These are the end times for the banana. Public Library of Science recently peeled back the results of a study detailing the current situation. Namely, black sigatoka, a disease capable of destroying banana yields by up to 50 percent, is threatening to drive the Cavendish banana, the most popular and commercially available kind, to extinction. Scientists speculate five to 10 years remain before we collectively slip on the proverbial peel and behold the bananapocalypse. It was with this in mind that I found it prudent that I attend the seventh annual Banana Festival. After all, this was a living funeral, in a sense.
I arrive at the festival a little past noon in time to catch the banana pie eating competition scheduled for 1 p.m. Competitive eating is like the Ultimate Fighting Championship for your insides and I’m most excited for this event. I hurriedly make my way across the uneven dirt plot serving as a parking lot. As I enter the gates, I first see oversized plush bananas with cartoon visages beaming at festivalgoers. I nearly step on a Chihuahua in a banana costume. There are a variety of tents, some more confounding than others, and an assortment of spectacles: a foster parent booth; free book booth; various clothing, hat and jewelry booths; bands; deejays; a corral of ponies; pageants; bounce houses; various food vendors, all adding fried bananas to their menu for the occasion; dancers; drummers; clowns; a man carving figures out of wood with a chainsaw. I’m overwhelmed by the presence of the banana as a symbol and I’m surprised by the assortment of banana and nonbanana related activities and wares. The festival is well attended, mostly with families, and everyone appears to be having a good time. I make two laps around the grounds, but see no signs of where the pie eating competition might be.
I spot a food truck selling banana lumpia for a dollar. I buy one and eat it as I continue searching for the contest. The lumpia offers a delicate pastry shell, similar to an egg roll, exploding with sweet banana mash on the inside. It reminds me of Chris Farley’s “fat man in a little coat” skit if it were edible.
It is 4 p.m. I admit my failure in finding the banana pie eating competition. I wonder if I missed it entirely or if there were not enough pies or ingredients for pies because there are not enough bananas in the world to make them any longer. I snap out of my day-mare when a 7Up and banana ice cream float is handed to me. Considering the state fair and concessions costs at the movies, the Banana Festival’s prices are considerate and conducive to a family event.
The festival organizers have proven, seven years and counting, that the banana will draw people. The festival serves as a fundraiser for the Sojourner Truth Multicultural Arts Museum, named after the former slave, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. I didn’t know the proceeds benefit the museum before attending, and it makes me all the more glad that I and that many others did as well. Sacramento needs art like the world needs bananas.
As I leave I wonder, what will the new festival be and what new mascot will come to represent it when the banana is no more?