So, after Wednesday, there was still more on my plate for the week. The Vendy Awards are something I discovered earlier this summer, and it looked like an exciting event. But, pricy. After exploring the website, I realized there was a “higher purpose” to this event. The Street Vendor Project is basically a group that is trying to give street vendor projects a bigger voice. New York City has so many vendors; merchandise, groceries, or cooked food; and yet they have the fewest rights of business owners. I feel like the fact that my father and his (therefore my) family are immigrants had this cause calling out to me even more. Most of the vendors out there are immigrants; more than likely, if my father’s family had come to the New York City area, they might be in those same shoes. Anyway, definitely read more about the SVP purpose on their site, as I could ramble for a while.
But, with my affection towards some of the nicer vendors I’ve met out there, along with that general love of good food, the prospect of getting to volunteer, and at least be around for part of the event sounded like fun. So, I emailed the volunteer address, and on Thursday, went to an ‘orientation’ that basically gave us more information on the Street Vendor Project. As volunteers, we are definitely a voice for the Project.
The day of was a long one – I had the earlier shift, so I had to be in Queens by 9:30am. That was a solid hour commute from Clinton Hill, which made for a delightful 6am wakeup call on a Saturday morning. (That was fun, especially since I went to a “going away happy hour” for a sweetheart ice cream lady, Miss Softee, the night before.) I was a little bummed that I found out I was a “subway guide” for the event, which, at the Queens Museum of Art, meant I was about a five minute walk away from the event for the first two hours. It’s just a bit more boring being away from the crowd, but it was my job, and I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the easiest venue to get to. The subway stop is also Citi Field’s stop, and the Museum is in a park, so it’s literally a walk in the park!
Once my shift was done, I had about 2 hours to attempt to taste eleven different carts. Some of the guys were smarter and did sample sizes, while others were giving out full size trays. Seriously, you need the full 2pm to 7pm time slot to eat everything! It was fun, and I nibbled a bit around at most places, finally getting some really delicious falafel, along with good Indian food, bbq (yay!), and a few others. The awards were doled out and I headed out. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of the awards, but hey, that’s not necessarily the point. It was a GREAT day and I will definitely come back next year as a volunteer. I’m bummed I didn’t have batteries for my camera that day, as there was a lot of great food, trucks and general environment to document.
Sorry if I sped through this day; there’s tons of Vendys coverage out there for anyone that’s ACTUALLY interested in who won, lost, was nominated. But for me, the purpose was really a great one. There’s an incredible black market in New York for street vendor permits, and it’s simply insane. The more you learn about it, the more frustrating and simply stupid the system can seem. Especially for people struggling to just get by; who are working incredibly hard, long hours for very, very little money.