While the Rochester Fringe Festival is a relatively new local tradition, its home base is not.
Ever since the festival’s second year in 2013, organizers have erected a spiegeltent at the event’s East End hub, located at the intersection of East Main and Gibbs Street , also known as One Fringe Place during the festival.
The history of what’s officially known as the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival Spiegeltent dates all the way back to the 19th century.
Originally created in the Flemish region of Belgium, these mobile dance halls were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “Spiegel” means “mirror,” and faceted mirrors, stained glass windows, wooden floors, period lighting, and wooden booths and bar are just a few of the features of these tents.
Many were buried by their owners or destroyed by the Nazis in World War II, but a handful from that era survive. San Francisco and Seattle are just two cities that have permanent tents in use today.
After noting that similar festivals around the world leased spiegeltents for their events, Fringe Festival organizers contacted Belgium-based company Het Spiegelpaleis, leasing the Cristal Palace Spiegeltent from owner Rik Klessens.
Every year, Klessens flies here to oversee its installation and events held in the tent.
That list of events includes Cirque du Fringe show, late-night comedy shows, Silent Disco and Kids Disco, and Afternoon Tea.