January 16th, 2005

LiveJournal Blackout of 2005

Pagan Picnic, and other events

OK, I got word a couple of days ago that the last Sunday's vote, the one I wrote about back on the 5th, did happen and it did turn out the way everybody expected it to: the Council for Alternative Spiritual Traditions no longer owns the event known as St. Louis Pagan Picnic. The event is now owned by, and being managed by, Yarrow Coven. I don't have a clear answer yet on whether or not CAST itself still exists. My sources seem to think so, but as of this morning their website is down; I presume they couldn't pay the bills.

Since then, I've got a couple of increasingly panicky urgent-sounding emails from the co-chair of the programming committee, asking me to write something about this. Ordinarily I don't do by-request journal entries, and especially not from people who aren't on my LiveJournal friends list, but this time it's for something I care about and the urgency is great. Yes, I mean it, the urgency is great. It may not seem like it from all the way back here in snowy 14°F January, but the first weekend in June is way, way too close to be starting over from scratch when it comes to planning an event of this size and complexity. The programming committee has asked me to offer at least one workshop, and I gather they need other people to run workshops. I don't know for sure what other volunteer openings Pagan Picnic has, but I can make a few educated guesses.

If they don't already have a ritual coordinator, they're going to need one mui pronto. Pagan Picnic has at least three rituals: opening ceremonies, main ritual late Saturday afternoon, and closing ceremonies. Opening and closing practically write themselves, but main ritual is traditionally a big deal; to keep up the standards, it should have a committee already working on the script by now. Another big volunteer job that I know needs to be started by now is Kids Zone. I don't know if they have a children's programming coordinator, but whether or not they do, I know that they need to start now on gathering volunteers to work Kids Zone because I know that historically, that's a hard part of the event to staff. (I am not the only person in Paganism who doesn't get along with kids and who is especially nervous around strangers' kids.) The other reason they need plenty of volunteers now, if history is any experience, is that Kids Zone goes through a lot of donated supplies, and it is not even vaguely too early for people to be shaking down their friends for donations.

I don't know yet if Pagan Picnic has yet (or still has) a merchant coordinator, but considering that merchant fees are what pay for the portajohns and the park reservation fee and the permits and the printing and so on, it's absolutely essential that this not get screwed up and it is way, way late to be dealing with it. Somebody with authority from Yarrow needs to be not just emailing but actually writing to the few current vendors, and especially to former vendors, explaining the management change and encouraging them to sign up for Pagan Picnic 2005. Most vendors have their schedules planned out at least through June by now, so this can't be considered urgent enough. Once they get volunteers up and working on those three committees, I think that takes care of most of what needs to be done in the short term except that, frankly, they're going to need the best word-of-mouth campaign in the last ten years to get over the accumulated stigma and encourage people to come back after the gradually diminishment of the last two years, to convince people that CAST's having dropped the event is a good thing.

Closer to the event, they're going to need classic, traditional "fun mavens" for two big group jobs, that historically the fun mavens in the subculture have been able to make fun: setup and security. Like all big events, come the night before the event they're going to need the traditional swarm of people and pickup trucks to get the equipment out of storage, schlep it to Tower Grove Park, and set it up. The two weekends before that, there may be lesser schleppage to get stuff that got stashed in out-of-the-way places together for the Friday night swarm. Then, on Saturday, I assume that they're doing the same thing they've done many years now, which is deputizing a group of people to semi-legally camp in the park as semi-legal security, to keep an eye on the vendor booths over night. (I say semi-legally in both cases because officially it can't be called camping, you can't camp in Tower Grove Park, and because in St. Louis city and county you can't call what you're doing "security" unless you're a licensed professional security officer whose license covers this location.) I'm told it's a lot of fun. And, of course, the day of the event they're going to need go-fers, at least some of which get to run around the event on a golf cart, and people to man the main event booth, and a bunch of other jobs.

Pagan Picnic 2005 has a web site at http://www.paganpicnic.org/, but it would be an exaggeration at this time to say that they have it set up. Most of the pages are blank or have "lorem ipsum" filler text. Right now, the second most important thing on that page is the web BBS they have setup. I imagine that in the short run that needs to be where a lot of the volunteer stuff gets discussed, so if you want to help Pagan Picnic it'd be a good idea to go to that page and register a user ID. But the most important thing is the aggravating Java applet menu that pops up email addresses for the committee heads. Since I hate that kind of thing, let me reproduce them for you here. (And boy, oh boy do I hope these are getting redirected to the right people!)

Coordinator: coordinator@paganpicnic.orgEntertainment: entertainment@paganpicnic.org
Vendors: vendors@paganpicnic.orgVolunteers: volunteers@paganpicnic.org
Programming: programming@paganpicnic.orgWebmaster: webmaster@paganpicnic.org

I'm a little worried about two other events scheduled for this year.

Conflation, the St. Louis area adults-only science fiction "relaxicon," is only six weeks away, the last weekend in February. But the first worrisome sign is that even though it's only six weeks away, there is basically no chatter going on in the Conflation email discussion group. The other worrisome sign is that the Clayton Radisson Hotel is advertising heavily on my favorite local radio station, Red @ 104.1, that they're having "renovation specials." Last year's big renovation-related problem was that there was basically next-to-no heat in the main programming areas, as in temperatures down around 60°F or lower. That's pretty sub-optimal for an adult-oriented relaxicon, so I sincerely hope that doesn't mean that they haven't fixed that problem.

I'm also wondering what these problems with CAST are going to mean for Magical Weekend in October. No, it is not too late to be worried about Magical Weekend, because nine months is only just barely enough time to be planning a hotel convention event. I asked around, and two sources tell me that the woman who founded Magical Weekend wants it back. Unless she's moved back to the St. Louis area, I don't see how that could work; maybe she has and I just haven't heard. Anyway, at least one source reassures me that she at least says that she has the up-front money and the volunteer organization to make it happen. The only remaining obstacle is that if CAST still exists, then technically they still own it. Trying to find enough of CAST to hold a vote on the subject, and getting them to admit defeat on Magical Weekend this early, could be big problems. But if those problems don't get taken care of right now, then it may rapidly be too late for there to be a Magical Weekend 2005. And once you skip a year on an event, the last remaining vendors make other plans for that weekend next year, and there goes half of what's left of your revenue and something like 90% of your up-front revenue; that's a deep hole to have to climb back out of.