The most facinating people I met in 2010

It’s hard to believe that 2010 is at a close. Aside from a brief visit to Aruba, I spent the entire year exploring the United States.  My travels took me to Maine, Wyoming, Utah and Pennsylvania. I also set out to rediscover New York City, having returned last year from my round the world trip.

I met many interesting Americans in the process, from rodeo queens to artists who sell their work in public parks. These are the top 5 “most fascinating” people I met in 2010.


MJ tribute artist Moses Harper with a fellow Michael Jackson fan

MJ tribute artist Moses Harper (r) at the "This Is It" dance researsal. (Photo: M. Rivera)

One of the coolest events I covered this year was a dance tribute to Michael Jackson held at a Best Buy store in Manhattan. It coincided with the This Is It DVD release and attracted hundreds of Michael Jackson fans and impersonators.

While waiting on line for the dance rehearsal, I met a female Michael Jackson tribute artist named Joye Moses Harper.

The Harlem native is an amazing dancer who perfectly captures MJ’s moves. To Harper, dancing is a way to remember the singer’s legacy:

“It’s in honor of someone who really put his heart into trying to make us smile for 45 years. He was an amazing artist, but he also gave back on a scale that a lot of people never come close to.”

Harper went on to win the Apollo’s Amateur Night competition in October 2010. Check out her moves on this YouTube video (from (SoulBeauty).

>> Read the original article: “Tonight in New York City: Michael Jackson ‘This Is It’ dance tribute in Union Square


As a February storm covered the city in snow, I made my way to the Javits Center for the annual NY Times Travel Show.

nyc travel blogger tweetup in Manhattan

The writer with "The Expeditioner" editor Matt Stabile at a tweetup.

This was the first event I attended as a member of the media and I proudly wore my press badge as I spoke to bloggers, journalists and tourism reps.

I met travel writers who had already developed their own websites, like Stephen Bugno of GoMad Nomad and Matt Stabile of The Expeditioner. It was helpful to hear their tips and it inspired me to think beyond

I got to know Matt well this year after hanging out at several  travel blogger events. He just published a new book, The Expeditioner’s Guide to the World.

Although I missed TBEX (a travel bloggers conference), I met travel writers at tweetups across the city. They are an inspiring and supportive group, and their adventures continue to fascinate me!

>> See what happens at a blogger tweetup: NYC Traveler Tweetup: $2 beers, travel talk and all-around good times


This spring I interviewed dozens of park artists who sell photographs, paintings, sculptures, books and other “expressive matter” in New York City’s public parks. In March they began fighting a Parks Department proposal that would limit the number of artist vendors in four popular Manhattan parks.

NYC park artist and photographer Mike Murray

Photographer Mike Murray at his stand in Union Square Park.

I met photographer Mike Murray while covering a community board meeting. A Brooklyn resident, Murray made a living from selling his photographs in Union Square Park.

I arranged to meet Murray at the park at 4 am on a brisk April morning and shadowed him for the first seven hours of his very long work day. When I left the park a little before noon, freezing and hungry, his customers were just starting to arrive.

Murray opposed the new rules and spoke at a public hearing on April 23. “I would like to thank the City of New York for allowing me to display and sell my art in Union Square Park. It has been, probably, the most amazing experience of my life,” he said.

The new Parks Department rules went into effect this summer. Artist lawsuits are currently working their way through the courts.

>> Read the original article: “What really goes on in Union Square Park before the tourists arrive?


In July I attended Cheyenne Frontier Days as a guest of Wyoming Tourism.  As a native New Yorker, I was fascinated by this celebration of the American West.

Rodeo queens flip pancakes at Wyoming's Cheyenne Frontier Days festival

Rodeo queens flip pancakes at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

I met historical reenactors dressed in pioneer costumes, watched a Native American group perform traditional dances, and witnessed the entire crowd at the CFD parade rising to their feet to salute military troops.

However, the most interesting people I met during Cheyenne Frontier Days were at the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast. At this free event, 300 volunteers cook and serve over 12,000 pancakes to visitors in a two hour period. The process is repeated three times a week.

Rodeo queens flipped the pancakes while wearing their crowns and sashes. I was awed by the rodeo queens and impressed to learn that they must demonstrate horsemanship skills, in addition to being beautiful. They put the “Miss America” contestants to shame!

>> Read the original article: “2010 Cheyenne Frontier Days: Kiwanis and Boy Scouts feed thousands at pancake breakfast


NYC artist and composter Tattfoo Tan

NYC artist Tattfoo Tan is a certified "Master Composter."

I met several artists this year, but the most fascinating was  Tattfoo Tan. The Staten Island resident considers himself a “social sculptor” and believes that art can inspire change.

When I met Tattfoo at the Arario Gallery he was wearing a khaki uniform with homemade merit badges.

He’s been certified a “Master Composter” and “Citizen Pruner” by city agencies and travels throughout New York to raise awareness of sustainability. Tattfoo just launched a grant to encourage other social sculpture artists.

If you’re lucky, you may spot Tattfoo riding his “mobile classroom” (a cargo bicycle outfitted with potted plants and a live chicken).

>> Read the original article: NYC artist Tattfoo Tan turns compost into art


These people didn’t make the top 5 but merit a mention.

Street artist Swoon at a Williamsburg book signing

Street artist Swoon at a Williamsburg book signing.

I met street artist Swoon at a Williamsburg book signing in May. I had just seen the documentary Exit through the Gift Shop and was excited to meet one of its stars.  Swoon was friendly; she gamely posed for a photo with me and G Train Salon curator Krista Saunders.

Comic Judah Friedlander at NY Comic Con 2010

Judah Friedlander signed books at NY Comic Con.

I met comedian and 30 Rock actor Judah Friedlander at NY Comic Con.  He was wandering around the autograph area, trying to find his booth for a book signing.  We had an awkward conversation about horror movies and then he said he heard his name being called and sprinted off! I made a mental note to improve my celebrity interviewing skills.

Saw 3D star Cary Elwes at a NY Comic Con press interview

Cary Elwes promoted Saw 3D at NY Comic Con.

Also in the “star struck” category: While reporting on NY Comic Con for, I had the opportunity to attend a press roundtable for Saw 3D. I’m not a huge horror fan but was keen to meet my childhood crush, Cary Elwes (of Princess Bride fame). It was interesting watching Elwes field questions from hardcore horror movie bloggers; he smartly credited “the fans” with his decision to return to the franchise.


These are the most fascinating people I met in 2010. Who impressed, charmed or fascinated you this year?


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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.