Think about this environment: a community summer festival brings together a critical mass of peers. Friends you only see a couple of times per year gather specifically on this weekend. Besides your obligatory volunteer shifts, the day is yours to eat, play… and flirt. With these footloose and fancy-free characteristics, it's no wonder that the summer festival is an opportune moment where many have expressed (or attempted to express) their affections for that special person.
This being the "Summer of Love" issue, I asked our reader base to send me their tried-and-true summer festival flirting tactics. In a "Dear Abby" column style, let's take a look at what our friends had to say.
*Note: I’ve, of course, changed most of the names in this article… with names of the characters from my favorite movie: "Mean Girls."
Question: In your youth, what was your favorite technique to flirt with that special person at your local summer festival?
“One of my favorite past times was purchasing a large milk tea with tapioca and using the extra large straw as a spit cannon to launch boba balls at my crush. Every now and then, one of them would become attached to their clothes for the rest of the festival. I always enjoyed when that happened. It was my little way of knowing that I gave them something that really 'stuck' with them.”
Coupons for Love
"As teenagers we're all on a limited budget based on the generosity of our parents. After milking my mom and dad for food money (separately of course) I would make sure to get that food/beverage dollar off coupon right by dancing right before intermission and then share a shaved ice with my crush."
Take the Last Shot
“Picture this: there are rows of glass jars, each with a goldfish inside; you just need to score one ball to win a goldfish. You’ve missed all your shots (on purpose), but you have that one last ping-pong ball, so you give it to the cutie standing next to you. They score it! They win a goldfish, and you win their heart.”
Attraction Through Association
"Understanding that community relationships are heavily influenced by family, I would try to get their attention by building close relationships with their parents and siblings to indirectly demonstrate my familial compatibility. My hope was that either my crush would develop attraction through observation, or one of the parents would plant the seed for me with the good 'ol 'have you ever thought about dating…' question."
Young and Shy...
“Unfortunately, during my teenage years I was a bit more on the nerdy side, didn’t really know how to dress, and generally reluctant to talk with new people, so I never took the initiative to talk to people I was attracted to.”
“Easy question. If my crush was part of the same church organization, just sneak a peek at what shift they sign up for and sign up for the same shift. Bam! Guaranteed three hour hang out time with yours truly.”
"An opportunity uniquely associated with Obon was the ability for me to dance with my crush. Neither of you know 100% of the songs, so you go back and forth about the ones that you're good and bad at. I always appreciated the vulnerability expressed from both parties during this experience.”
“Growing up, I was lucky enough to live in an area that had multiple obons during the summer, and my local festival was the last one of the season. So I would use all of the non-local obons to practice all of the dances so by the time mine rolled around, I was a bonafide expert.”
...And on one final note, I received a note from a reader describing how her favorite moments were those spent sharing a meal on the steps watching the sun set and the people go by. It was those times, with no frills, no tactics, and no gimmicks that the real relationships were built and even better, the real memories..
I believe that is the spirit of our festivals. We bring community together, we laugh, we play, we eat, and we, well, flirt. The outcome of all of these experiences? Institutional memory. When we reflect on these experiences, we smirk or shake our heads embarrassingly in reflection. But regardless if we got the date or not (in most cases not), these reflections form the foundation of our identity, and more importantly our desire to see similar memories created for ourselves and our progeny.
Thank you summer festival flirtation, may you live long and prosper.