TOLEDO: Historic Old West End Festival

15 Jul

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In 1909 the city of Toledo threw a grand party; a true Mardi Gras festival complete with King Wamba and Queen Sancha.  These days they call it the Historic Old West End Festival and this year was the 103rd anniversary of the King Wamba Carnival Parade. Taking place the first weekend in June, the parade kicks off the festival and celebrates the beginning of Summer. We were up and out of the house early as the parade began at 10am; having experience on our side we knew exactly where to stand on the parade route for the best view. The weather was perfect, sunshine and blue sky with a gentle breeze. As start time got closer, space on  sidewalks became scarce. We stretched our necks looking for some sign of activity; our ears let us know the procession had begun. It was quite a display; stilt walkers, jugglers, pooch parade, vintage cars, Art Cars and our city’s own Detroit Party Marching Band. There were members of Cirque du Soleil and the Glass City Rollers, all smiling and waving to onlookers. Young people, old people, both participating and observing. A cavalcade of bands towed on flatbeds, dancers, bicycles, even a beautiful vintage Chris Craft wood boat. What a spectacle it was! There’s nothing like the pageantry of a parade. King Wamba and Queen Sancha passed by receiving cheers from the crowd on the way to their coronation.

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When the last of the parade had passed us by we made our way over to the rest of the festival; throughout the entire historic neighborhood you will find yard sales. The district itself is made up of 25 city blocks squared, that’s a lot of yards! The architecture here is eclectic and wonderful; Victorian, Edwardian. Queen Ann and Romanesque are side by side with Arts and Crafts, Neoclassical and Colonial Revival. It is truly an amazing collection of homes that are lovingly maintained. House Tours are also available; there is just so much to see we have never taken the time to actually do the tour.

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Simply walking up and down streets like Collingwood and Scottwood showcase some of the neighborhoods finest homes. Yard sales have a bit of everything, antique to modern, artwork to baby items; you never know what you may find. The Old West End looks different from our historic neighborhoods, the homes are definitely unique to the area. Folks seem to all know each other and who’s doing what to their house; these types of quarters are usually tight-knit. We walked and walked, and Kris took photo after photo trying to capture the beauty. All that walking and we didn’t buy a thing…..Next up, the Art Fair.

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The juried Art Fair is held on the grounds surrounding the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavillion, which is quite lovely. Artists come from surrounding states to display and sell their wares. The art work is always top quality; pottery, jewelry and glass. One booth made “Bots”, these wacky little robot creatures created from spoons, tea strainers and even an old metal Band-Aid box, that was our favorite booth. The Festival is large and also includes children’s activities, food and even beer to go with live music; a very nice setup.

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We were ready to sit and have some lunch; pulling out of the residential area we spotted a fabulous structure on Collingwood, Our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral. With a name like that you know it’s going to be pretty awesome! Awesome, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of it. The church is built in the Spanish Platteresque style, I’ve never heard of it before but I can tell you it is stunning. The exterior is granite and exquisitely carved limestone; inside the main altar is carved of marble imported from Spain. We just took a quick peek as some worshipers were seated in the pews. Just from that brief look I couldn’t help but be awed by the bays that line the nave, the stained glass windows, most notably the 28 ft in diameter Rose window, the pulpit carved from white oak. This definitely calls for a return visit.

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At last we reached our lunch destination; Maumee Bay Brew Pub located on Broadway. The building is cool; it opened in 1859 as the Oliver House Hotel. It is said that several presidents have stayed here: Abe Lincoln, Grant and Garfield. The interesting thing is at one time it was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Spanish-American war and has been named one of Ohio’s top 10 Most Haunted Buildings. We didn’t see any ghosts on our visit. The restaurant is located on the second floor in the former main ballroom; exposed brick walls, wood plank flooring and tons of memorabilia on the walls. Antique bottles, beer tappers and vintage beer cans are all on display. As we were led to a table I almost stopped in my tracks as a spotted a table of three sharing a 12 inch giant pretzel……for real! Served in what appeared to be a pizza tin it is served with cups of spicy brown mustard, cream cheese and cheddar beer sauce for dipping, if only we had brought a few friends. The menu is typical brew pub fare, 1/2 lb burgers, appetizers and brick-oven pizza. From the seating area you have a great view of MBBC 500 gallon tanks of their own crafted beer. It was pizza and beer for us; I had a porter, Kris a King Prunus, and the signature Oliver House Pizza. All was delicious; toppings of artichoke hearts, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms and carmelized onions created a tasty combination with their 5-cheese blend. It felt good to sit in the air conditioning and quench our thirst and our hunger.  Toledo  has a lot to offer, check it out sometime.

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