H P Chamber Speak


History and value of festivals

Some activities just feel better when they’re done outdoors: buying art or books, listening to music, eating everything imaginable on a stick, drinking creative beverages or just watching a float pass by on the street. If any of this sounds familiar then you have probably been a willing participant in a festival.

The word festival is rooted in agriculture mainly because many festivals are associated with the time of harvest. It is during festivals that we socialize and break the monotony of our lives. According to psychologists, we need change at least every 15 days to maintain enthusiasm and good energy levels. Festivals fill this need in miraculous ways. They are a “harvest” of good feelings.

Festivals have both social and economic impacts in the community. In a chaotic and stressful climate happiness sometimes gets overshadowed by negativity, so the need for something fun, positive and outdoors could decrease that negative downward feeling. In other words, festivals can offer us the opportunity to forget our worries and celebrate the positive side of life, even if it’s just for a few hours or just a day.

Festivals also stimulate economic activity. We have learned through many studies that festivals generate business wealth and employment. Income is derived from ticket sales, and it is the festival-goer who is most valuable to local businesses for their secondary spending. Depending on the size of the festival, the economic impact of secondary spending can generate substantial income to the community. It can even be significant enough to justify and enable additional employment opportunities for local residents.

Festivals attract visitors. Visitors spend money, which boosts the local economy both on and off the festival site. Spending includes admission fees, parking fees, food, beverage, souvenir sales and more.

But off-site spending related to festivals generates revenue for the community, too. For example, visitors stop at local gas stations, coffee shops, restaurants, clothing stores and other local retailers.

Festivals can also provide free marketing and advertising for local businesses, because visitors usually talk about their fun experiences when they get back home. Nowadays, visitors also post their comments and photos on Facebook and/or other social media.

A little mentioned benefit of festivals is the strong relationships that develop in the festival planning phase. This is where the bonds among public and private organizations, government, and neighborhood groups are forged and where connections among elected officials, staff, volunteers and interested residents are made.

Although festivals can be great fun, careful planning is critical to the success of the celebration, and hosting a festival is not without risks and costs. While a successful event enhances a community’s reputation, a less-than-successful effort does just the opposite. One of the major concerns regarding festivals is the disruption to the community and this can come in the form of overcrowding, noise, litter, and other problems. However, careful planning can minimize, or even completely eliminate these potential problems.

The bottom line is that festivals are a great thing. They provide good clean fun, great food and a chance to meet new people. Celebration is healthy and invigorating. We need it. Go out and celebrate, festivals are waiting.

Some of this year’s festivals in Hyde Park include: BrewFest, 4th of July Parade, Nichol Park Sunday Concerts, 53rd Street Dinner Crawl, Silver Room Block Party, 57th Street Art Fair, Hyde Park Jazz Festival…and more.

JoAnn Fastoff Blackman is a long-time HydeParker and an award-winning author of both fiction and non-fiction books. Her various blogs have focused on environmental issues in and around Chicago. HPChamber Speak will appear weekly addressing issues impacting Hyde Park’s business community.