Author Topic: Friday morning NEAR-Fest start considered harmful  (Read 6233 times)

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Offline KE1L

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Friday morning NEAR-Fest start considered harmful
« on: October 12, 2015, 01:39:02 AM »
NEAR-fest's predecessor Hosstraders was once an event that started at 3pm Friday. Things didn't really get hopping until a couple of hours later (it took people time to set up) and the festivities continued well into the night. The food booths continued to sell long after dark. Sellers would set up lights and stay open until midnight, lots of groups gathered around campfires or gas heaters to ragchew through the night, and the jam would go on and on. In those days, there was a point to coming up on Friday evening after the work day; there was still lots of festing to be had and the deals weren't all gone yet.

Over the years there was pressure to start earlier and earlier. That eventually led to the present schedule, with a Thursday night camping area outside the main selling area and admission to the main area starting early Friday morning, with the selling starting at 9am.

This may be nice for the people who can devote their Friday to NEAR-fest, but it's not good for everybody. Anybody coming up after the work day - say, arriving at 6 or 7 in the evening - will miss most of the deals, most of the customers, and all of the presentations. The campground is nearly dead after dark; the food booths close, most of the sellers shut down, and the night parties are a shadow of their former self. Fewer people are even bothering to stay overnight.

Saturday is still somewhat alive, but mostly because people linger to see if they have won a door. (The sizable prizes that NEAR-fest gives out are a big draw.) There are few new sellers on Saturday these days and few new customers; people are just milling around looking at the same stuff all over again. Without the appeal of the Friday night activity, the few hours of the Fest on Saturday simply aren't enough of a draw to get a lot of new people to show up.

Why is all of this problematic? Because it means that unless you can get Friday off to come to the fest, there isn't enough that you can participate in to justify the trip. That's one of the reasons that the crowd is getting older and older; the people who still have jobs and the people who have children who are still in school are no longer able to come. (Another reason is that the ham population is getting older in general but that's a discussion for another day.) The status quo is making it impossible for newer generations of hams to fully participate.

How do we change this? I propose a radical solution: go back to the original schedule and open the grounds at 3pm. (And that means EVERYBODY except the food booths and perhaps the commercial vendors.) On that schedule things wouldn't really get going until 5 or so, and the people coming up to the Fest after work would not be left out. The classes and presentations would be in the evening on Friday or during the day on Saturday. There would be a lot more evening activity so there would be more incentive to stay overnight. With more people staying over Saturday would also be livelier, so we might even start to see Saturday-only Festgoers again.

One possible problem: at the October fest sunset is pretty early (6pm this year), so on this schedule most of the Friday buying time would be after dark. That might not suit everybody, especially sellers who are not prepared to come with lights. (Some selling spots lack electricity, making it difficult to provide lighting.) The later start would work better for the spring Fest; on April 29 of next year sunset won't come until 7:44pm, leaving a lot more time for daylight activity on Friday. (Next spring's Fest dates have not yet been officially announced so far as I know, but the list maintained by W1GSL lists them as April 29-30. If it is actually held, as is more usual, on the first weekend of May, sunset would be a bit later at 7:52.) So maybe the right thing would be to try a later start for the spring but stay with the early one for fall.

I expect this idea to be controversial. I want to hear your ideas, pro and con. But let's keep it civil, everyone!

Offline KE1L

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Re: Friday morning NEAR-Fest start considered harmful
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2015, 01:52:45 AM »
The computer geeks among you may recognize the reference in the title of this post. Way back in March 1968, Communications of the ACM published a letter by prominent computer scientist  Edsger Dijkstra titled "Go To Statement Considered Harmful". (Dijkstra's original title was the less confrontational "A Case Against the Goto Statement"; the published title was supplied by the magazine's editor, Niklaus Wirth, also a prominent computer scientist who later also became known as an advocate of structured programming.) At the time it was common for people to write so-called spaghetti code where the flow of the program would jump all over the place, sometimes motivated by a desire to conserve every last bit of program space. Dijkstra proposed what came to be known as structured programming, where the flow of program control stays in a neat structure of program blocks. Structured programming sometimes requires more duplication of code or additional factoring of code into subroutines, both of which have computational costs, but properly structured programs are easier to read and maintain so the methodology came to dominate computer programming. Other methods such as object-oriented programming has since challenged it but they still build on the ideas of structured programming.

Since then, many other papers and letters have used the "considered harmful" theme, including a 1987 response to Dijkstra titled "'GOTO considered harmful' considered harmful" that was also published by Communications of the ACM, and a 2002 web essay by Eric Meyer titled "'Considered Harmful' essays considered harmful." Linguist Mark Liberman claims that "considered harmful" was a journalistic cliche that predates Dijkstra's paper; he cites a letter published in the New York Times in 1949, "Rent Control Controversy / Enacting Now of Hasty Legislation Considered Harmful".

Offline GuinnessJohn

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Re: Friday morning NEAR-Fest start considered harmful
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2015, 01:49:18 PM »
Thanks for your suggestion.  However here are a few of the reasons why we will not change how we run now. Also, the "considered harmful" isn't a very good description of our start time considering that our spring event this year had the highest attendance since Near-Fest was founded!

 Under the suggested plan, we would only have time for two technical presentations as the "Ham Jam" uses the meeting room Friday night.  There are only two presentations available with availability of the meeting room on Saturday.  We start the presentations 90 minutes after the gate opens to give a chance for the people selling to get in and set up.  Many of them attend these sessions.  We consider these presentations an important part of the fest and are looking into ways to have even more of them scheduled during the event.

The commercial vendors don't want to sell at night.  Most of them want to get dinner and sleep after what for many of them is a long trip up to NH.  If we tell them that they will have only 3 or 4 hours of selling time Friday, many will not attend the event.  A lot of people come up to buy from the commercial vendors and with fewer of them we will have fewer attendees.   We need the revenue from the commercial vendors to run the event. 

Yes some people can not come on Friday but that is what it is.  Most people love the event enough to use a vacation day to attend Friday.  (Keep in mind that many of us that run the event use two vacation days twice a year, nearly a week of vacation time, to run the event, not to mention additional time traveling to other events to man exhibit booths at other fleas and festers promoting Near-Fest  Contrary to the persistant rumors that never die, we do not get paid!)   

These are but a few of the reasons the times will not change for the for seeable future.  We run Near Fest because we love the event, people, location, and hope that we are able to do so for as long as possible. 

Near-Fest is not Hosstraders. It has many similar aspects but it is not a re-branded Hosstraders.  For those of you who can simply just not attend Friday and dislike what you have on Saturday enough that you prefer not to attend Near-Fest at all, I would suggest the Boxboro Convention,, a Friday through Sunday event with most things happening later Friday into the weekend.  Near-Fest does not consider Boxboro a competitive event to ours.  It's quite the opposite, we consider it an event that is complementary to Near-Fest.  Also Boxboro is now an annual event, not every two years as was is the past.  Some of the same people who run Nearfest also run Boxboro.

If neither event works for you, start up another event somewhere with days and times that will work for what you see your target market of attendees.  If you do so, you can count on me being one of your attendees!  Just don't be silly and plan it for a date that has another Hamfest/flea going on.  You all are welcome to continue this thread but the days and times will not change.

John Flood KB1FQG
Managing Director Near-Fest

Offline W1RC

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Re: Friday morning NEAR-Fest start considered harmful
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2015, 03:40:50 PM »
NEAR-Fest Managing Director "Guiness John" has answered KE1L's questions more than sufficiently.  However there is one very relevant point that I would like to emphasize.

HOSSTRADERS never opened at 3:00PM on Friday.  Never happened.

The following information comes from someone who has been to them ALL from May 1976 to the one last weekend - me. Here is the story of how the opening times evolved.

In May of 1976 the HOSSTRADERS moved the event to the Deerfield Fairgrounds.  Previous three HOSSTRADERS were held at the Adams Campground in Seabrook NH.  Incidentally, 2016 will mark the 40th anniversary of the first HOSSTRADERS held at Deerfield.  We intend to celebrate this anniversary next year at both NEAR-Fests.

The early HOSSTRADERS were held only once a year in May and they were only one day, Saturday, starting at sunrise.  However people started arriving late Friday night and camping overnight.  Gradually they arrived earlier and earlier until they were showing up in the middle of the afternoon on Friday.  Naturally, the stuff got put out and shopping began earlier and earlier as well.   This did not go unnoticed by the Deerfield Fair Association Board members who finally told Norm, Bob and Joe that they would have to pay another day's rental for the grounds or not to allow anyone inside until Saturday if they didn't want to pay for an additional day.

Rather than roll back the opening time to midnight on Saturday they agreed to pay the additional charges.  However since fewer people showed up on Friday they had to adopt a new pricing model which was $20.00 per person until 3:00 PM when it dropped to $5.00.  This is perhaps where KE1L may have gotten the idea that HOSSTRADERS started at 3:00 on Friday.

In the early days at Deerfield there were no additional camping fees.  They came later.  Also in 1982 they began holding the event again in October.  The same admission policies applied.  In May 1994 HOSSTRADERS moves to the Rochester NH Fairgrounds and the admission policies remained the same.  The last move HOSSTRADERS made was in May 2001 to Hopkinton NH State Fairgrounds.  Admission policies changed somewhat because Hopkinton had a huge adjacent parking area to $10,00 per person and $10.00 per vehicle that entered the Fairgrounds.  You could optionally park outside the fence and save $10.00 if you so desired.

Yes, HOSSTRADERS did run a lot later into the night with all the festivities that KE1L has enumerated.  We all remember the original "Apple Crisp Lady" who was open into the wee hours of Saturday but that was because business was brisk and there were a lot of people wandering around the grounds with flashlights looking for "stuff". Those days are long gone;  we are all a lot older now and there is a lot less "stuff", thanks to ePay. eHam, PayPal et al.


MisterMike, W1RC
Benevolent Dictator

PS:  Since Deerfield Fair has a huge parking area outside the fairgrounds NEAR-Fest simply adopted the same pricing mode.  The idea is to keep the inside parking as much flea market as possible.

Offline KE1L

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Re: Friday morning NEAR-Fest start considered harmful
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2015, 09:32:08 PM »
Thank you for the answers, John and MisterMike.

I thought there was an intermediate period when Hosstraders opened at 3pm on Friday and there was no early admission. I could be wrong.

During the period when you could get early admission by paying extra only a few people came early. It was mostly the ones who had lots of stuff to sell and needed the additional setup time, and groups would often send one person early to stake out their traditional spaces. In any case, you weren't missing nearly as much if you couldn't be there during the day on Friday; as it stands now you miss nearly all of the talks as well as the prime buying period.

Yes, we're a lot older now. My concern is that the current structure of the Fest is discouraging the people who AREN'T older now. They are important to our future.