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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hey Mayfair, It's the Damn Fence!

Blogger's Note: I first published this story in 2006 after visiting Mayfair. It's the last time I went. According to The Morning Call, attendance is down about 30% this year. Executive Director Terry Glennon is blaming everyone and everything, except that damn fence or his own unwillingness to be flexible and creative.

Driving through the heart of Allentown to attend Mayfair, I was impressed by its large and lively Latino population, who seemed to enjoy the warm Saturday evening. Families promenaded along Hamilton Street, and a "gang" of about 5 kids pelted each other with buckets of water.

Well, those kids had more fun than me. Like Team Bush, Mayfair officials seem intent on keeping out the very Latinos I saw in inner city Allentown. Team Bush wants to build a 7 million mile fence around the US, and Mayfair officials surrounded their fair with an ugly chain link fence. They also charged $5 admission. I can't tell you whether they made you speak a few English phrases or produce citizenship papers because I hopped the fence as well as Jim Gregory, not too shabby for an old fart. I'm used to evading metal detectors at Easton's courthouse, so this was a snap!

I walked from one end of the fair to the other, saw about 7 or 8 Latinos, and they were the ones picking up garbage. Way to go, Allentown! In the spirit of diversity, "English only" Allentown was serving tacos served by cute blue-eyed blondes and did have a Caribbean stand with fake palm trees. Now you're going to say, "Wait a tic! There was a Latino radio station on Friday night!" To this, I respond, "Yeah, and some of my best friends are black."

The National Guard was one of Mayfair's heralded "artisans," with a rock-climbing wall for the kiddies. I think they were setting up a machine gun firing range as I left. For some reason, no stands were set aside for the artisans from LEPOCO, our local peace group. They probably couldn't afford the entrance fee.

In its heavy coverage of this event, the normally progressive Morning Call failed even to hint this festival might discriminate against Allentown's large low-income population, much of which is Hispanic. Well, its reporters may not have noticed. But as The Morning Call itself acknowledged in an editorial promotion, it's also a corporate sponsor, which explains its heavy positive spin. And let's face it, Allentown's Hispanic population reads some Spanish paper anyway.

What really kills me is that, not only did The Morning Call sponsor an event that was fenced to keep out the peasants, but the state also kicked in $50,000, thanks to two state reps. anxious to keep their jobs.

If Mayfair officials want to make money next year, I have a suggestion. Charge people who want to leave; they'll pay anything.


Mateo Braccili, who owns the Lehigh Valley's only Hispanic radio station, WHOL 1600 AM, was kind enough to assure me that, at least on Friday night, Mayfair had a large Hispanic contingent.

"As the owner of the largest and only full-time Spanish media, WHOL "Hola 1600am," I wanted to respond to your comments. MayFair dedicated an entire day to Hispanic's on Friday. Our radio station was the host for several Latino acts beginning at 4:00 pm - 10:30pm. Even though the weather did not cooperate, we managed to attract nearly 1,000 local Hispanics to our main concert event. MayFair also reached out to us to coordinate other events for the weekend as well.

"MayFair was at risk of not happening at all this year. It has become too expensive for the city and festival coordinators to present. The difficult decision of charging admission was necessary in order to continue the event. This was the case last year as well. Our radio station was among only a few chosen to help MayFair with entertainment.

"My suggestion for you is to attend MayFair next year on the day they dedicate to Hispanics. You will feel much better!

"I appreciate your thoughts and concerns. You obviously share the same passion about the Hispanic culture as we do."

I thank Mr. Braccili for his comments.


Mike Schware said...

Bernie -

I saw the story in the Call about Mayfair attendance being down. I find that stunning since unlike many prior years the festival had relatively good weather with little rain. However, the news report seems in line with my personal experience this weekend at the festival.

My family and I went to Mayfair Saturday night and arrived about 5:30 pm. We had no wait to pay admission, no wait to buy food tickets, and no wait to actually get our food. That was great for us, but not a sign of a healthy festival. Again, this is on a Saturday evening with great weather. We also noticed that there weren’t as many craftspeople selling their goods.

I agree that the decreased attendance is a direct result of the decision several years ago to put gates around the festival. Before the gating, our family used to go to Mayfair for at least one meal on each day of the festival. Now we only go one night, at best.

Mayfair organizers have made the festival a shell of what it used to be. They have been aided and abetted by Allentown City Hall, which continues to allow them to restrict access to a public park.

Since the gating, I've spoken at council meetings about the effect that the gating obviously has. I'm usually met with blank stares or told that the attendance is down because of the weather. That certainly wasn't the case this year.

When will those in charge find some common sense and realize that gating the festival is killing it? I'm not holding my breath.

However, it seems the city has a very good model to follow just a few miles to the east in Bethlehem (Musikfest). While I wouldn't want Mayfair to grow to the size that Musikfest has, I do think we can learn from their success. As far as I remember, Musikfest only charges for the major acts.

I also don't remember Musikfest complaining (as Mayfair organizers are quoted in the paper) that their attendance was down because of the casino, the Iron Pigs, or the Steel Stacks.

Anonymous said...

As one who decided to go to the car drawing night at the casino instead of heading to Mayfair I certainly can say that the casino was packed as usual for the last sunday of the month car drawing..You can't say this had little effect on mayfair..Also if the Pigs are in town, that will affect it also..I went when it wasnt fenced in and when it was..Much nicer since it's been fenced in..Just too many other things to do that are a lot closer than running to Allentown..But of course, I'm sure this is all happening because whites hate Hispanics..Give me a break Bernie!

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's not necessarily disdain for the Hispanics, at least not overtly. But one brief conversation with Glennon is all you'll need to realize how elitism has crept into this event. $5 to keep out the riff raff. Funny how Bethlehem can have a week long d\festival with nothing in place for the riff raff. Perhpas it's time to realize that we are all riff raff.

Anonymous said...

Disdain for Hispanics? The comparison of a border fence to stop illegals and the Mayfair fence only works by blowing the dog whistle that supposes Allentown Hispanics are illegal.

Anonymous said...

Lost me on that one 2:38..Either way, there are lots more to do these days and unless you are in Allentown it's not worth the trip.
Fence or no fence, I think they have much more to do to draw crowds there..

Anonymous said...

Border fence = to keep illegals out.

Mayfair fence = keeps out legal whites, blacks, browns, reds, yellows, and all who can't spare a fin.

Bad comparison.

The first is a good fence that will make a good neighbor. The second is a bad fence that exposed the lack of elasticity in Allentown's entertainment pricing, and poor management of Mayfair.

Anonymous said...

You do know Musikfest plans on moving their entire vent to the South Side and gating it don't you?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I know nothing of the sort. What I do know is that they are planning to host approximately 150 free events there every year.

Anonymous said...

I don't go to Mayfair because of the fence and admission. In the past I would have went a few nights and got a quick bite to eat, made a lap or two and drank a beer but I don't want to pay admission to buy overpriced food and beer. It use to be a fun and free way to kick off summer. I use to look forward to it but the admission and fence really turn me off.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 4:01! As I was reading Bernie's post I was pissed that he kept playing to the Hispanic community. I'm so damn tired of catering to these people. They want things just handed to them on a silver platter and appreciate nothing and give nothing in return. As for the comparison of the border fence to the MF fence....apples and oranges Bernie! 'nuf said on that topic.

But.... as for my attendance.... I have decided to boycott the festival entirely because when they first decided to put up the fence they talked about keeping out the riff raff. Well, I was someone who would go to MF, walk around and visit all the booths, collect some cards in hopes that at some point I would decide to purchase something or spread the word to other, and... yes, spend 10-20 in food tickets. But calling people like me RIFF RAFF truly offended me, and I vowed never to return. UNTIL THIS YEAR.... the ONLY reason I attended was because an out of town guest was here and she wanted to go. For a Monday, which should have been the biggest day of the event....I was embarrassed. The far end of the fair stunk to high heaven. The entertainment was lacking....sans the Allentown Band. And, if you are worried about ethnics being at the event.... it wasn't lacking on Monday! That's all I will say. I will NOT return to the horrible event!

Bernie O'Hare said...

" I'm so damn tired of catering to these people. They want things just handed to them on a silver platter and appreciate nothing "

"if you are worried about ethnics being at the event.... it wasn't lacking on Monday! That's all I will say."

Not too bigoted, are we?

Anonymous said...

About as bigotted as your comments, Bernie!

Bill said...

I don't go to Mayfair because of the fence and admission. The last year that either my wife or I went was the year before the fence.

Anonymous said...

It is the fence! The director should be fired. If he refuses to acknolwedge a problem, how in the ckdk can he run the business and isn't Mayfair trying to run at profit which makes it a business.
This guy's got a go.

Anonymous said...

I dont go to the Allentown Fair anymore either because of the fence and admission.They just wanna keep out Hispanics and the Riff Raff plus why all the country music? I also hate when people stare at me cause im skinny.