(presented by Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson, Mayor (Harrisburg (Mayor)))
I largely ignored all the complaining about the event’s name change. I think the name change was silly, sure — but it’s still an event. It’s still an excuse to get outside. It’s still free, it’s still accessible to everyone, it’s still festive, and we still have fireworks. In theory, it should be exactly the same as last year but with different letters on the banners. Right?
Yeah. The thing about theories is that they aren’t always right.
Put simply, the place was deserted. I’m being generous when I say it had about one-fifth the crowd of ArtsFest, and if you told me it was actually only one-tenth, I’d believe you. Where ArtsFest was mostly shoulder-to-shoulder just about everywhere, the Harrisburg Jazz & Multicultural Festival had wide-open spaces.
Food vendors were standing around idle. This is really unfortunate when you consider each vendor’s cost (fuel, registration, time, staffing, supplies, and product). If you wanted a $6 slice of pizza or a basked of “FRIED VEGIES”, you could slip right in without any wait.
The vendors weren’t the only ones to get the shaft. Of all the bands I saw across two days, none drew a substantial crowd. It’s not because the bands were bad (they weren’t) or because the weather was bad (it wasn’t) or any other indirect cause. It’s just that the people weren’t there.
So why did the event flop? It’s pretty unlikely that the name change had anything to do with it. Most of us don’t care what it’s called. Even with this year’s ridiculous mouthful of a name, it’s still our city’s Independence Day celebration. Combined with perfect weather and a saved-at-the-last-second fireworks display — not to mention remaining completely free while more people are finding themselves unemployed or out of money — it really should have been a decent event.
My own personal theory — and you don’t even have to buy into it — is that Linda Thompson has, since day one, behaved in such an arrogant and confrontational manner that nobody wants to be associated with her anymore. And even though she pulled her name off the event at the last second, the damage was done. She got what she wanted. People saw this as “her” celebration.
Linda Thompson takes a lot of flak for things that aren’t her fault. She didn’t build the incinerator with her own two hands, nor is she personally responsible for our finances being where they are today. But this one is all her.