Art Attack: Searching for Strawberries Newport at the Festival of the Arts
5:00 AM EDT on June 24, 2021
As TLO head honcho Patrick described Strawberries Newport, a creation his late uncle Phil Pitt brought to the Arts Festival about 40 years ago, it sounded like a pure work of divine art. I imagined the whipped topping sensually set on the precisely reddened fruit, gently placed upon a softened bed of puff pastry, slowly forking the pastry into my ultimately waiting mouth.
Through a convoluted tale of sweet deals and creamy backstabbing, as I learned how that famed Festival of the Arts dessert came to be, I made it the delightfully sheer focus of my trip to the annual celebration this Wednesday afternoon, with, if I’m being honest, viewing the sheer artistic side of Oklahoma on the gelatinous backburner.
Still, as I made my grand entrance onto Bicentennial Park, it’s hard not to become immersed in the varied works of artistic talent, from performances on the two stages to the paintings, drawings and sculptures that lined the edges of the park. As the sun shined onto my skin, I stopped in the shade to watch the Mexican folkloric dancers for a while, admiring the total beauty of their craft.
As I sat there though, my stomach grumbled angrily; I haven’t had anything but water today—always a bad idea, I know—and decided to look for the fabled Strawberries Newport. Instead, I discovered the meats of Brew Boys BBQ, in particular their Chopped Brisket Sandwich with Potato Salad ($12.00).
As the statuesque attendee handed me my eats, I went to the brick wall that was teeming with humanity to hungrily enjoy, which was very easy to do. Finishing the meal however, as even more people gathered around my space, I started to get an overcrowded Soylent Green vibe and decided to walk the grounds and take in the artistic flair of Oklahoma.
Spotting paintings and pictures of horses, cows and, of course, buffalos, out of the corner of my eye I noticed John Lennon and Bob Dylan poking their heads out of a bin. Known as Dose Creative, his art thoroughly moved me, featuring everyone—at least everyone that I cared about—from Frida Kahlo to Lin Manuel Miranda in the bins and on the walls.
To be honest, I’m kicking myself for not taking advantage of their two for $60 deal, but, at the moment, I wasn’t looking for art, I was looking for these vaunted creamy strawberries.
The orb in the sky was now blazing, with even the shade offering little relief. As I peered around the corner, I came across the cooling refreshment of tropical fruit mixed with the sturdy starches of rice and vegetables. The name of the food truck was the Bayou, and they carved these Hawaiian Pineapple Bowls ($13.00), with people eagerly going down on their tropical juices, something that I did as I went deep in the bushes like a beast in the wild.
Wiping my chin with a newfound vim and vigor, I took another walk around the craftsmanlike art, finding the busiest stall I’ve ever seen: the African basket depot, with many people looking for the best woven creations for their acquired goods. They were also selling a few tribal drums, where a couple of dudes—the exact kind of neighbors you’d expect to be playing them at three in the morning—were testing their durability with their limited skill-set.
Sadly, with one eye on the art and the other on the food trucks, I finally broke down and asked a woman at an information center about the Strawberries Newport, where I was hit with the terrible news I didn’t want to hear: since they decided to go with more of a food truck theme this year, they opted not to carry them.
A couple behind me was apparently going to ask the same thing and seemed genuinely hurt by their absence.
As I made my way out of the park to begin the road home, as I passed by the Orb Express—apparently Interurban’s own metal machine of fair food—I noticed they had their own take on a cake of sorts, Tequila Bread Pudding ($8.00). Determined to have at least one sweet, I ordered a square, the thick alcoholic syrup drizzled on top. As I sat on the steps near the Oklahoma City Jail, I quietly signed, the confection helping to ease my defeat.
“Maybe next year they might have the Strawberries Newport…maybe next year…” I told myself as a solitary tear of failure fell on my spoon, creating my own piece of trepidatious art. If only someone had been around to paint my picture of culinary defeat.
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