As winter holiday shoppers in the metro area swarm busy malls for their gifts, some will stray from the typical path to get those great, unique fi nds. One place that will cater to the discerning shopper is the Freret Market's special holiday market called Freretstivus on Saturday, Dec. 8. The Freret Market is a free open-air market that goes on nearly year round; they do not open the market during the hottest months of the year. But they do hold the market during the coldest months, and expand it to include holiday shoppers looking for interesting and distinctive fi nds for family and friends and to have a great time doing it.
The Freret Market began in 2007 in an effort to revitalize the Freret corridor, which has grown exceptionally well since. Market-goers came out of curiosity at fi rst and now return regularly, fi lling the market with interested shoppers. Freretstivus attracts even more than a usual market day, as market coordinator Greg Ensslen explains, "We often get a little air time on WWL TV the day before and the number of visitors swells from a typical 1,700 to 2,500 or more. This Saturday (Oct. 6) we had 2,100 visitors." The market takes place on the fi rst Saturday of each month at a lot on the corner of Freret Street and Napoleon Avenue from noon to 5 p.m. There's usually about 90 vendors in the lot that sell many appealing, often handmade crafts, live music by local bands, and so much more.
This market will also be a festival welcoming the winter based on the fascinating holiday of Festivus. You may recognize the holiday from the television show Seinfeld. The holiday was introduced to mainstream culture in the episode "The Strike;" the character Frank Costanza, played by actor Jerry Stiller, proclaimed "Festivus for the rest of us!" after he decided there must be another way to acknowledge the holidays without buying into commercialism and hectic shopping season. Greg Ensslen says, "The name Freretstivus is derived from the Seinfeld episode. Another local market had begun the Festivus event, and dropped it after a couple of years. I'm not sure why. We picked it up and made the name work with our event name and now have Freretstivus on the second weekend of December."
Festivus is a real, albeit hardly practiced, holiday that was celebrated decades earlier by the father of Seinfeld screenwriter Dan O'Keefe. Daniel O'Keefe supposedly read about Festivus in a book about obscure holidays and celebrated it for the fi rst time in 1966. The celebration features somewhat bizarre events like The Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength that were portrayed in Seinfeld. Frank Constanza comically described The Airing of Grievances ritual in the episode as, "…You gather your family around and tell them all the ways they disappointed you over the past year." The Festivus Pole originated in the Seinfeld episode, but it is recognized as a tradition of Festivus today. The Pole is supposed to remain undecorated as it was in the episode because, as Frank Costanza says, "I fi nd tinsel distracting." Dan O'Keefe and his father Daniel in a 2004 interview with the New York Times described celebrating Festivus as even more bizarre than it was in the show. "There was never a pole, but there were airings of grievances into a tape recorder and wrestling matches between Daniel and his two brothers, among other rites." Freretstivus has taken the spirit and rituals of that secular celebration for the entertainment during the market. Greg describes the lineup, "You can come to our market and stare at the unadorned Festivus Pole, stop by the Gift Exchange, swapping your lame gift for another, participate in The Airing of Grievances (our emcee will read some of them from the stage), watch or participate in the Feats of Strength with or against the Big Easy Rollergirls, and get some holiday shopping done with 90 local vendors."
Among the dozens of vendors is an array of gifts that are sure to please everyone on your list. The dozens of vendors will be selling original art of many mediums, jewelry, fresh breads, and items that you just can't fi nd anywhere else. Clothing is a big seller; there are many booths with specialty clothing for children, resell and refurbished pieces, and many t-shirts and aprons with original, Louisiana-centric art that are great for locals and those who want to show their NOLA pride around the world. One staple clothing vendor is Cree McCree who brings her popular Cheap Chic vintage consignment clothing collection for excellent prices. Bath and beauty products make for great small gifts and stocking stuffers. Cake Face Soaping's line of local homemade soaps and scrubs are vegan-friendly, organic, and smell amazing. Skip the chain stores and buy a bike from Recycle Bicycle that sells refurbished bikes for great prices. Some of them are vintage and adorable. Many vendors sell their own handmade jewelry in a variety of styles from elegant earrings to king cake baby rings. One of my favorite vendors is the Edible School Yard NOLA; a group of middle school students from fi ve local public charter schools sell the seasonal produce and herbs that they grow in the garden at their school and crafts they make. You can also buy plants for your own garden. If you get chilly, you can warm up with a cup of French Truck Coffee which will have their bright yellow truck pulled up just outside the market. The beans are fresh and roasted in small batches less than 48 hours before they brew them. You can also purchase beans in a variety of fl avors to take home. And if you're fi nally ready to get your child that pet he's been wanting, you can meet the adoptable pets from Zeus's Place and their partners. And your own friendly leashed pets are welcome to enjoy the market with you. You'll just have to be there to experience the variety of products!
Live music will be provided by market regulars the Russian Mafi a Band Debauche who always get the crowd dancing along with their brand of fun and rollicking Russian folk music that drifts between sweet melodies and sections of raucous abandon. The eclectic band Tin Men will also perform. The word "tin" is strategically placed in their band's name because of the metallic instruments making up the music; Washboard Chaz and his washboard, Matt Perine and his sousaphone and Alex McMurray and his guitar combine to make for one-of-akind tunes. You can learn more about the Freret Market on their site at Freretmarket.org and more about the holiday Festivus on Festivusweb.com. Regardless of creed, and if you want to enjoy the cold air, Freretstivus has it all.