Dedicated to Gourd Crafters, Artists and Gourd Art Fans
I posted this on another site after a discussion about a festival that is being discontinued.
This would be a good forum for feedback from the various places around the country. Do you agree? Disagree? Why? Could be very useful info for show organizers.
All festivals are cyclical, with up and down trends. It's not just the economy, it's a lot of other factors as well. When the first few festivals started 15 or so years ago, they had little competition. The Indiana festival, Welburn Festival, or the North Carolina festival didn't get competition from a million other shows - they were the only thing, they were new, they were well attended - and they succeeded.
Fast forward to the present day. There are now a ton of shows. The numbers of shows out there mean that locals can attend much easier, BUT, now the vendors and instructors have little reason to attend and the shows get progressively smaller. Why? When you have so many shows, the vendors and instructors can't afford to travel to all of them as it isn't cost effective for them to attend a small show that attracts just a few hundred people instead of a few thousand. So, they pick and choose and eventually they only attend the biggest shows or the ones that are closest to them. (Keep in mind that vendors and classes are a big reason why you want to attend a show - if the vendors and instructors can't afford to travel to a show and still make a profit, then they will stop coming, and so will the attendees!)
Also, shows are only as good as the people putting them on. Some shows are terrific because the volunteers/organizers put a ton of time and effort into promotion, securing a good facility, publicizing, etc. Have ONE down year where something goes wrong - and attendance drops dramatically the next year. Overcharging for admission or parking or for booths and classes, not having enough vendors or classes, bad weather, etc., any of these can drastically affect the numbers that return the following year. For regular festival goers, - give them a good product and they come back, but if there are frequent problems they stop coming.
I've long been an advocate of fewer shows nationwide, possibly having rotating regional shows so that each state doesn't have the burden of a big show every year. Some groups don't want to give up their "OWN" show, but they've seen what has happened over the last few years. Attendance has dropped drastically, vendors have stopped coming and their show is failing. Unless you offer a good product, there is no reason for people to keep coming. And if people don't come, then vendors and instructors aren't going to come either! It's a vicious, downward spiral. Only the very best shows will succeed - or those that have little regional competition.
The shows that are succeeding are doing it for these reasons: Good location, good facilities, well run and organized event, less competition from other nearby shows, reasonable costs to participate as a vendor and as a festival goer, a fun atmosphere, extra activities available as part of their admission, opportunities for competition, and a good product (vendors and classes).
The shows that are failing are doing so for these reasons: Poor location - hard to get to or in an area with little else to do nearby. Poor facility - not enough space, poor lighting, bad parking, expensive rental costs, etc. Poorly run or organized. Too expensive - charges the attendees too much for parking and admission, or charges the vendors/instructors an excessive amount. Just not fun - poor food choices, no activities other than wandering the show (and not much in the show!) unfriendly conditions (grouchy ticket takers, organizers, volunteers, etc.) It just doesn't take much to drive a show into the ground.
Check your calendar sometime and see how many shows are now available across the country. Years ago, there were maybe 4-6 good shows total per year. Now there are a lot of festivals, retreats and classes, with some overlapping on the same weekend or one weekend after another in neighboring states. We've reached the point of oversaturation and only the best will survive.
Bonnie Gibson - Tucson, Arizona