Saturday, August 04, 2007


Yesterday marked the opening of MusikFest 2007 in Bethlehem. I may be spoiled by my years of experience at JazzFest, but to me this is a second- or third-tier music festival. Here are my takes on the festival and ways that I think it could be made better.

In the tradition of other Pennsylvania events, you have to buy tickets to buy food or drink. A 20 ounce beer costs 10 .50 cent tickets. A snow cone costs 8. Even at some of the best snowball stands in southeast Louisiana, a $4 snowball would cause irreversible brain freeze. I don't understand the tickets. At the end of the day, if you leave with tickets, you have lost your money. To me, buying the tickets is an unnecessary step. You have to wait in line to buy tickets so you can wait in line to give the tickets to someone for a beer or food.
SUGGESTION - Get rid of the tickets. I don't know how vendors get paid, but it seems at the end they would have to go turn in tickets to get their money. How much of this is really necessary. Create a bid process so that vendors have to apply. They will accurately report their earnings if they want a spot next year.

Like all major events, there is a lack of parking and the shuttle from the parking area costs $3. While the festival itself is free, they find ways to make money on virtually everything else that you would like to do.
SUGGESTION - Free shuttles from the parking areas. Perhaps it would be more equitable to charge a nominal fee for parking instead of for the shuttle. Then it's like a drive-in movie. The car costs $5 - get as many people in there as possible. And then you can sort of prevent the whole parking on sidewalks scenario, too.

The thing that causes me the most consternation is the way that the schedule is designed. The squares at JazzFest have everything organized by TIME. The schedule for MusikFest is not. It is scheduled by the acts on the stage, so that a band starting at noon can appear in the schedule next to a band that begins at 5:30 PM. To see how confusing, check out this PDF.
SUGGESTION - Create a chronologically based schedule. How much more paper would that take up?

Most of the food is typical school carnival food, i.e., funnel cakes, snowcones, cotton candy, popcorn, etc. You can get a burger or a hot dog, too. At two of the food booths, you can find Pennsylvania Dutch foods (sort of, some of these seem more Polish to me) - Potato Pancakes, Chicken Paprikash, Weiner schnitzel, Sauerbraten, Bierocks, Beef Goulash, Meatloaf, Halupki, Haluski. I don't even know what some of this is.
SUGGESTION - How many different ways can you really prepare a cheesesteak? Get some local and international flavor in there. Not everything has to be fried in batter.

One of the things that MusikFest does well is the children's area. It's just kinda far from everything else.
SUGGESTION - Move it closer to the action. But don't change it.

In our local paper, Gina Vaselli wrote this review of the events that transpired yesterday, a day on which the Black Crowes ($32) were the headliners.

Having fun at Musikfest doesn't necessarily require an entourage. One devoted dancer spent more 20 minutes on one of the many platz dance floors, by himself. He was dancing to the beat of his own drum.

Banana Island has dashed lines painted across the pavement, like something out of a "Family Circus" cartoon. It may seem like a waste of paint at first, but after waiting a few minutes, visitors will be sure to see some happy toddler following the path.

The Black Crowes brought a clash of cultures to Musikfest's opening night. One man, dressed in slacks and a polo shirt, stopped to ask a group of teenagers in tie-dye T-shirts and bandannas to ask if they, too, were going to see the concert.

The ever-present Musikfest beer mugs cost eight 50-cent tickets, and every time you want to fill it up, it'll cost you another 10 tickets. This may seem a bit strange considering that a regular beer costs 10 tickets and leave you wondering what the draw to the mugs is all about. But a Musikfest employee explained the 22-ounce mugs are 2 ounces larger than the regular cups.

As a newcomer to Musikfest, using tickets for everything seemed strange to me. But a helpful Musikfest employee explained that the tickets deter theft and are easier to keep track of. But that gave me little comfort when I realized I paid $4 for a snow cone.

I don't think most of these things are even worthy of print. In New Orleans, you are supposed to dance to your own rhythm, you are supposed to talk to those who are experiencing the same things that you are, and you are supposed to drink a little. I guess things here are very different.

My wife and I haven't been in a few years now. I am not trying to make fun of it, so I apologize if it comes across that way. The festival is important for this area, but I think it could use some improvements to make it even more fun, exciting, and easy to attend.


Anonymous said...

Hey, just as a heads up, this weeks' issue of Time magazine is running a special report, cover story on New Orleans and "Why the city still isn't safe." (uhm.....nice of them to notice!) Anyway, I know you devour this sort of stuff like ice cream on a humid day, so I just thought I'd post.

LatinTeacher said...

How did you know I love ice cream? Anyway, thanks for the heads up. I need to edit this post. I don't like it very much. But I will make a new one with information from Good to hear from you.