Jeffersonville newspaper says Harvest Homecoming is a local treasure of ad revenue. I’d rather study those economic impacts a bit more closely.

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Back on August 27, 2014 there was an excellent blog discussion about Harvest Homecoming and economic impacts.

Fear the gorilla: After all, Harvest Homecoming’s business plan has never been designed for inclusivity.

When citizens, businesses, or other groups go to the City to ask about using public space and are told they have to get permission from a private, non-elected, non-accountable, third-party, there are obviously issues. Eventually, someone is going to have to push the conversation along via civil disobedience. It would be helpful if the business/property owners most directly impacted would do it en masse. If HH doesn’t have to go before the Board of Works to secure the space in front of your building for that time period, then neither do you, right?

The year before that (October 13, 2013), there was this.

Amid the garbage, we contemplate Groundhog Day in New Albany.

The festival takes place because the city allows it to take place, always under Harvest Homecoming’s terms of engagement, and with what amounts to infrastructure subsidies for the festival that are not consistently applied throughout the remainder of the year (street department work , police and fire overtime, etc.)

And yet nowhere, neither in an ordinance nor on a granite tablet, is there a law that states Harvest Homecoming must occur in the fashion it does.

Retreating whole decade into the mists of time, to October 14, 2007,  a Tribune guest columnist (no, not me) considered Harvest Homecoming’s downtown context.

While thousands from the area descend on downtown New Albany, the location of the event could hardly be any less relevant to most attendees. Sure, Harvest Homecoming is in downtown New Albany, but it’s not of downtown New Albany. People stay in the streets, booths cover the businesses — little attention is paid to the locale. Since Harvest Homecoming fails to effectively tie-in to New Albany’s struggling downtown, why even hold it there at all? Tradition, sure. But the parking is better elsewhere …

I’m struck by one word in Daniel Robison’s 2007 piece, and that’s “struggling.” Most of us would say this is no longer the case. To be sure, much has been accomplished, but much more remains to be done, and complacency is something to be avoided just as fanatically as Pome-Granate-Rita.

However, one of Robison’s observations remains true. Harvest Homecoming is not about downtown, and it cannot be about downtown for so long as the festival’s “booth days” business model remains unaltered.

In fact, for all the generally exaggerated numbers quoted to the effect of Harvest Homecoming’s economic impact, my guess is that we’ll soon reach the tipping point on the graph, although we might be there already.

In short, this is the juncture where Harvest Homecoming’s traditional booth model suppresses more overall economic activity downtown than it generates.

At present, the festival and existing businesses must co-exist according to a grid, within a finite amount of space, as designed for one or the other to maximize, but not both. Progress has indeed been made in forging an uneasy compromise, but the overall dynamic remains one of tension.

Up to a point, in perfect weather, the compromises hold (ignoring the plain fact that the board it still tilted toward the primacy of Harvest Homecoming’s booth model, not the needs of year-round downtown stakeholders).

But spread this grid over a larger geographical area, so that fest and locals are not in direct competition, and wouldn’t the returns be greater for both?

This is exactly why the News and Tribune’s mention of 1,000,000 visitors is so mind-numbingly ludicrous. I expect very little from the newspaper’s editorial board, which strives always to achieve a certain acme of milquetoast, but in this instance there’s an obvious imperative to reward business-as-usual Harvest Homecoming-related advertisers at the slight expense of keeping creative long-term thinking safely sedated and boxed, never to escape the newspaper’s beige reality.

There are so many ways the Harvest Homecoming experience could be improved. None are likely to be considered, because it’s how we’ve always done it. As long as the newspaper profits from the status quo, so it will constrain.

OPINION: It’s been a great 50 years, Harvest Homecoming

 … Last year more than 700,000 visitors converged on the downtown during the four booth days, which this year began yesterday.

And with good weather in the forecast for this weekend, that number could grow. Maybe this is the year it tops 1 million visitors.

Harvest Homecoming is truly a local treasure. It’s all about community …

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