By Diego Marcano
BU News Service
SOMERVILLE — More than 50 vendors selling sweet and savory fluff-inspired dishes, items and crafts, welcomed around 30,000 people Saturday, at Somerville’s Union Square to celebrate the 13th annual “What the Fluff?” Festival.
The festival celebrates the invention of Marshmallow Fluff 101 years ago by Archibald Query, who in 1917 created the sweet sticky spread that became popular in the famous Fluffernutter, a sandwich combining fluff marshmallow spread and peanut butter.
“This is our thirteen year on the festival. This is a reflection of our civic pride and also the expression of our creativity, diversity and originality as a community,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curatatone. “This is Somerville: we’re diverse, we’re progressive, but we’re also pretty creative and it’s just a wonderful event that attracts people from around the world now.”
Mimi Graney, author of the book Fluff: The Sticky Sweet Savory of An American Author, founded the festival in 2006, to revitalize the area. Since then, the event has grown from its first edition’s 800 spectators to a crowd of 30,000 people gathering around games like Fluff Musical Chairs, Fluff Costume and Fluff Bowling, live music, a parkour course and the now established Flufferettes, a burlesque performance honoring the historical radio show from the 1930s featured in 21 New England radio stations.
This year’s Fluff Festival brought people together at beat of the drums. Jonathan Mande, 27, a drummer from the Democratic Republic of Congo, performed at the event for the first time this year. There, he formed a circle of drums, kids and parents gathering around to learn and play music along with him.
Improvisation and famous songs like Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ were some of the hits of Mande’s repertoire, each accompanied by the rhythmic patterns that kids played on the djembes, chicos and congas.
“The most rewarding part is just seeing the smile on people’s faces. Kids dancing and parents having a good time and participating is the most rewarding,” said Mande, who is also an expressive arts therapy specialist.
This year’s fluff games even had its epically romantic moment, when Allison Schneider got an unexpected marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Adam Strandberg, right after finishing her duel at the Fluff Jousting Arena.
She said yes and the crowd cheered for them.
“We live about two blocks away and we have been coming since we moved here a few years ago and it’s just a great community festival”, said Adam Wylie, as he held Renzo Wylie, his 2-year-old son, over his shoulders. His 5-year-old, Max Wylie, held his left hand.
“We have traditions. We always get a Fluffernutter here. We always get Gracie’s Ice Cream every year. There are also new things that surprise you. This year, my kids loved the drumming circle.”
The famous Fluffernutter, a sandwich made of marshmallow fluff and peanut butter, was available at the festival for $3, or at a special promotion of two for $5. Since the beginning of the festival, Somerville High School Musical Department has been in charge of making and selling Fluffernutter sandwiches to support student programs such as subsidizing field trips, having guest clinicians and getting uniforms for students.
“The sales have been pretty good today. The kids work the crowd. They go out and sell in teams and then come back and refill and resell,” said Andrew Blickenderfer, Somerville High School Orchestra Director
This year, Somerville High School Department gathered the work of faculty and over 130 students to make and sell the sandwiches.
“We put a ton of work into this. We make the sandwiches the day before and it’s great to see the camaraderie in the students working toward a common goal, and see all the citizens in Somerville and Boston come to support our program, getting the word out about what we do at the Somerville High School. It’s really a great experience,” Blickenderfer said.