Not so Great Gatsby’s Visit to Wooly Town

wooly-faireDear Nick,

It was one of the days this summer that was neither raining nor hotter than Hades in August. I was taking the morning news in my usual way: reading The New York Times, watching Bloomberg and listening to NPR simultaneously.  If you haven’t tried this technique, I highly recommend it. It’s like being put in one of those booths where the money blows around and you try to hold on to whatever you can, and like those booths I rarely hold on to any of the stories that envelop me, but I feel satisfied in my attempt.

Distracted by the number of papaya stones in my fruit salad (it’s unfair to eat fruit salad with mango, pineapple and papaya and call the seeds “pits.” Nothing can be the pits when devouring such a delight.) a pundit was shouting about Asian currency when the Motif phone chimed out, waking me out of my fruit-induced daydream. The request on the other end of the line asked that I check out the Wooly Fair and let them know what I found. I pondered the penultimate pineapple, picked up my pen and hit the street.


The only knowledge I had of wooly was the malapropism sung by Nuke Laloosh in Bull Durham.  And armed with the information that women sometimes get wooly wearing that same shabby dress, I entered 351 Kinsley Street prepared to try a little tenderness. The maze of old mill buildings behind Harris Ave is difficult to navigate, but the juxtaposition of a lost era and the dawn of a new age.  Trainless tracks pull up to loading docks that have been vacant since choo-choos made house calls. But inside something exciting and modern was happening.

The Wooly Town Fair happens August 16 through 18 at the Steel Yard in Providence in the same industrial maze as the prep area, but the Steel Yard is a bit more ready for prime time. There will be music and art and installation pieces, and the loose theme is a kind of temporary town, a utopian arts community that seeks to combine the artistic spirit and human innovation. The music and lights will all be powered by bicycle-powered generators, which is why the slogan this year is “off the grid and on the lamb.”  What’s exciting about this versus your run-of-the-mill art and music festival is that Wooly invites, nay, encourages, attendee participation and is a hands-on, feet-shuffling, toe-tapping, finger-snapping full body and mind experience.

I saw the Woolies working with wood and whitewash, building what will become for one weekend a town of creativity and experimentation. In a world where even our “reality” television is scripted word for word, it’s refreshing to see a group dedicated to trying something new, something fun, all inclusive and inspiring.  I think I’ll head down to the Steel Yard mid-August, old sport, to have some wool pulled over my eyes.

Yours Truly,



(Wooly Fair is 8/16-18 for more information and tickets: