Well it’s been quite a while, and after a lot of mulling over the details, we’re finally going to go ahead and recap Mayfair 2012. To put it lightly, Mayfair is in a big, big hole after this year and it’ll take a lot to dig themselves out. Last year’s attendance was terrible. This year it rained like hell and the attendance was half of last year’s terrible outcome.
The one thing the festival definitely did right this year was bring in some bigger names for the headliners. Chiddy Bang, a Philly-based hip hop group, is fairly well known in the younger crowds and was very well-received at the festival. Headliners Boys Like Girls even more-so. Last year’s headliners failed to bring in the big crowds with most of the crowd only attending for local band Sandlot Heroes.
Even though the tent was packed for B104 Night with the main bands, the rest of the festival drowned after days upon days of repeating downpours. The Lakeside stage area turned into a mud pit and it became difficult to navigate to food vendors without just saying, “screw it,” and glomping through the sludgy soil. The festival didn’t do much to mitigate the scenario other than blocking off the worst parts with yellow tape. We here at The El Vee like to attend a little soiree called Punkin Chunkin down in the little ol’ state of Delaware every year. This event has the benefit of being hosted in a big corn field, so despite torrential rain, the field remains walkable. If the organizers had the foresight to bring in a couple trucks with hay bales and threw it down prior to opening on days where the ground was extremely moist the entire lakeside area would’ve fared far better for everyone.
Another thing that was nice this year was they got rid of the crap. You know, the home window salespeople, the roof repair companies, etc that always occupied the far Ott St. end of the festival. Instead they stayed true to their word and brought in more artists for that area. It was definitely appreciated and probably spread out more people into that area than they would’ve had previously. Crowds weren’t exactly a problem this year, as mentioned, but had it been packed this would’ve probably worked as a decent crowd dispersal technique.
So what needs to be fixed? Just like last year, we’re going to harp on Sommerfest, the little German mini-festival that is supposed to be taking place in the grassy area by the main tent. It was tiny and they didn’t accept the same Mayfair tickets that everywhere else did. They need to expand this area to make it not look so depressing as right now it’s just a small tent in a big grassy area.
The big elephant in the room is what the festival will do for next year. In media across the area festival officials were mum to say what next year will bring. From their comments it doesn’t look good. With a new manager in charge this year the festival needs to do something far more drastic than get rid of the crap and bring in some more artists next year. They need a completely new vision for this festival for it to survive. Talks of different sponsorships and the like have been thrown around, but they need to think bigger. This year’s attendance was around 30,000 people or so. When the festival didn’t have a $5 attendance fee they peaked out around 400,000 people for the festival. That’s a huge, huge difference.
That’s as many people as Musikfest brings in a day. That’s enough people to say…open the festival to the public like is used to and charge for headlining bands much bigger than the current acts they bring in. The festival has experimented with this, having a VIP area in the front where you can pay to have a nicer view. It hasn’t seemed very successful, and a few years ago rapper Matisyahu decided that didn’t fly with him and opened up the barrier to let anyone in there.
Whatever the case, the festival needs something to both draw people in as well as have a contingency plan for bad years. Musikfest found this out the hard way last year, and now it’s Mayfair’s turn. Any corporation worth their salt should have a fund ready for disasters and it should be no different for any decent non-profit, especially one whose sole income is dependent on something as unpredictable as the weather. The Celtic Cultural Alliance has events throughout the year including a concert after the Parade of Shamrocks in Bethlehem and the Kilted Celtic Crawl which helped bring the festival out of the hole following a disastrous year ending with floods.
Hopefully Mayfair finds a visionary who can not only bring in top acts and great artisans, but can also lead the organization through tough times and into a prosperous future. We love Mayfair and it would be a shame to see it go. With Allentown going through far larger troubles than saving an ailing festival the city administration will likely have other things its mind. Hopefully the revitalized staff at Mayfair can pull through.