the volcanic tricycle wheeled its way through the crowd, the children perching on parents’ shoulders, the suburbanites, and city-dwellers side-by-side became part of the actcheering, hooting along with the ringleader on his seat. And if someone came in then who had not been baptized into Fringe the way we were during that act, he would have been an outsiderwe might not have recognized him.

 

Because now, we were part of the festival. These clowns had ushered us in. Smoke from their fire and the booming bass from their speakers invaded the otherwise dark passages of downtown. I, along with all of Rochester, now found myself in the state of Fringe.

Pete Wayner will be blogging throughout the festival.