Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Love the event; hate the politics



Even though this isn't my official platform for such expression, I'm gonna go right ahead and rant about the occasionally less than pleasant aspects of my involvement with the Garden Walk. Everyone works very hard on this committee, but sometimes I think the success of the event has adversely affected what used to be a fairly laid-back and friendly group.

Here's what I do for the event: I help a small sub-committee choose the artwork for the poster and map. I have a background as an art critic and curator, so that's something I enjoy doing. Then, I help organize and edit the entries for the map, in which each of the over 250 gardeners describe (briefly) their garden. Throughout the year I assist with writing or editing the PR for the event (and now the book), and I purchase and serve the beverages for our yearly "rally," about a month before the Walk.

There are plenty of people who do more than I do; I particularly do not envy those who have to organize and man the 3 headquarters for the Walk, dealing with the hordes who come rampaging through searching for maps, directions, water, and god knows what else.

Anything that involves envelope stuffing I avoid like the plague.

Garden Walk has really grown in 13 years. We now also give grants to community gardens; the committee that governs this seems to think a whole bunch of small-dollar-amount grants is the way to go. I don't, but I steer clear. It's great to be able to give the awards, though, and I'm sure they will grow as we have.

Finally, there's a rather awkward situation where some of the committee seem unable to accept that one of our gardeners—who has a truly spectacular garden—sells some of his extra seedlings during the event. It's a Garden Walk no-no, but, c'mon, who gives a flying —? Yeah, whatever.

So, in spite of everything, my impulse is still to say "It's all good." And it is.

Rant out.

19 comments:

lisa said...

I agree with you-what's the harm? And exactly WHY is it a no-no? I can see where you wouldn't want the Garden Walk to turn into some plug for a local retail outlet (or worse-Home Depot-yikes!) But if some gardener wants to sell off some extra stuff, big deal. I say it's compensation for the trample-factor of all those people strolling through. Maybe y'all could take a vote of some kind and declare it a "non-no-no"...perhaps with the caveat that you won't necessarily encourage it. There's my 2 cents. ;-)

EAL said...

Well, the problem is that people would sell all kinds of tchotchkes if they could, so we have this rule.

Some have garage sales. It can get quite tacky.

I would just like to look the other way in this case. And it is only plants, his own. if only we could just forget about it and never talk about it at these meetings.

That's the problem with meetings.

GOD it is a PAIN to leave a comment here! I am emailing blogger now while I am still mad!!

Julie said...

Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look (very tactful) at what it takes to put such an event together.

A wise person I know said, "Star Trek had it wrong. Space is not 'the final frontier.' Human relations are 'the final frontier'!"

Congrats on being a garden astronaut,
Julie

Anonymous said...

What kind of seeds does the bloke like to sell?

LostRoses said...

I think it would be rather nice to be able to buy a seedling of a plant I'd admired while on a garden tour. After all, aren't these just "passalongs" with a price tag attached?

Let's see, I wouldn't hold a garage sale at the same time as a garden tour but if my neighbor did I'd make sure I had some of my stuff over there to take advantage of the foot traffic!

I admire your participation in the myriad behind-the-scenes duties of a huge event like the Garden Walk. I'm really looking forward to seeing pictures of it!

Nancy J. said...

Although not involved with GWalk, I do enjoy the event, as a city gardener. It seems that selling cuttings, or extras from one's garden is appropriate to the event - as lostroses posted. Lighten up, those who need some lightening. Shun the garage salespeople, but not the pass-alongers.

Jim said...

I'd like to weigh in.

Since the beginning of Garden Walk, thirteen years ago, the committee has discouraged sales of any kind. The committee members all agreed the focus should be on the gardens. While they can't control what others do, they can politely discourage gardeners on the Walk from selling stuff.

At the very least, it should be assumed that the committee members should not participate in sales. If it's a "policy" then committee members should lead by example. This particular gardener selling plants has been a valued member of the committee for many years. And a great spokesperson and enthusiastic promoter of the event.

I, personally, don't care. I'd just assume turn the other way. There is no harm done. And I have heard from people visiting for the Walk that look forward to see what he's got, and appreciate that he's got LOADS of knowledge he likes to share about the plants sold, since he grew them from pups.

On the flip side, others tell me other items are sold: imprinted water bottles, t-shirts, frisbees and other items. And some have said that it looks like a nursery supplies some plants. That's all hearsay, as I've not been there during Walk years and don't know first hand and have not asked. I don't want to know.

Naysayers say there's issue of selling plants and not having the permit to do so. And sales tax. Also, some visitors that had been through said they didn't know if it was a Garden Walk fund-raiser or not. This gardener spends buckets of money on their garden to delight the masses. But so does everyone gardener on the Walk.

And I should also say it's not only this gardener. Their sales of plants is the least of my concerns. More than a few churches have opened their doors for craft and jewelry sales over the years. One of my neighbors, not even on the Walk, was selling bulbs to benefit a literacy charity, calling it the Garden Walk Bulb sale. Another community group intended to have a mini arts festival called the Garden Walk something-or-other.

Because of dilution of the purpose of the event, and insurance reasons, we politely tell these groups we discourage sales and to NOT use the Garden Walk name. And good luck with their event/sales.

I certainly don't want the committee to be hard-asses with the reputation of the group that puts on the Allentown Art Festival. But if we're promoting and throwing the event, and inviting tens of thousands of people to visit the city, ABSOLUTELY FREE, if money is being exchanged, shouldn't Garden Walk be a beneficiary?

We're a non-profit too, sometimes competing for attention and donations at our own event!

It's not inexpensive to put the Walk together, and any monies left over have gone toward producing the Garden Walk Book & DVD (one of the best PR pieces this city's ever seen) and goes to block clubs and community groups for gardening beautification projects.

Full disclosure: The Garden Walk Group itself is not immune to commercialization, to the chagrin of many long-time committee members, GW now accepts corporate sponsorships, no ads though. There is a donation solicitation "newsletter" that goes out to people who have expressed an interest in getting their Walk maps in the mail ahead of time. GW gives away t-shirts and books/DVDs with different levels of contributions. GW is even looking at offering other Garden Walk items for purchase.

EAL said...

Thanks for commenting Jim. You make some very good points. To be honest, I could have laid out more of the issues, but wasn't sure how far to get into it.

LostRoses said...

You don't charge an admission for Garden Walk? What are you thinking!!

Layanee said...

Sounds like a great event politics aside!

jim said...

Yeah, I gave too much information, but this is one place I can rant.

I agree with your post from months back that these Garden Walk meetings are great for discussing t-shirt prices, database mailing lists, and headquarters volunteers. There's little or no discussions of plants and gardens.

That's why I read gardening blogs!

susan harris said...

Lord, I could post reams about the politics of starting the Master Gardener program in DC. It gets ugly, personal, utterly crazy. But the spirit of gardening and community service will prevail!
I too hate the hassle involved in leaving comments and have you noticed that sometimes Typepad occasionally will require word verification for the Rant? Don't know why, but I seriously wonder who can read the damn things coz I sure can't. Sometimes I've tried 3 times and just given up.
Now let's see if I can get this damn comment to publish.

Joe said...

First, let me say that gardening should be a relaxing and fun endeavor. Things like "regulations" regarding a free garden tour that relies on homeowners spending their own money to make the event a success seem out of place to me. The thing that people seem to forget is that here, in the United States, we have personal freedoms. It seems that Buffalo has an inordinate amount of overzealous activists trying to control everything in the city under the guise of different "community based organizations". Our communities are made up of many different kinds of people with different kinds of tastes. Thats what living in a city is all about. If you want a say about what your neighbor should or shouldn't be doing, move into a managed community or into a co-op building. If you'd like to limit things, don't do it from a committee. Take a poll of the homeowners who are participating in the event. Someone with an ax to grind sitting on an key committee can certainly change the atmosphere of the organization. From everyone I have talked to, no one seems to care who is selling what. Let the people decide, if frizbees and imprinted cups, or bulbs or whatever are deemed out of place by the people, they will not sell, and probably wont make a return appearance. I guess what i'm saying is lets not ruin something that has brought so much to our community because of something so petty. Most of the gardeners don't care!

Anonymous said...

As we all know, humans can f^&* up anything. What a shame.

EAL said...

Well, it's hardly ruined. most don't even know about this issue.

Just an FYI, if this conversation continues, I do expect civility and I will delete anything that's not. Not that there's been anything bad yet, but I'm not a big fan of anonymous comments and so issue this caution.

Jim said...

Hey Joe, if you live in the Buffalo area, would you like to join the Garden Walk committee? You're apparently passionate and have thoughtful opinions. if you were in on the planning for the event, you'd be a value member. A challenge for the group going forward is to get more/new people involved in its planning.

To say that GW has "regulations" is putting it strongly. Again, because of dilution of the purpose of the event (gardens), and insurance reasons (can't have people attending a non-Garden Walk event thinking that it's part of Garden Walk) these groups are politely told that GW discourages sales and to NOT use the Garden Walk name. And good luck with their event/sales.

GW has never told anyone they can't sell stuff. And never will. Because it can't control it. The only control it have is to have someone's garden on the Walk, or not on the Walk. And that issue has yet to come up.

A poll of the gardeners on the Walk, on this and other subjects, is a good idea. It's been talked about in the past. It's a good project for the Fall, after the Walk.

EB said...

Great comments which provide a fuller understanding. I know the gardener referred to and don't have a problem with his "sale". It comes from the participants' demand. It would be a loss to the Garden Walk to alienate anyone. I believe the people attending can decide for themselves if they want to purchase from any type of sale while on route. It's one more aspect to a great event.

Ginger D. Schroder said...

I agree with the last person who posted.....I am not opposed to the practice of selling off any garden seedlings, plants or the like (I would continue to discourage yard sales etc as they are not garden related).

I am a staunch capitalist, therefore, I believe the market indicates the right path in all circumstances and will tell us what is the right decision. If folks coming into town for the walk thought it was tacky or wrong or were simply uninterested, they would not buy….if they do not buy there is no incentive to sell. The buyer creates the market.

However, I suspect that there is a market and interest (hence the sales). If that is the case, why should the committee concern itself???? Especially with respect to someone who has bled red for this event, like this committee person. For the detractors, don't you all have more critical things to be concerning yourselves with? I do not mean that in a pejorative way, I am being sincere. There is so much to do with respect to this event and you all have accomplished so very much to be proud of. I really applaud all of the folks who give so much of themselves to make this event a success. But, there is much work left to do and so many ways to increase its visibility, isn't all this emotional energy better spent elsewhere?

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