Behind the Scenes of the Street Fair …
Enough people to constitute a small city filled the streets of Ocean Beach this weekend for the 30th Annual OB Street Fair. Millions of dollars were pumped into a local economy. Families brought their children to have fun. A thriving arts and music scene was given a massive platform to share their creativity. The City government cooperated with non-governmental organizations and (for the most part) delivered services in an efficient manner to its citizens.
And it wasn’t newsworthy enough to merit coverage in our daily newspaper. Nada. Not a picture. Not a story. Perhaps the new owners of the paper sent all their reporters out to clean up all the commercial properties that they acquired from the Copley family on the cheap and are now trying to sell. For that matter, the street fair wasn’t newsworthy enough to merit any actual coverage on any of our “hyper-local” internet news/blog sites.
There were a few clips on the local tv news, giving the happy talking heads at the teleprompters something to chirp about as they segued intro the all-important San Diego weather forecast.
For those seasoned “journalists” out there who live by the saw that good news isn’t what sells papers, you might want to consider that the OB Rag’s web stats have been at record high levels for the last week as we’ve unleashed our creative energies on covering this event. It’s more proof for us that the “old” way of viewing news is doomed. (We don’t necessarily think we know what the future holds for “news”, but we’re getting a good sense of what it doesn’t. So do keep up the “good work” over at the Union-Tribune.)
When we conceived the idea of team coverage of the OB Street Fair, we thought that the contrast between our reportage and the superficial mass media coverage would be a good example that illustrated the differences between the “old media” and the “new media”. Little did we imagine the reality that the old media editors could be so dense (or, more likely, lazy) as to not even try to find an “angle” on this story. Or perhaps it’s more important for those editors to keep pounding away with their “talking points” that are designed to keep the electorate misinformed and apathetic about this issues that are dearest to their corporate overlords.
Editorial rant aside, here’s my report:
For the dozens of volunteers that made the OB Street Fair happen, the day started early. On Saturday morning, round about 3 am, as the last stragglers are headed home from the bars, the volunteers made their way out into the streets of Ocean Beach. Friday nights frivolities made way for Saturday mornings’ sober realities. First up on the agenda, getting last night’s leftovers out of the way. There was trash to be picked up and cars to be towed so the booths and stages can be set up.
Every year, the Street Fair Committee puts up more and better signs trying to warn people that their cars need to be gone by 2 am Saturday morning. And every year there’s some people that don’t get the message. This year was no exception, with a really nasty confrontation taking place in the wee hours of the morning between Committee staff and a resident. Tempers flared. Words that everybody later wished could be taken back were spoken. And then it was over.
Stages were brought in, streets were blocked off and the next wave of volunteers came rolling in shortly after sunrise. Behind them came the early bird vendors, mostly people who work street fairs and other big events for a living. In sharp contrast to the tension in the air earlier, a jovial atmosphere prevails, a kind of silent solidarity shared by people who spend their lives ahead of the curve.
Thirty years of putting on an event has given these Obceans some perspective on planning. Check lists are made and used. New comers to the effort get a healthy dose of mentoring. Cell phones have replaced two way radios as the preferred means of communication. By 9 am things start to get chaotic as later waves of vendors begin to clog Newport Avenue. Ninety minutes later, all the pieces are in place, seemingly in defiance of the laws of human nature.
I’ve been lurking on the “inside” for a few weeks now, hanging out with some of the OBMA (Ocean Beach Main Street Association) staffers and volunteers that actually run the show. Their level of dedication and ability to focus on the issues at hand has been nothing short of amazing. The Monday evening organizing meetings, where over a dozen committee chairs made reports and “challenges” were discussed, started promptly at 6pm and were finished in under an hour. It was amazing. There were few, if any, personal agendas being pushed, and it was all about getting it done. One hour meetings…amazing!
Putting together the OB Street Fair is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle, except that each of the pieces of that puzzle has an “opinion”. The smooth operation of the Street Fair, despite a constant stream of challenges and distractions is a testament to the dedication of the people who ran the organization. And, although they would be the last to highlight this fact, a large majority of those people happened to be women. Coincidence? I think not. (I’d list names here, but the fear of omitting any of the valuable contributions made by these Obceans has prevailed as I penning this.)
Having said all this, I did see the opportunity for the energy generated by these folks to do even more good for our community. They’ve got the basics covered, ranging from an efficient re-cycling program to providing (short-term) employment for some of our most disadvantaged residents. The need to put on and event that is more than just a short term economic opportunity for the OB community is something that can and should be addressed in future years.