A Different ComFest FAQ
Why I quit the ComFest
|This page used to have a ComFest FAQ that answered
some question from my perspective as a long-time member. If you googled
here looking for ComFest info, the official website - www.comfest.com
- has the answers to most questions. I'm not a member now, please use the
contact page in that website to get info about the electric system at ComFest.
I thought I posted a fairly detailed list of reasons I had to quit ComFest last year on the Yahoo group, but not everyone in ComFest reads that (or takes the time to understand what is written). So in the hopes that this will help to make things more clear, here is the long version.
I have had some time since I posted my resignation back in Oct. '02 to get some perspective. The level of disappointment I feel about ComFest has changed since then, but the issues remain. Growth problems are "hot pan" issue, organizations don't notice them until the fire is on high. I tried to bring this into serious discussion through a number of posts in '02, but it was clear that for structural reasons that nothing was going to be done.
Sometimes ComFest members feel so strongly about an issue that they have to quit in protest. I know I didn't take golf cart safety very seriously until Sam quit. After he forced me to give it more thought, I had to agree with him. A Golf cart zooming through close-packed crowds with a drunk driver is a tragedy waiting to happen. Sure we want to have some fun while we are working, but getting drunk and running someone down is just about the farthest from fun you can have. This should have been at the top of our list of rules years ago.
Another thing that makes ComFest "not fun" is dealing with overcrowding.
The Growth of the ComFest
This is the main issue that caused me to quit the ComFest.
Anyone who takes a hard look at the ComFest guests knows that much of their time will be spent searching for parking, waiting in lines, and squeezing through packed streets. If there ever was an example of "victims of our own success", this is it. Ten to fifteen percent growth per year, interrupted only by rain-outs.
Some have suggested that this problem will somehow magically solve itself. It could, but I don't think there will be anything magic about it. I think we will drive people away, after the ComFest becomes known as "the festival that is too crowded".
That's the best outcome I can see for the future. The worst could be a major tragedy, like people being trampled if there was a fire or a storm that caused the crowd to panic.
There have been people in the local neighborhood that have passed a petition asking that ComFest be moved downtown. The ComFest says that it wants to work with the local residents to help ameliorate the effects of the festival. It has good intentions, but if the festival continues to grow, and has even more problems with parking, trash, etc., the concept that ComFest is trying to be a good neighbor will become a sad joke. A committed group of neighbors could get enough signatures to force the city to act.
Shrinking the ComFest could be made divisive, if it turns into a quest to discourage the "wrong" kind of people. I have made that mistake myself in the past, but on further thought I don't think a focus on keeping any group away would do any good.
The yahoos who bring in a 12 pack and stand in front of the main stage might be easy to blame, but if you think they are the cause of the overcrowding, you are being distracted from the real problem. The people who overcrowd the ComFest are the normal, socially aware, tie-dye wearing people just like us. We are the problem.
Everyone who has an act on one of the stages has a group of admirers who will come. Everyone who has a booth on the street will bring another group. When you have 2000 participants at a festival, they tend to bring along 20,000 of their friends.
There are some PR tricks that could be used to try to cut the crowds, but I don't think they would have much effect. We never had much PR anyway, except for the free papers.
Spreading the ComFest over a wider geographical area in the park might have a temporary effect, but it will not increase the number of parking spaces, it will not help the local community (it will increase the disruption of the local neighbors). It will only continue the illusion that ComFest has the capacity to grow.
The only real way to decrease the size of the crowds at the ComFest is to cut the size of the festival. Cut the number of streetfair vendors by 20%, cut one of the stages, cut the size of the beer booths. It would be painful, but it is the only real method of shrinking the crowds.
Think of it this way - when the ComFest was smaller, were we doing a disservice to the community because we couldn't have so many booths? Did we hurt the music community when we only had four stages?
ComFest don't have a mandate to give every band a stage or every vendor a booth. It only has a mandate to have the best festival it can give.
Goodale park is not getting any bigger. Parking spaces are limited. For a group of people who should be ecologically conscious, how can "carrying capacity" be ignored?
The only change I have heard coming for the next year is to increase the number of beer booths. More beer booths will not improve the festival; it will just increase the number of drunks.
I was told that the number of taps will be increased, not the number of tents, in the hopes of shortening the lines, not increasing the number of drunks. I stand corrected. But I still think that more, faster beer = more drunks.
ComFest can regulate it's own size, or have it regulated by outsiders. When the city starts down the road to gaining control over the festival, there will be consequences that can only hurt the fest.
I'm hoping that ComFest won't do a Wile E Coyote, but I think it's already
off the cliff.
E-mail me here - firstname.lastname@example.org