Saturday, August 22, 2009

What is Wrong about the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival

- The all-consuming lust for money.
This shows in all that they do. Some of it was almost embarrassing to watch.

- Ticket Prices
Between 2006 and 2009, ticket prices have gone from $90 to $130 for weekend tickets, which also ignores the standard, unavoidable Internet "Service fees" that they now charge, since switching from selling tickets at individual vendors to selling exclusively through an online service.

- That Online ticket vendor.
Used to be, you could buy your tickets at vendors all around the area, in locally owned, independent record stores. Now, online only, Whys should they support local businesses when they can eat the whole pie themselves and make it far less convenient for fans to get tickets?

- Parking Fees
This is new this year, and ridiculous. While those of us with full weekend passes are exempt, anyone with day passes are charged $10 a day to park. Which, I just noticed, is double what they state on their Myspace page.

- Ice, Ice, baby.
In prior years, while staying at the Sioux Lodge, our motel rooms of choice, you had to get pretty lucky at the ice machines on the first and third floors. The Ice went fast, but it wasn't too hard to get enough to keep your beverages frosty, just don't try and fill your cooler. Recently, they've fixed that. By removing the ice machines. Now, you can either compete with the other 96 rooms for ice from the single machine in the Teewinot Lodge, the equivalent of 4 blocks away, or, as the employees happily offer when asked, you can buy ice from the general store. At $3 a bag. Despicable. Especially when you consider....

- The Cost of the rooms
I love staying in the lodge at the festival. It fills with sounds of live music and laughter from the rooms. You have a convenient bathroom and shower, a place to sleep comfortably and it stays nice and cool thanks to a constant light breeze. Typically, after a year here, we would reserve the room again for the next year with a deposit. While talking with some other attendees, we learned that they had received a call a few months before the show informing them that the cost had almost doubled, and would they still like to hold their rooms? Now, Rich has remained mum on the costs this year, but I can only assume that they increased for us as well.

- The Rooms Themselves.
A few years back, when you stayed in the Sioux Lodge, you were greeted with a cozy fireplace in the corner, a full kitchenette complete with small oven, sink, fridge, battered utensils and dishes. There was a bunk bed, a cozy chair, a table and chairs, a couch and a queen sized Murphy's bed in the wall. In the last few years, they've remodeled all of that, keeping only the fridge, chair, table and making the bed a normal one.

What this does, is makes it hard to spend any long amount of time in the room, frankly. Making your own food is virtually impossible, and if you do, you have to do any cleaning up in the bathroom sink. Which is made even less fun when you consider that these rooms are typically serving 4-8 folks, and that bathroom is already pretty damn popular.

- Resort Amenities
This year at the resort, the restaurant was "Closed for a private event" which, we found out, was actually "Closed due to lack of employees to run it" If you wanted to eat, you either ate at the booths at the festival, of which, there was $5 a slice pizza, some Asian food, some Mexican, and a place that served burgers, jambalaya and other random food. Or you could go to the general store/deli, where you could feast on Starbucks coffee and a $6 burrito that had about a cup of filling in it. Or the Trap Bar, which had typically expensive bar food, but was pretty good, really. We never ate at the restaurant because we usually ate in the room, bringing our own planned meals, but I heard a lot of grousing about it being closed.

The hot tubs, both the one in the Day Spa/ Pool area and the one over in the main lodge were boarded up and shut off. What's up with that?

They removed the cozy porch swings from the main lodge as well, replacing them with huge recycling bins. I'm all for recycling my shit, but there were the same bins less than a quarter block in 4 directions. Apparently, it's blasphemy to walk that far to toss a can, but Ice is not environmentally friendly, so you have to walk a ways to get it.

- The Booths
In years gone by, there were around two dozen various gift booths and shops set up on the way to the festival. You could buy dresses, handmade beads, hats, toys, guitars, artwork, camping gear, face painting, hula hoops, cookies, candies, jam... essentially everything you would expect at a bluegrass festival. This year, they had either raised prices so high or scared off most of the booths, including the Weber guitar one, which was a standby. In their places, there was three clothing booths, all selling the same loose, hippie style tie-dye clothing, only one of which was made by hand, the other two were national brands, made in china. Two jewelry booths, a high end ski gear place and a huge tent that was plugging its cause "SAVE THE WEATHER!" Judging by the 6 inches of rain we got on Sunday, that booth was far more effective than I'd have thought.

The food booths were really disappointing too. Gone were the Cajun guys, the cinnamon almonds, the kettle corn, the turkey legs, all of the individual and crazy different booths, now, they all felt like they were run by the same guys, just with different themes in each tent. There was also three different places to buy your special commemorative Beer mug, which gave you the special privilege to buy beer to put in it. Bah.

- The music contests.
Every year they have a Mandolin and Guitar contest for amateurs, the last few years, the winner has been a kid. For instance, the guitar winner this year was around 11, and the mandolin winner was probably 17 and dropped his pick during the contest and had no stage presence. A sign that the contest runners lean heavily towards giving the prizes to kids rather than adults? The runners-up all got Medium T-Shirts. I know zero full grown men that can wear a medium T-Shirt. Then, of course, they announce the winners so late on Sunday that there are no other shirts larger to trade for.

There was more too, but that's enough, the major things that hurt the experience there. Keep in mind that I'm not asking for them to create a perfect festival experience, every one of these gripes are something that has changed in the last five years.

Next, the GOOD things about the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival!


Steve at Random said...

Boy, I didn't see any of these things in Cami's pictures...thanks for the insights.

Allison Van Vooren said...

First, the parking fees have been in effect for a couple years.... it is to encourage people to save the environment by riding the shuttle rather than driving themselves. Judging by the number of the people on the shuttle this year I'm guessing they caused MORE emissions.

Second, I won't give away Rich's secret on the price of the rooms. However, I will say that so many people cancelled their rooms after the price doubled, new reservations were given at the original rate. Lesson: better to be a new festival goer than to be a loyal bluegrass festival supporter. I wonder if this had anything to do with the low number of people there this year?

Third, as I walked around Sunday I thought, "It would be so nice to be sitting in the hot tub, in the rain, listening to the music." I can't think of a better way to end the festival... too bad nobody got the chance.

Kristopher and Crew said...

I guess I've just never noticed them before. I do like the shuttle that they've started up in the last few years. The less drunks careening down that hill, the better!

Attendance was quite low this year. I overheard an employee three years ago talking about how empty it was and there was even less this year. I really wish they'd realize that they would make more money if they charged 1/3 as much. I think they'd get twice as many people.

Sunday would have been PERFECT hot tub weather. Until the 6 inches of rain hit, of course! haha