Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is It All About the Money?

Well, I'm still trying to figure out how what was once a great event could go so utterly wrong. I'm talking about the Astoria Regatta.

The first year I was in Astoria, 2005, the regatta was held on a single block of Duane Street, right by the Moose Lodge. Everything was all in one place, and the Grand Land Parade marched right through, right in front of my vendor tent, to my granddaughter's utter delight.

The atmosphere was cozy, warm and fun. Everybody and their brother turned out to schmooze and enjoy the festivities, and all it all, it was a delightful event.

There were even gillnet boat races - apparently for the last time, as I haven't even heard them mentioned, since.

The next year, us vendors were fenced in on the old Safeway tarmac, and without telling us, an entrance fee was charged to the non-event. Who's going to pay to come and shop with vendors they know they can visit for free at Sunday Market?

I think I was stupid enough to vend there once more after that.

This year, I noted there were only a very few vendors. I don't know if it's because none of us artisans and artists were asked, or none wanted to participate.

I read on some store window that the admission to Regatta Square would be $2 or a can of food for the food bank. Nope. When my son went with my granddaughter, they charged him $5 to get in - just so she could jump and slide on the inflatable bouncy things for 15 minutes. Sheesh.

OK, I understand they need to pay for the fireworks, bands, whatever. But you know what? Charging $5 to enter Regatta Square to drink over-priced beer or let your kid bounce a bit is a total deal-breaker, in my book.

And I guess I'm not the only one who feels that way. I drove by at about 8:30 p.m., and the band was playing to a few folks who were sitting there, probably wondering why the hell they paid $5 for the privilege.

Don't even get me started on the fireworks. They used to be set off from the Maritime Museum area, where everyone on the North Slope could see them. Then they moved the fireworks to the East Mooring Basin, where only a few can see and enjoy the fun. I didn't even bother to try and see them this year. It was just too damn much trouble - where to park, blah, blah. I used to be able to walk a few blocks for a good view.

And it's all a shame. The regatta used to be fun.

Click here to see Elleda's photography at the Astoria Photografpix web site


Anonymous said...

Dont you think it's sort of hypocritical to state that you just moved up here from California in 05 and want to hawk trinkits to sunday market tourists and regatta square goers to make money while bitching about the regatta charging to support itself?

Elleda said...

Nope, as I don't charge people to come by my tent at Sunday Market. They come by, or buy, or not, at their leisure.

The regatta obviously used to raise money before without locking up the Safeway square and charging an entrance fee, or it wouldn't have kept going all these years (116, I think).

Maybe they should go back to whatever they were doing that worked.

Joni said...


As a former Regatta board member and 2008's Regatta Square Chairperson, I can clue you in on a few things.

In 2008, I fought NOT to have the whole square fenced in, and only charged "admission", which amounted to buying a Regatta pin, for the beer garden/entertainment.

It didn't work.

After that year, they decided to let one of our local breweries handle beer sales at the beer garden. They charged $4 for a 16 oz cup, which is the same as we charged when we handled it. Wet Dog got some good publicity, and although I have no idea what Regatta's cut was, I'm sure it didn't amount to a ton of money.

The entire event is a fund-raiser, and I don't think many people realize that. They also don't realize that it costs close to $100K to put on this festival over the five days.

What would you suggest, to help make money? The Regatta Committee has been the same bunch of people over many years, and every year costs go up, while revenues go down.

My mother was involved in Regatta, as was my sister, and now me. The desire is to put on a festival that everyone will have fun at, but at the end of the day, it is all about making money to provide scholarships.

New blood is needed, and new ideas. Any suggestions?

Elleda said...

Hi Joni,

Thanks for writing!

First: I had no idea it was a fundraiser. And you're right, I bet few people know that. Everyone should know, it would likely help matters. What's the charity?

Second: Those sure didn't seem/look like 16 oz. cups in the beer garden. At all.

Third: Dunno if the regatta made any money in 2005, but it was a true community event. It had a whole different feel to it.

I think one of the ways the regatta went all wrong is to split it up: the Moose Club part on one end of town, and the rest of it up at Safeway.

It should be all together, I'm thinkin'. I bet a lot of people (especially tourists) don't even realize there's a whole separate thing going on over at the Moose.

I also remember in 2005 there were sailboat races, with lovely spinnakers, and the boats sailed in under the bridge. It would be great if the races were where everyone can see them.

My son, who's here visiting, said, "I thought this was supposed to be a regatta. Where are the boats?"

If the city/whoever could get grants to fix up that old armory, that would be a great place to have bands, etc., if you really think you need them. They are a big expense, I imagine.

I don't recall if there were any bands in 2005 - all I remember is bands from the parade performing in front of the Moose, which was a blast.

The only other thing I can think of at the moment is that the fundraising should be year-round. Bunco games, bowling contests, raffles, etc. And submit the events in the community section of the paper and Coast Weekend, which are both free.

The charity the regatta represents should be mentioned often and emphasized so people know what it's about.

That's all I can think of at this point.

Elleda said...

Hey Joni -

And what about a boat parade and boat show (not new boats, people show off their boats)?

Elleda said...

I was talking to some pals last night, and we thought it would be cool if the Regatta went back to Duane Street with the Moose on one end and Fort George on the other end.

Then vendors would come back, and it could be more festive-looking. And it would be near the river, and the Maritime Museum, and the Riverwalk/Trolley.

People would know where the gambling is, parade bands could play after the parade, and Fort George is always a big draw, anyway.

Maybe too much money is being spent on things like bouncies for the kids, hiring bands, etc.

In a word: Simplify. Go back to basics.

Joni said...

Hi Elleda,

I haven't been involved w/Regatta for enough years to know how they used to do stuff, but I do know that lack of interest is why there are no longer sailboat races, which is a shame.

I mis-spoke a bit when I said that the whole event is a fund raiser...the money made during Regatta is to pay FOR the festival, since as I said, it costs a ton of money. I didn't mean to mislead.

The Regatta Assn does, however, provide scholarships every year, which enables the outstanding young ladies of the court to go to college.

We also do two Bingo events each year, in spring and winter, to help raise funds.

The Regatta Court attends between 10-12 other festivals throughout the spring/summer, to promote Astoria, so it is very tourism-driven. The other festivals courts attend our festival in turn.

As I said, what the Regatta needs most is some new blood and new ideas, to help keep it going. Pretty much the same people (less than a dozen) spend an incredible amount of time every year on this.

If you think you might be interested, get in touch with Charlene Larsen (classified desk would have her phone number as she's the one that places the ads). I'm sure they would welcome the help!

Anonymous said...

If "you" were really "concerned" about getting the Regatta back to the way it "was", then you would support the idea that the Regatta isn't about, and never has been about, giving private hawkers of trinkets a chance to cash in on a crowd. It used to be at the armory and the cost of admission covered access to the dance, the beer garden and the Pirate's Den. It was always packed every year and it was a hell of a party that everyone in town attended and enjoyed and every nickle spent went to support the Regatta and not for recent arrivals from California an opportuity to cash in on our venerable festival

Elleda said...

Hey there, Anonymous - my, my, aren't you a cowardly little custard lurking in your hidey-hole, sniping away.

I only mentioned vendors because that's the way the regatta was when I first saw it. I never asked to be a vendor there, dearie, the Regatta Committee asked me to participate.

If you had been paying any attention at all, instead of spending all your time pondering nasty remarks to vomit, you would know I said the regatta committee should clearly go back to whatever used to work to make the regatta successful, since all these new maneuvers aren't working.

And by the way, your craven ass isn't going to get a forum here. Go spill your venom elsewhere - preferably on yourself.

Elleda said...

Hi Joni,

Sorry, I don't have time to participate, what with a full-time job and the photo business.

Not to mention, as you can see by comments from the cowardly "Anonymous," new people and new ideas are unwelcome in certain sectors of Astoria. Frankly, I can't be bothered to deal with that kind of crap.

I'm guessing the first thing on the committee's list ought to be cost-cutting, though. Get everything back to basics, hold more fundraisers, and start again.

The Regatta Square concept seems to be a disaster, and some thought should be given to dumping that plan and considering alternatives.

If it's the same people over and over again on the committee, then they should be able to remember what used to work, and go for it.