Thursday, July 23, 2009

Commentary: Fest Feststock

The time has come to declare one day in the Adirondack summer calendar free from the holding of festivals. It seems the suffix –fest or –stock is being added to random things: rutabagas, green, no-see-ums, hobos, sitting in a chair, storytelling (only one of these is made-up). Field days and fireworks ensue.

Every Adirondack chamber of commerce must have read the same destination-marketing playbook. The theory goes: People who come to canoe don’t drop a lot of money on hotel rooms or restaurants. But people who come for a canoe festival? Cha-ching. We get it.

Still, isn’t the essential charm of the Adirondacks that it’s a place to get away from people? Maybe visitors like to drive into town for a day of local food and music, sure. But can’t they also sense the difference between a genuine celebration and a manufactured event?

The proliferation of “community” happenings is becoming exhausting to some of us who live here year-round. The Merriam-Webster definition of “festival” mentions “often periodic” and “special observance.” When so many events are crammed so close together, they sap those characteristics from each other. There are plenty of things worth celebrating: harvest time, the dead of winter, ice-out, the return of migratory birds. But a word here in defense of doing nothing, especially summer nothing.

There are no inspiring quotes about inaction, only invocations against it. But there is value in just sitting in the garden, drifting in a boat, not driving somewhere. Summer’s short. Let it be its own celebration.

Credit goes to Ned Rauch, a founder of Ten Dollar Radio Show as well as a charter participant in Hobofest—which OK I might attend except it conflicts with Irishfest—for letting me vent and for adding “stock” to “fest.”

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Mary Thill lives in Saranac Lake and has worked alternately in journalism and Adirondack conservation for three decades.

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