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I’ll Just Go Next Year!

I’m seeing a lot of really great events wither and dry up, and it pains me.

People on the Internet are often taken to pining for real-world experiences. It’s all good and fine to write and chat and read Wikipedia, but actually meeting meaty people and singing, laughing, dancing, and sharing fellowship together is something you absolutely cannot get via the Internet. However, you can’t really convince netizens of this, until you can drag them away from their flickering screens and sit them down in front of a campfire.

This also wanders into my frustration with Pagans who think/expect that anything a shaman/spirit worker can do, they should be able to do remotely and for free. I can’t count how many emails I’ve received from potential pastoral care clients who absolutely refuse to even meet via Skype, much less meet me in person. There are some things I cannot teach, or do, unless the person is right in front of me.

It sticks in my craw because I paid my dues by spending money and traveling. I am not well off; I don’t even come close to the poverty line. I have a ton of physical issues that make traveling difficult. But I do it, and I don’t complain about it. Sure, there are some events I can’t afford: if I feel very strongly that I want to attend, I will contact the organizer and see if we can’t come to an agreement. That’s the secret reason I started teaching classes at events – I would never, ever be able to afford to go to the events I do if I didn’t get a work exchange. And this negotiation doesn’t have only be with the event staff – if an event can’t offer you a comp in exchange for volunteering, ask the people attending if someone might need a service person who will pay your way in exchange for your help. (As a note from someone who hires these sorts of people: It’s good to know what you’re good at and what you’re able to do, and be honest up front about what you can and can’t do. And once you’re at the event, you better live up to your end of the bargain if you ever want this sort of arrangement again!) You might be able to do a quick fundraiser: “I want to go to LokiCon, so for the next two weeks I’m offering [skill or craft] for [wacky reduced price].” Heck, I’ve had organizations pay my way to events in exchange for me placing fliers on tables for the organization and talking up what the org does to the attendees!

Travel can be tricky, but I frequently take on carpoolers on longer trips and ask them to pay a portion of my gas. Sometimes, everyone in my car will pay for the gas, and my contribution is the miles I’m putting on my car. When I’m riding with someone else, the fact I have a handicap parking placard has been a bargaining chit.

Obviously, there are ways you can make the trip more affordable, too. You can share a hotel room, or check out a couch surfing site and see if you can’t find a couch to crash on within walking or driving distance of the event. You can sleep in your car. You can bring all your own food, which is usually cheaper than relying on fast food all weekend. You can ask other attendees if someone is willing to rent floor space in their accommodations for either money or service. (I know someone who got free floor space in a hotel if they made sure coffee was ready for their roomies every morning!) See if you have any friends or relatives who live nearby you can crash with – or even friends-of-friends. Heck, I’ve seen gamers at big gaming cons bring a sleeping bag and find a secluded spot and rock the homeless experience.

Anyway, my point is that there are billions of ways to attend an event if you really want to – too many people only see the obvious – “I can’t afford a hotel room to myself and the entry fee, so therefore I can’t go”.

The other refrain I hear a lot is “I really want to go to that event. I will go next year!”

This makes an erroneous assumption: people tend to assume that, unless otherwise blatantly stated, all events are annual. The truth is, I’ve seen many events die because they couldn’t get enough attendance in their first year. As much as it might seem to make sense to stay home and hear stories about how it went before deciding to go, people like owners of campgrounds/convention centers, staff, presenters, etc are willing to take a risk on a first-time event. However, if the first year tanks, few of them will listen to the cries of “Oh, but 8,000 people on the Internet said they’d come next year!”

The biggest wound of the first-year flop goes to the organizer. They’ve taken a dream from raw thought to fruition, likely with a ton of support from Internet people who really want to see the thought become a real thing. They ride on the enthusiasm and spend a ton of money on things you’d never notice unless they weren’t there – nametags, copies of the program, a moving van to get all the decorations/furniture, etc – and they sign a bunch of contracts. Many take out bank loans. They stress all of their close friends and lovers, usually conscripting them into non-consensual service when they realize the job is too big for one person.

And the biggest secret of all: Very few, if any, come into the black when the day is done. Most count themselves lucky if they break even. If they wanted to make a profit, they’d have to raise the ticket price; thus, less people would come and they’d still be in the weeds.

The other song and dance about events that I’m pretty tired of? I wish someone would come to East Bumblefuck and do something like this there! It makes me shake my head for many reasons:

1. Do you know for certain that if such an event came to the Bumblefuckians, the attendee list would have more than one name (you)? Do you have a grasp on whether or not the other Bumblefuckians (From South Bumblefuck) would find out Honeycomb Hideout (wherever you’d want to host the event) and beat us up, burn us, bring the media, tell the hotel we’re hosting secret gay bdsm orgies?

2. Have you thought about asking the person who is running the event in a well-considered, centrally located, metropolitan location with access to worldwide transport, to come to East Bumblefuck and run the event there? Since it was your idea, you do understand that means the organizer will likely have tapped out all of their funds running the first one, so the implication is that you will foot at least part of the bill?

3. Because it is very unlikely that the organizer lives within a reasonable distance of Bumblefuck, do you know someone who is able to find and secure a venue, and take care of the bigger picture logistics?

Now, I could go on, but there’s really a summation coming, so I’m jumping ahead.

8,264. Or you could just ask the organizer if it is cool with them if you organize a similar event in Bumblefuck, and whether it would be officially recognized as connected to the first con or a rogue event with an understated agreement?

Here’s the thing: In the communities I inhabit, I am seeing a trend. Many of the gung-ho event organizers are reaching their mid-40s or early 50s, which, according to Merriam Webster, is “too fucking old for this shit.” Lacking serious, committed younger members who seem not only interested but capable of taking the mantel, the events make the only other choice available to them – to stop.

Here’s a micro-example of what I’m seeing:

Etinmoot is a small gathering at Cauldron Farm. It is an ritual event for person who worship and work for the Jotun-blooded Gods of the Northern Tradition. It has been running since 2007. Part of the reason the event is in limbo is because the people who planned and executed most of the rituals, were also in charge of running the event logistics. After this year’s event, the gythia (Priestess) stepped down so she could work on other projects. If no one steps up in the next few weeks, the event dies.

Part of the reason the event dies is because it is an awful lot of work to plan and execute, and the people who have run it in the past don’t have the energy or drive to keep going. One thing that will kill an organizer’s enthusiasm needed to push through all the stress and work to get an event off the ground is apathy. People aren’t excited enough to tell their friends about it. They make FB posts that say, “I don’t really know if I want to go CockCon this year…” People don’t get involved in the pre-event chit chat or planning. They may not even look at the online schedule to see what awesome classes there were and when (so they could make a mini Google calender to remind you where you want to be…or is that only me?) And of course, the big honker, is a) they just don’t come at all, or b) they cancel at the last minute and demand a refund.

So now that I’ve gotten my bitchiness off of my chest, let’s talk about positives – ways you can encourage event organizers to start or keep running events that matter to you, how you can support events even if you can’t attend, and stuff like that:

1. Just effing go. Even if you pick one event every year, instead of going to the same one all the time, try going to a fledgling event instead. Don’t let strange people or uncomfortable circumstances get in the way. Remember, your life is made up of stories you leave behind, and “They stayed at home and watched “My Strange Addiction” all weekend.”

2. Be creative about the money. Some events have scholarship funds, and few advertise them so they don’t get every cheap-o asking for handouts. Come up with a brief, honest paragraph on why you want or need to attend this event; follow it with what you are willing to offer in exchange for entry. It should be noted that sometimes the event can’t scholarship someone, but an attendee might out of the goodness of their heart. Ask the attendees if they would like a service person/assistant, luggage lugger, personal chaffeur, companion/date, gopher, or whatever other service you have to barter. (Currently, I could really use the services of a graphic artist…) And if you really can’t go, maybe you can toss $20 to someone who needs help- and ask them to write up a report/make a presentation when they get home.

3. Don’t assume all events are annual. Especially these days; the market is a little glutted with adult retreats in general (at least on the Eastern Seaboard of the US), so it takes a lot for a first-time event to stand out and get the kind of attendance that will make it abundantly clear that the event needs to be repeated. It’s actually a better bet to assume all events are one-time-only; that way, you’re sure to have the experience you want. If it turns out to repeat itself, then you can decide leisurely if you want to go a second time.

4.The least you can do is tell your friends. It doesn’t cost you a thing to make some posts on social media talking about how cool the event is. You may even find a gaggle of friends/chosen family to get together and donate towards a ticket or two, and then have a blind drawing to see who gets them. But at the very least, if you support the event, there’s a better chance it will be back next year.

About Del

A shaman who writes about spiritual things, but not in that namby-pamby "everything is light and fluffy" sort of way.

11 responses to “I’ll Just Go Next Year!

  1. saemful ⋅

    You make a lot of good points, Del. I am one of the “I’ll go next year” people or I will argue with myself and others that I don’t have the funds. I tend to talk myself out of attending anything for X, Y, Z reasons which is no doubt curbing my experiences and absolutely limiting what I could be doing. You presented some ideas for making it happen that I hadn’t even considered.

  2. I’m one of the “I’ll go next year” people because I tend towards a lot of scarcity thinking when it comes to my concepts of time. I’ll also argue myself out of doing anything by citing my lack of funds and obligations to the family. This is, without a doubt, limiting the experiences that I have and I really do wind up frustrated with myself when I talk myself down from actually going out and meeting up with people or attending certain events. You make a lot of good points here about why I *should* go, and you’ve even provided ideas for making it possible that I never really thought of. “It’s actually a better bet to assume all events are one-time-only” is an especially good way to look at things and a good motivator for me.

  3. *hangs head*

    Well, I might as well admit it – you’re right about this. I have thought and behaved in the way that you’ve outlined in this post, concerning a particular upcoming Northern Trad event that, I just found out, has been cancelled for this year, due to lack of funding.

    So, I see your point. Lesson learned.

    Going forward, I will be more proactive in the future, and give support earlier to these events.

  4. Reblogged this on The Infinite Battle and commented:
    Recommended reading!

  5. I did everything I could think of, including a fair amount of money, to make one event run and nothing I did worked. I was sad, as the event in question was powerful for me and I was really looking forward to contributing more this year and introducing some new friends to some old ones. In my heart, I honestly wonder if it will run again. For me, that has become an omen to find other fits but we will see.

  6. Wendy

    Offering help and skills goes a long way. There was an event I used to love and attened regularly as volunteer/staff. I paid my own way to the first few I atteneded, but then I lost my job and started massage school. I emailed the organizers offered them epic massages for some consideration, and wound up having a blast making stuff happen. Someone’s got to set up chairs and make sure people have markers and dry erase boards!

  7. This was probably the biggest thing I took away from my experience at Ettinmoot: “This is awesome! These people are awesome! I’d love to do this again but… what happens when everyone doing this now can’t do it anymore?”

    It was painfully obvious to me that with one exception (whom I’m eternally grateful Ettinmoot gave me the chance to meet) that I was the youngest there and like you said Del… you and the other organizers and even most of the attendees were stretching yourselves to the limit to put this amazing event on.

    My biggest issue up till now attending events has been the difficulty of getting time off on the weekends. I’m the young guy, low man on the totem pole as it were, so up till now I’ve made a living saying “I’ll work that” when no one else wants a shift. Did a crazy thing when I got back and told my super “You know that group I was camping with while you covered for me this last weekend? They’re really cool people doing really cool things and I’d like to volunteer some time helping them out, but I’d need to not work weekends.” Apparently, the word ‘volunteer’ was all he needed to hear, and now we can work on getting me a schedulle that opens up my weekends.

    So… that’s in motion and will eventually be settled. In the meantime, is there anything a novice like me could be doing to lend a hand or two?

    • Del

      I think the biggest thing that the community needs right now are Pied Pipers. There are so many people who are interested or intrigued by what some of us are doing in real life, but they’re afraid or intimidated about actually showing up. What if someone tells me I’m not really a Godspouse? What if my God is horsed and they don’t pay any attention to me? What if I learn I’ve been doing it wrong all this time? What if no one is like me?

      As most people who have attended some of these events – and to be clear, I’m really not just talking about Etinmoot and/or Nine Worlds; there are lots of events I love that are up against the wall because people aren’t showing up – can attest, people-in-real-meat-space are much more interested in listening than judging; we naturally want allies, not enemies. Most of the Pagan and/or Northern Tradition events I’ve attended or participated in, have accepted me whole cloth. Me, who works with a Deity from a Graphic Novel, a Lokean, a loosely-affiliated Discordian, a madness shaman, with disabilities and queerness and all.

      I’ll even admit that myself, and to some degree my Clan, are trying to decide if we want to take over some of these events or create ones like them, so that the valuable resource doesn’t die. But like most event organizers, we really need to know that we aren’t going to get a bunch of false support – people saying that they absolutely want the event to happen, and will totally go, but when the time comes they don’t have the money, or the time off, or the right method of travel, or whatever. Again, putting on some of these events are a huge financial and energetic investment, and we can’t afford that if everyone is going to listfully sing the “…maybe next year” song.

      For a while I tried to keep an event that was geared towards spirit workers and shamans alive. However, I was beseiged with demands/requests about location, scheduling, cost, etc; when I started to find things that were an acceptable compromise, the people I had bent over backwards to accommodate happily informed me that they couldn’t attend this year after all. The event died after one year because we didn’t have a critical mass to keep it alive and running unless I personally oversaw each class, ritual, and other special event. I don’t have that kind of energy or time anymore.

      I know this is rambly and such, but I hope it begins to answer your question.

      • A Pied Piper… if I take your meaning correctly… the Pied Piper plays the tune that lures people out of their comfortable homes and ‘oh maybe next year’ lull and down to the river where all the fun is at? Suppose “Concert Promoter” is another good anology. Sounds like fun!

        Those “what if?” questions you brought up really hit home too because they mirror questions I was asking myself and had to come up with answers for leading up to actually showing up. Like you mentioned about “What if my God is horsed and he doesn’t pay attention to me?”, well ironically I heard after the fact that Odin was there briefly. I considered being upset about it for a minute or two, and then just kinda shrugged and figured if He’d wanted me to see that I would have. Suppose I can give a crack at helping some people to get over similar hangups.

        Thanks for the advice and feel free to snag me if you need anything along these lines!

  8. Elizabeth ⋅

    I see a smaller version of the “I’ll go next year” phenomenon all the time with trying to schedule yoga classes locally. People are unhappy when there aren’t a variety of classes offered, but then maybe, if you’re lucky, one or two people show up for most of them. My housemate has lost two jobs simply because not enough people showed up for class to justify paying him to teach, even though people said they *wanted* those classes to be offered.

    I understand that people like to have options, but they should remember that being someone’s option A or B or Z doesn’t pay the bills for event organizers or presenters, many of whom have to come up with fees and insurance costs out of their own pockets. Even canceling an event costs money — NWF cost 500 bucks this year because of a non-refundable deposit for the campground reservation, even though it has been canceled.

  9. People have to take ownership for an event to occur.

    One problem that I see that Pagans bump into is growing the next group of people to take over when the first group steps down. I noticed this in defunct groups that the founder has left. Either the group was set up as the founder doing the work, and everyone else was just being entertained (i.e. consumers), or the founder unconsciously founded a vanity group and didn’t take into consideration growing leadership. Committees who plan events have the same problem in recruiting new blood and setting fires under participants. Somehow the participants have to be stake holders in the event and not consumers i.e. what have you done for me lately, sort of thing.

    As for the money aspect… well much ink has been spilled over Pagans and money…. I do know of a Pagan CPA who regularly gave workshops on “Prosperity for Pagans” to teach the basics of accounting i.e. how to budget, etc. The CPA was well-received except didn’t get many folks….

    Anyway, there are two factors – one the money and the other is the developing of stake holders which needs to be addressed. Which of course this blog did. I hope more folks puzzle this out and write about it. Reading the comments was informative.

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