On a bright Saturday morning in Cathedral Square Park, over 100 different vendors set up in white canopies to sell their seasonal, fresh and unique items at the East Town Market.
Bakers, farmers and craftsmen line up around the square to showcase their goods. Families and young couples from the Downtown area, stroll through the tents admiring what lies before them. Some purchase small bushels of organic vegetables and others hone in on the poster artwork.
The scene is pretty typical for any town, mid-morning on a weekend in the summer and autumn months. But, last Saturday (Oct. 9, 2010), it was the Bloody Mary contest that made the event truly special.
In the middle of the park, local restaurants and bars equipped with two liters of Rehorst vodka compete for the title of Best Bloody Mary. The participants utilize whatever means necessary to construct the perfect Bloody Mary. Market patrons sample four-ounce cups and submit votes to the East Town Association, which organized the event.
Some tables stand pristine with matching linens and towers of peppers as decorations. Others solely focus on the drink itself, leaving out the frill of presentation as the bartender adds exact measurements of Worcestershire and A1 steak sauce into a drink shaker.
After a spin or two around the circle of competitors, it seems the crowd prefers the establishments with the most extravagant garnishes. The vendors that brought along sticks of cheese and beef as well as the classic stick of celery have the highest number of repeat samplers.
Within an hour, most of the tablecloths are stained with tomato juice and the crowd has doubled, now hosting several groups of students who picked up on the scent of unlimited sampling. Strangers convene at high top tables to debate which vendor should win.
Vodka, it seems, has the power to unite a neighborhood for a few hours as the diverse group remains until the end of the event to hear the announcement of the winner. For better or worse, Milwaukeeans are proud of their ability to discern the quality of a Bloody Mary before Noon on a Saturday.
Only a few Saturdays remain for this year's East Town Market which ends October 30.
Angela returned to Milwaukee after living on both coasts and overseas. Filled with uncertainty about the move, she quickly discovered the hidden gem that is Milwaukee. The caliber of arts, music and culture as well as the ease of accessibility to it all, make Milwaukee one of a kind.After a year of acclimating to life in Milwaukee, she is now surprised she ever doubted the return home in the first place. Exploring the different facets of Milwaukee has been an adventure she never expected and is what you'll mostly read about in this blog.