June 19, 2022 I attended one of Williamsburg’s many “mighty carnivals!”
When the weather gets nice, handwritten posters like these pop up all over Williamsburg.
Friday / at 293 Division
Games! Cotton Candy!
I’ve seen so many of these ads, and they so often use the adjective mechtig to describe the carnival. Mechtig literally means mighty, but it’s a term used especially by boys to describe something absolutely tremendous. A wild rave is mechtig, a party where everything is electric is mechtig.
I was walking through Williamsburg with someone when we passed one of those mechtige carnivals. It was off the main avenue, on one of the side-streets. We could tell something was happening because there were huge crowds of kids gathered in clusters in front of an apartment complex.
So we hopped on over and got in line for the carnival.
Here’s the report:
The whole carnival consisted of a single folding table manned by about three or five pre-bar-mitzvah boys. They had an air pop popcorn machine and tiny bags of popcorn, and cups with “SLUSH.” I do not believe there were games or cotton candy. The whole carnival was a lemonade stand, essentially, albeit a very lucrative one. The clientele was incredibly enthusiastic, all pushing to the front! Truly, it felt mechtig!
The kids were all crowding around — little children so young they could barely walk, boys and girls all together. The boys in charge were running quite a hustle, calling out to everyone to ask what they wanted and to announce the prices. The place had a vibe of young entrepreneurs in training, and you could sense how this “carnival” was a bit of a precursor to how these Hasidic boys will go on to play seriously in the capitalistic realm. Well, we weren’t going to be left behind, and the grown-ass acquaintance I was with got in line. He was the only adult at the carnival. He ordered a popcorn. It was fifty cents. He asked if it had salt, and the boys said “no.”
“The popcorn doesn’t have salt?”
You can imagine what it tasted like. Mechtig perhaps? We didn’t try the slush, so I can’t report on that, but maybe it had sugar, maybe not.
Often these street scenes in Williamsburg remind me of reading about life in NYC at the turn of the twentieth century, where kids lived their lives on stoops and sidewalks, and they passed much of the time by figuring out a hustle one way or another. I remember the scenes in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, where the kids spent hours and hours collecting scraps in order to get a few cents for it. It was a part of a childhood that is now lost. It was certainly a childhood where the education into economics was more in the streets than in the schools. And it’s one that you can still find in Williamsburg, albeit who knows for how long. I venture to guess it won’t be long before the kids wisen up as the affluence grows, and the community starts demanding salt in its carnival popcorn.