Tuesday, the second day of Porcfest & ForkFest, we went cliff jumping with some friends at a popular area nearby. Also, the Space Disco starts really coming together with the lights and music. Fun night with early arrivals.
I learned that Rogers Campground reserved all available spots in the first three rows (“Agora Valley”). Yesterday I speculated that the vendors were responding to former intrusion in the marketplace by the heavy hand of FSP Inc bureaucracy by not renting sites in Agora Valley. That was wrong! Instead the truth is they are opting to come later in the week.
In previous years, FSP Inc had required all vendors in Agora Valley to register and be set up to sell to attendees ALL WEEK LONG, from the beginning of the festival to the end. That’s a heavy burden for some. They want to maximize for profit and fun, and it should be their choice whether they want to be there selling for one day or seven days. If they have employees to pay, this could mean they can’t even operate due to the high cost of paying labor all week.
Instead, this year, vendors choose. Good.
Monday morning of PorcFest started out slow. “Oh no,” I thought. Nobody’s coming. But by the evening it was clear that PorcFest was indeed happening. It has become a lot more spread out. In the past, most of the activity happened down on the main field. Entrepreneurial people saw the opportunity to sell things to the people concentrated there and began renting sites close to the field to capitalize on the market. Over time, FSP Inc began charging the vendors for their prime real estate, imposing rules and restrictions, and creating bureaucracies to manage what they affectionately named “Agora Valley.” Well intentioned I am sure, but the results were perfectly predictable: No more vendors in Agora Valley.
The effect of the regulations are that everyone dispersed throughout the campground. Even though FSP Inc tried to reverse course by removing most restrictions and “property taxes,” it was too late. The market internalized the new reality. The last vestige of control remains: In order to reserve a site in the previously coveted first three rows of campsites, one must first contact an official PorcFest organizer and state their intention for a particular site; then he contacts the campground, and only then can the vendor call up the campground and claim their desired sites. This caused huge delays reminiscent of a Politburo. Now when you drive into the campground for Porcfest, you see rows and rows of empty campsites. In the past, the field and its adjoining sites were bursting with activity. The good news is that there is plenty of activity to be found around the campground with “splinter cells” emerging from this diaspora. People going their own way. Fewer monopolies. More coffee served in more places. Lower barriers to entry, but less economies of scale.
Also one interesting thing is that transportation technology has changed the game at PorcFest. Now everyone has these electronic transport pods — scooters, skateboards, wheels — that they are flying around on really fast. It is really easy to get from one end to the other. “It used to be a pain to get to where Ernie is, but I rode the wheel over there, and it was a pleasure,” said Porcfest attendee Steven Zeiler. This year’s Porcfest is big, it is exciting, it is high energy, it is fun, and I think everyone involved (including attendees) are doing a terrific job bringing the best they have to offer.
This is a microcosm of the freedom experiment, and if we are to succeed on scale, then we must succeed in our independent mini village in the woods. Good to see Porcfest moving away from central control and more in the direction of what they are now calling “Independent offerings,” and they now play a more supportive role rather than a central planning role. Good!