Monday, August 24, 2009

Rant: The Hordes Descend

This past weekend, I trekked to Vermont to check out the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. It was held at Shelburne Farms, in a large barn, and attendance was limited to 1000 people. I'll be posting much more about this event in the near future, as I found many good things there, but one item irritated me, calling to mind an issue I have had with similar events before.

Around two hours after the event began, it became extremely crowded, making it difficult to move around and access the various tables. Plus, the vendors were much busier and had far less time to talk about their products. Plus, as it was hot in the barn, it became even hotter and more uncomfortable with all of the extra people present. What had been a fun event at the start became much more of a chore.

I have been to numerous large events like this, both food and wine ones, and most often they get too crowded after a time. And when they become overcrowded, they stop being pleasant events. The Boston Wine Expo is a perfect example, hordes of people struggling to get a wine sample while producers and vendors can give only soundbites about their wines.

Is this really necessary? Do these events have to sell so many tickets? Obviously money plays a large factor as the more attendees, the more money that is generated. So those running the events have less incentive to limit the number of attendees. Now, this might be the most visible impact but there may be long term factors which are not being considered.

If attendees were better able to talk with the vendors, to learn more about the products, would they be more likely to become customers? Or is it sufficient to just allow people to taste wine and cheese, and then hope they like what they taste and become a customer? To me, I think the more personal touch would be better for the vendors, creating stronger a stronger customer base. I know I would prefer to speak with the vendors, to have them answer my questions.

There are several possible solutions for event holders to limit the number of attendees. They could just limit the number of attendees. Or they could hold an event over two days, limiting the number of attendees each day. Another choice would be to use a much larger venue that could better handle a large number of people.

What we attendees need to do is to contact the event hosts and tell them when we feel an event was too crowded. Let them know our displeasure. If enough people contact them about this problem, maybe they will do something about it.

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