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How the Fete Got Its Groove Back: 2005 Event Returns to Aquarian Age

Matthew Hersh

Last year's Fete, Princeton's annual country day fair, launched itself into its 51st year with a spaced-out "Rocket Fete" theme. But for 2005, Fete organizers will get a bit psychedelic, as they evoke the aquarian age.

Organized by the Auxiliary of the University Medical Center at Princeton, the "Groovy Fete" represents a return to a more traditional fair while retaining some of the changes put into place with last year's futuristic theme.

The festival, which is slated to take place at Princeton Stadium on June 11, will still have crowd favorites like the "Lane of Shops," the annual car raffle, dance, book sale, and 10K race, but this year, there will also be an additional emphasis on music, providing an atmosphere more in keeping with an outdoor festival.

But "groovy"? The theme, Fete organizers say, is targeted to attract more young people, a demographic that has waned in recent years.

"It was really important to us to bring in a fun theme that would attract young people and teenagers," said Christine Calandra, who, along with Brooke Rossi, is Fete co-chair.

Children and parents have always been prevalent at the festival, Ms. Calandra said, but this year, she and Ms. Rossi, who are 28 and 25 respectively, tried to tap more into the 18 to 35 age group. The two, incidentally, are the youngest people ever to chair the event, now regarded as a Princeton institution.

"We weren't hitting a lot of that age group, so we wanted to do something to get people involved and we wanted to do something that's bright and colorful."

In addition to an expanded number of food vendors, and an expanded lane of shops, there will be a "non-stop" lineup of local and east-coast bands, providing "more of a festival kind of atmosphere."

Within that variety of music, which will include jazz, world, rock, classical, and ska, Ms. Calandra hoped the Fete would bring in more ethnic diversity than has been seen in recent years.

This is not, of course, the first time that the Fete has tried to redefine itself. Last year, the festival crossed the muddy banks of Lake Carnegie to the Princeton Stadium. The move, which made the event more walkable for many local residents while providing an improved parking situation, also precluded the possibility of a rainout. Last year, in fact, a cool rain deterred some individuals, but the festival was never in danger of being cancelled.

Ms. Calandra and Ms. Rossi were named 2005 Fete co-chairs immediately after last year's event, and have since been swept into a whirlwind of organizational efforts, including everything from fund-raising to scheduling acts, vendors, and events. "From day one, we were working on it. We spent the entire summer talking to people and meeting with people," Ms. Calandra said, adding that it was "really important to look at what would attract people our age" while maintaining the traditions that people have come to know over the years.

And finally, the inevitable question: will Princeton's favorite sons of rock, Blues Traveller, be making an appearance? Alas, no, Ms. Calandra said. After several attempts to book the band, organizers were not able to make a connection.

As always, the Fete needs volunteers. Those interested in devoting some time to the Fete's planning stage can call (609) 497-4069 or visit www.princetonhcs.org/auxiliary.


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