Challenge to Festivals: Weather & Capitalization
Today's column from Ted Lemann
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Bluegrass festivals, especially mid-range and small ones, are facing twin challenges threatening their continued existence. Severe weather accompanied by apparently changing weather patterns and serious under-capitalization are making it difficult or impossible to attract and maintain the size and quality of audiences that would make it possible to book bands and schedule events to assure their continuance. During the past year we've seen an increase in the pattern of unpredictability as the seasons appear to be in a state of transition along with the weather patterns. This year, the entire eastern half of the U.S. has been plagued by extreme cold accompanied by extensive rain and cold.
During the past couple of years, we've seen dangerously hot weather and highly uncomfortable wet weather wherever we go. These variable weather patterns suggest that removal to appropriate indoor facilities would serve to make the event more predictable and manageable. A large number of people who attend bluegrass events, according to our experience, are still people who do so by hooking up their trailer or driving their motor homes to relatively nearby events. Nevertheless, it still appears to us, in our travels, that the vast majority of those people are from the state in which the event is being held. Even in Florida, where a lot of snowbirds come to winter festivals, most license plates are from Florida, and many people we talk to are traveling less than 100 miles. Meanwhile, though at many events music is continual from noon until 11:00 PM, seats are largely empty during the heat of the day, around both sides of the dinner break, and in the late evening. Jammers, who've been up all night because the stage show never ends must find times and places to get their jamming in while seeing and hearing the bands they want to encounter, but thereby making the seats look empty much of the time. Vendors at many of the festivals we attend continue to offer unhealthy food choices at unconscionably high prices, making it even more important to return to the camper for any kind of balanced meal.