There's always something to do in downtown West Chester. Bike races, restaurant festivals, chili cookoffs, parades. There are Swinging Thursdays, First Fridays, and something new this fall:
They're a spin-off from the peace vigils that have been a Saturday morning staple at the Chester County Courthouse on High and Market Streets for five years. The new twist is the Victory Vigilers, who felt the weekly message from the Peace Vigilers was a tad one-sided.
So now it's khaki vs. denim, button-down shirts vs. biker vests. The gentle, banjo- and guitar-led protest songs vs. the roar of Harley engines.
And no, we can't all get along. The two sides pound each other in e-mails and blogs that are rife with disdain, name-calling and stereotypes. On Saturday, they decided they could no longer share the same space.
The Peace Vigilers decamped to the opposite corner, leaving the high ground to the Victory Vigilers. They yelled to one another; they waved signs at one another, they even sang to one another.
Leading to this thought: Why isn't the borough's Recreation Department tapping into the marketing potential here? Break out some bleachers; get a few food and souvenir vendors on the street. Give out awards each week at noon to the most deserving in each camp. Here are some possible categories, with last weekend's winners:
Best Signs: After five years of protest, it's hard for the Peace Vigilers to be original. So "Think Peace" and "War is Terrorism" pale next to "This Time We Choose Not to Lose" or "If You Got Freedom, Kiss a Vet." (Note to Rec Dept.: Set up a vet kissing booth?)
Best Songs: "We Shall Overcome" is overdone and not so haunting when coming from a bunch of middle-aged, middle-class white people, but it was way better than "Kumbaya, Osama," which didn't seem remotely related to anything resembling music. (Note to Peace Vigilers: More enthusiasm, please. As Arlo Guthrie used to say: "You have to sing loud if you want to end the war and stuff.")
Best Flag Display: What was there, one U.S. flag among the Peace Vigilers? Way more and way bigger ones on the Victory side. (Size apparently matters, going by the fixation on "phallic symbols" in one Peace Vigiler's e-mail to supporters.)
Most Honks: Were those horns blaring for the "Honk for Peace" sign or the "Honk for Victory" sign? Or were they just trying to wake up the distracted drivers in front of them? No winner here. Wally's Wiener World, the finest mobile hot-dog emporium known to man, probably gets more honks during its lunchtime gigs during the week.
Loudest Retort: In response to a comment from a passing car about "Bush's war" came this thundering rebuke from a Victory Vigiler, which turned heads and silenced conversations on all four corners: "This is an American war!"
Most Politically Incorrect Statement: When a Peace Vigiler ventured too close to a Victory Vigiler's Harley: "You don't touch another man's [phallic symbol minus the symbolism] and you don't touch another man's motorcycle." (Note to Rec Dept.: When Iraq war won, encourage vigils on cultural issues.)
Most Annoying Moment: A tie between the Victory Vigiler who was belting out something about "this generation's Pearl Harbor" - over and over and over - and the gray-haired, ponytailed Peace Vigiler across the street who matched him word for word, shouting: "Blah, blah, blah, blah." That's a direct quote, not commentary. "Blah, blah, blah, blah."
Greatest Missed Opportunity: Three young Marines up from Camp Lejeune, N.C., were outside the Market Street Grill, smoking cigarettes and waiting for a seat inside. They were in town to catch that night's football game between West Chester University and East Stroudsburg. The Marines talked a bit about having spent most of the last year in Iraq's Anbar province, and the progress they had witnessed. In response to a Peace Vigiler's sign, one of them, who declined to give his name, said: "This war isn't useless. We're doing good things over there."
Was it the most objective statement on the war that morning? No. Was it the most informed? Probably.
For more on the rallies, visit http://go.philly.com/westchesterEndText