Tour de Fat: Palmer Square, Chicago

I found out last week that my friend Gretchen was going to be in town with her boyfriend, Adi. It was a kind of short notice trip, and we made plans to meet up shortly after they arrived in Chicago, Saturday morning.

We arranged to meet up at the Bongo Room in Wicker Park. As luck would have it, we were outside waiting for a little while… and the moment they called our names, Gretchen and Adi were walking up. Perfect timing.

I was going to take photos of everyone, but Gretchen was a bit camera shy… so I opted to take photos of the food instead. As you can see, this is why there’s always a wait outside.

My tower of french toast. Go ahead… lick the screen. I won’t think any less of you.

After we chatted a while and got caught up, we wandered around Milwaukee Avenue a little bit. Liz and Gretchen popped into a few vintage stores, and Adi and I kind of just hung out (along for the ride).

Around 2PM, we were going to part ways when I mention that the Tour de Fat is happening. I was debating stopping by to check it out, and Gretchen and Adi decided that sounded like fun.

Liz needed to get home to work on some projects, but gave us a ride and dropped us off right at Palmer Square.

I have to say – I know about Tour de Fat through the photos I’ve seen on Rachelle’s blog. All these years – I’ve never actually attended myself. And a few minutes after walking around, I’m kicking myself for not having stopped by all these years.

Walking in from the street, the first thing we spot was a giant Connect Four board.

Nearby, an odd sculpture that had (head) room for three people. There were several kids, perched on the seats.

Gretchen, Adi and I were standing around, watching these kids. I really wanted to know what was going on, underneath those things.

Love this, because it looks like the tubes are shooting out from the person’s eyes. Inside each device was a series of openings. One was for where you could talk, the others came from the other stations.

A percussion station, where large metallic objects could be banged upon, with mallets.

And then… out of nowhere… Mucca Pazza.

Giant kaleidescope.

A woman with some rocking face paint, who was happy to let me take her photograph.

A few bike racks were set up, in case anyone decided to ride their bike to the event.

Right next to the port-a-potties: Partaoke.

Some phat fat tires.

An awesome looking skateboard (which I later saw seemed to be motorized). I meant to ask to take the thing for a spin, but never got the opportunity. Drat!

When using the pedals as a kind of hand crank, the tubes up top would spin and emit a slight, musical tone.

One of the main attractions – an area where you could try out some experimental looking bikes. Helmets required, of course!

This looked particularly tricky. About 5 seconds from now, the guy took a tumble.

More fat tires.

Near where we entered, we spotted a guy sitting down at a sewing machine. We weren’t sure what he was doing at first, but noticed he had both his bicycle and a solar panel hoooked up to the sewing machine. The artist’s name is P.Nosa.

Nearby, there was a display set up of a ton of drawings – all done via sewing.

According to a sign he had up: the presser-foot had been removed, and the feed dogs lowered. The 50 watt solar panel can produce 4.5 amps per day. The sewing machine uses 1 amp per hour. Ten minutes of biking produces one hour of sewing time.

There was a small sign that said people could ask for a custom patch, creating a scenario of 5 words or less. I wasn’t sure whether these patches were free as part of the festival, or whether he charged for his services.

I asked what it would be to do a custom patch, and he told me to pay him what I thought it was worth. So given that, I asked for “Bunny Rabbit Sewing a Dress.”

He went to work:

Originally, I was going to offer $10 or $15, but then Gretchen showed me a “Menu” nearby of custom patches people could request. Given some of the prices listed there, I ended up offering $20 for my bunny rabbit sewing patch.

Funny enough, I didn’t have enough cash on me… but he took cards. He had an attachment for his phone (can’t recall what it was, but it wasn’t Square) and I was able to use my card. Given his solar/bike powered machine, this seemed like a great mix of high and low tech.

Gretchen also asked for a custom patch, and requested fireworks. He ended up throwing in some custom glow-in-the-dark thread (who knew such a thing existed). Pretty cool.

And here’s the bunny, hard at work sewing a dress. Looking back, it makes perfect sense that the dress would be orange… just like a carrot.

For more info on his sewing setup (as well as his music), check out P.Nosa’s website.

Shortly after we got our patches, Gretchen, Adi and I slowly walked down Kedzie towards the Logan Blue Line stop. The two of them are in town for the weekend, and we made some tentative plans to hang out sometime Monday, if they’re not too pooped from hitting up various museums.

Breakfast and Tour de Fat – fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon with friends.

Josh and His Tall Bike, Logan Square
Critical Mass Bikers, Logan Square
Bongo Room, 2009
Birthday Party, House of Blues

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