Why I Love Fluff Fest (or: Making the Case for Somerville)

Almost 76,000 people live in Somerville’s four square miles, making it one of the densest cities in the country. Yet, ask a coworker or friend who calls the melting pot home — heck, ask yours truly — and we’ll tell you that one of the reasons we love it there is for the sense of community (except on Highland Avenue during morning rush hour, but that’s another story). I grew up in New Hampshire and previously lived in Brookline’s sleepy Washington Square, so there’s certainly something comforting in Somerville’s split personality — it’s a big city that has a small town feel.

Case in point: This Saturday’s Fluff Festival, put on by Union Square Main Streets. Yes, it’s time once again to honor Archibald Query, who invented Marshmallow Fluff in Union Square in 1917. (Lynn also has some sticky pride; Query may have came up with the recipe for the sweet sauce but he soon sold it to H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower, who began producing it commercially in Lynn, or so the story goes.) The four-hour fete includes demos, games, live music, and a fashion show. You could argue that the sixth annual Fluff Fest has finally hit the big time, considering that Susan “Cindy Brady” Olsen (who’s created some Fluff-inspired digital art to be displayed at Bloc 11) will make an appearance and that NASA astronaut Rick Linnehan will help judge the cooking contest — but at the heart, the block party is an excuse to eat cavity-inducing sweets and mingle with neighbors. Mostly, the yearly event, in all its irreverent glory, makes me happy to be a Somervillian (though, that could be the sugar rush talking).

And, I’m not alone. Last month, officials released the results of a citywide well-being survey: The almost 7,000 residents polled rated their happiness as 7.5 out of 10. Somerville is thought to be the first U.S. municipality to give its residents such a survey, a fact that spurred national news coverage. Questions ranged from the very general — “How happy to do you feel right now?” — to more specific queries on public schools and local police. It will be interesting to see how Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and government officials apply the results to policy and other decisions; one possible application that has been discussed is a well-being index that can be tracked over time.

Oh, Slummerville: You’ve come a long way, baby.