Event Organizing: concerns and/or compliments

I’m tagging many movers and shakers from various communities, event coordinators, festival planners, discussion group organizers, entertainers, and/or vendors because I think this may be beneficial to you from one organizer / entertainer / and vendor to another. However, I realize I may be stepping on the toes of some who don’t agree with my following two cents. I welcome input and dialogue in this forum. If I’m wrong, I would appreciate being enlightened otherwise. It is my thoughts and beliefs, none other, but some thoughts/beliefs shared with others in the community. So its important to understand where some of us are coming from when we don’t support certain events or projects. I apologize in advance if it feels insulting, attacking, or personal, it is not meant as such. Especially the last paragraph. I realize that paragraph is a bit personal to a local event organizer, but it needs to be expressed for the upcoming events are seen as an insult and complete disrespect for many in the local community it is attempting to profit from. Many of these community members have asked me to speak out about it, and I’ve put it off too long.

I’ve been meaning to write this piece for awhile now. There has been a disturbing trend I’ve seen lately where too many “community” based events and organizers have been catching the “knickel and dime to death” virus that Corporate America, its airlines, its businesses, and its government has been initiating in our world since the “Dotcom” crash. (Prior to this point, the world and its corporations thanked their customers, their workers, their patrons, and often gifted them extras or benefits – something that has long since vanished)

I’ve held off on writing and publishing it because right about when I was going to ‘release’ it, a friend of mine, or a community member of mine, was hosting an event where they were showing signs of this virus. But now is the time to write it because instead of being approached with an event that was infected, I was blessed with an event last night that radiated exactly what has seemingly vanished. This event last night, re-established my faith that there are still community organizers out there like me who are NOT profit-driven and a bright example of entities that exist for “their community”. For those of you who are infected with the “greed” virus, I wish you the strength to get over your illness, and while this might be stepping on some of you “profiteering” toes, it needs to be said. Because such actions are “NOT” community. Commercialism does not equate to community. Now don’t get me wrong, it is totally understandable to want to be compensated for your cost, fund-raise for a specific cause, be paid for you art and time – but honestly, if a “profit” intent is your focus, please keep the word “community”, “non profit”, or “not for profit” out of your vocabulary. For those that are not infected with the said virus, I commend you for sticking true to ethics, for the hard work you give to community, and all the work you do for us. You indeed will be rewarded through time. It may not be financial, but I guarantee “goodness” comes back to you when you put it out. Call it Karma or what-have-you.

Last night I attended, and participated as a vendor, in an incredibly successful event that was held by “The Denver Community Collective”. (At least I hope it was successful – they appeared to have great community support, stunning attendance, fabulous entertainment, and most of the people I spoke to afterwards came out with a very empowering rush of community spirit) (Kudos for those of you who were responsible for such an incredible event). This event stated on their web page that it was created with a soul purpose of educating, empowering, and uniting the community through sound, art, love, and knowledge. I would say they were highly successful with that purpose and intent. They also stated that The CommUnity Family believes in only charging you for what the event actually costs, to ensure that more of you can be involved and enjoy this community experience. (this project is not profit driven in any regard, other than staying sustainable). Again, I say KUDOS and Congratulations again to the CommUnity Family. Four floors of entertainment, 5 domes, two stages, three DJ rooms, free water, free vending, free art space. 7 pm until 3 am. Wow. Admission: $14 pre-sale, $17 at the door. A bargain. Thank you for such a wonderful experience last night. I saw an incredible community spirit last night. I was beyond impressed. The entertainers, the artists, the musicians, the community came together to make this happen. It appeared to me to have more than 600 participants. (I’m not aware of the numbers, but the Sherman Center holds 2,000 and the place was pretty packed)

:: Begin Rant ::

From a struggling artist perspective, I was originally attracted to the event for (a) their mission statement and intent, and (b) the free vending as an artist. From an individual who had been a struggling “feast or famine” technogypsie artist travelling around to festivals “trying to make a living” this was like a heaven-send to me. I gave up that lifestyle 6 years ago because I couldn’t make it. Mainly because too many festivals after the .dotcom crash pumped up their vendor fees, knickel and dimed their vendors and entertainment, added on ridiculous rules, regulations, tax permits, licensing, insurance requirements, etc. making a life of a vendor too difficult to live off. So I gave up. I went to work for the Federal Government and a defense contract firm for a steady paycheck. 6 years later, I am now voluntarily leaving a secure job to go back to pursue the struggling artist lifestyle with knowledge of the fears and struggles that lifestyle has. But I have to say, the event last night gave me hope. As a vendor I did make money albeit not much. Had I paid the typical vendor fee that many events charge out there, I would have come out in the negative. I was impressed with CommUnity realizing that this is all-too-often the situation with vendors/artists and is what is collapsing the independent artist from surviving and many from pursuing such inspiration. Kill your art, you kill your entertainment and in many cases, you kill your event’s attractions. You kill the community’s purpose or intent on preserving the arts, culture, folklore, tribal focus, and reason for being there in the first place. Vendors are a festival’s “free information booth”, “guide”, “point of help”, and a draw to one’s attendees and participants. Certainly there is a place for a vendor fee or a commission of sales, but not to where it can destroy that existence of said talent. Honestly how many people would attend a Renaissance Faire without the vendor presence? very few. I’m not quite sure why the vendors who participate in the “worst of the worst” events that prey on vendors like the “Renaissance Faire” circuit does, attending and paying such ridiculous fees, perhaps it is worthwhile to some of the larger well known artists who can make a living from it. But for the small fry, or the “startup from scratch” artist, they don’t have a chance. Imagine if all the Renaissance Faire vendors, artists, and entertainers stood up and held a strike? I guarantee you the corporation behind that institution would drop their fees and plea for them to come back. I’ve been vending for over 10+ years and I to this day will boycott Corporate festivals that prey on the vendor. Usually its a boycott based on ethics, but sometimes even when I believe in the community and its event, it has to do with the cost and the knowledge of knowing I’d come out at a loss.

When I first became involved with “Burning Man” in the early 1990’s, this was my biggest gripe with the community at that time. I came from the “free” Rainbow Gatherings with their “trade” circles or Music and Pagan festivals who kept costs low, admission fees reasonable, and vendor fees minimal. The fact they didn’t allow vending, yet vended their own cafe and sale of ice at the event, at first irked me. In fact, at first, I refused to support Burning Man because of it. As a vendor, vending was my lifestream for survival, I couldn’t fathom going to an event that wouldn’t give me a chance to cover my expenses, travel, and livlihood. But since then, I came to love and respect the Burning Man community, when I gave it a chance, and realized it didn’t support “vending” because it was a “gifting” community, and it was trying to get rid of the use of money on the playa. (though while I understand the fundraising needs of the cafe to assist the local community that is impacted by the Burn, and the sale of ice is mandatory to cover the cost of the ice, its transport to the middle of nowhere, and in many cases without which would cause health issues, safety issues, and danger to some individuals or camps, it took me a while to understand “why” and come away from the experience not thinking they were being hypocritical. I completely understand now.) While I still tried to understand the “no vendor rule”, at first thinking it was to “keep out corporations and big business” couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t let independent artists be compensated for their art. It took a re-analysis of the “Rainbow Gathering” and Hippie culture to see the effects of its “trade circles” to realize that to allow any vending at a “Gifting” community would instigate the “Trading” concept. “What can i get from you in exchange for this” mentality. I realized that by reviewing Rainbow Gatherings I went to and realized that the “What can I get out of you” mentality has infected the Hippie community (Rainbow) like an illness, and to let that in to the Burner community would decimate and compromise the “Gifting” (Giving away for free one’s excesses without expectation of return) concept the Burner community has. So I became a Burner with the full happiness to share the excess of some of my surplus bodypaints, crafts, and gifts when I attend the event. A Potlach ceremony of types. It took me awhile too to understand the higher priced admission ticket, but through analysis of all that they give and offer, pay for impacts to Nevada and is community, roadways, and environment, that price is understandable. Though they have means too for those who are low income or have financial burdens to still be able to attend. Kudos for that!

As I became an event organizer for the Tree Leaves’ Folk Fellowship, Pagan events, talent shows, and flash mobs, I carried on those events with what I learned through the years about community, spirituality, and art. I learned that if one is running a not-for-profit or non-profit event that it should not be profit driven in any way. If running a fundraising event, if one is not compensating all staff members and entertainment, than not a single individual involved in that event should not take a dime from that event. If an organizer expects their entertainment to give its free time and resources, then said organizer and staff should give completely of their time and resources equally for free. If the event organizer is going to charge admission for the entertainment and volunteers, then the event organizer should be charging admission for themselves as well as their paid staff. If the event organizer is running a commercial event, state so, call it “for profit”, and that organizer should be expected to pay all of their staff, entertainers, and should not be using volunteers unless they are being paid or gifted with some privileges such as free admission, free entry, staff badges, and perks for their time and effort. All i ask of my fellow organizers is not to become a predator of an individual’s time, goodness, talent, energy, or good will. Be ethical. Be thankful of the talent you have at your fingertips. It’s not right to do anything other.

If you are running a “flash Mob” or a “community” event for the purpose of a political message, expression, trying to get the public to wake up, spirituality, appreciation of something, building community, networking like minds, or sharing art, don’t charge your entertainers, talent, or volunteers. Yes, Re-imbursement of cost is important and essential. But don’t try to make a profit over it. Don’t overcharge your vendors – because you won’t have an event without them. “Commission of sales is a completely valid form of vendor fee”. Accept “Donations”. Those who attend who can afford to chip in that are ethical, will chip in. Those who can’t, can at least attend and become part of the community project, and can give of something else in return – their time, energy, ideas, and contribute in another way. Even if they are just attending the event costumed and doing some sort of performance or art. The effort they put into that is what is making your event that much more attractive and therefore drawing in more attendees. So they are doing something for you by taking the effort to dress up. This is what builds community. Interaction, contributing, and being part of the theme. It is VERY important Not to isolate those that are financially struggling or who cannot contribute money to the event or community. They are still very valuable attendees who can benefit from your event and can contribute back in another way. Afterall don’t we have enough of that from the corporations and governments that are knickel and diming us to death already? creating exclusive areas or parts of society that creates imbalances between the rich, poor, and middle class. Our sub-communities and sub-cultures should be a place where we can escape the imbalances we experience in day-to-day life.

Now I’ve run many fundraisers and not for profit events. I don’t charge my vendors. I don’t charge admission to volunteers or staff. If you contribute you have free entrance. In fact, for those that are contributing more than others, I try my best to find a way to thank them, even if it comes out of my own pocket. Gifts, extras, drink tickets, or something. For the last four years I’ve been the sole organizer for the Colorado Springs as well as the Manitou Springs Zombie Crawls and after parties. I have, out of my own pocket, even paid for DJ’s (even though every time they have tried to turn down the compensation), paid for makeup, art, supplies, fliers, etc. to hold the event and to bring joy to the attendees. Most don’t even know I was behind it. Sometimes we’d get some cash thrown at us from attendees as tips for the bodypainters to thank them and to help replenish the stage blood and makeup. Sometimes we’ve had local costume shops donate blood for the cause (and/or makeup). Luckily every bar or restaurant we’ve held the after party at gave us the use of their premises as a gift to the cause. (even though their staff has blood mess to clean up afterwards) The Underground for the Colorado Springs Zombie Crawls paid for the DJ’s of the after parties for us. That was a very well received and thankful gift. That is what community spirit is about.

When I hold discussion groups or spirituality get-togethers, I don’t “charge” admission. I have a donation basket or hat for those who wish to contribute to help cover the costs of the event. Even when I spend upwards of a couple of hundred dollars for candles, supplies, food, beverage, printing, and fliers. When I hold these events, its out of my own kindness and heart. I always come out at a financial loss for those events. Because I want to build community. I know karma is circular and my good deed will be returned down the road. Every beautiful blessing I receive in life (which are many) I strongly belief come back to me because of these things I do.

Maybe I’m a dying breed. But that’s my views and my two cents. I suppose that is why I’ve been recently frustrated with community members charging outrageous admission fees for get togethers, events, charging their entertainers, volunteers, or artists under the “guise” of “building community” or “networking or sharing amongst like minds” and claiming they aren’t in it for “profit”. As an individual who throws similar events I know they are “full of it”. That’s not what community is about.

So those of you who wonder why I may boycott certain things, its because “ethically” i won’t participate in something that is not living to its name in support of “community”. That’s my right to stand up for what I believe. The above is my rant of explanation of why I believe the way I do and get frustrated with those who are plagued with the virus that Corporations have infected us with. Especially if it has to do with spirituality or community. You should not be profiteering on spirituality or community. There is nothing wrong with being compensated for your time and energy, as long as everyone’s time and energy is also being compensated for.

So when people ask me why I refuse to support the man who is trying to create a Faerie and Fantasy Con / Festival here in Colorado, the above all completely applies to my reasoning. Not once did he “communicate” with the local Faerie or Fantasy community (which is quite large), not to mention inviting local “faerie” or “fantasy” talent, artists, or specialists before putting these events together, he just woke up one day, looked at a picture of a “faerie” and figured he could cash in on that “fad”. He’s not part of the community nor will ever “get” what it’s about. He’s merely trying to make money off of it. In addition, he’s trying to get the local community to donate their time, talents, resources, art, and energy without compensating them for it, to make money for himself. Go back to the Victorian circus image of catching a faerie and putting it in a cage in total disregard of its free will and charging admission to see it. If you are not part of a particular “community”, you have no business or right to coordinate events for said community. I therefore will not ethically support these upcoming events. Not to mention the fact the first Con that was supposed to happen early this year was cancelled without any more notice than the night before the event causing many individuals and vendors who paid for hotel rooms or booths to get hit financially for the situation. If a festival or convention cannot go on because the organizer is in the hospital or can’t make it, it is pretty hardcore evidence the event has no community behind it. An event that has community behind it knows “The show must go on”. Word of the wise, always put thought behind which that you support. :: End Rant ::

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