This weekend, I went to two festivals. I was really hoping that one or both of them would be super cool and I could tell you about how awesome it was. Instead, I’m going to tell you how lame they both were. I’d rather tell you about cool festivals than lame ones, but I didn’t go to any cool festivals this weekend. Did you?
#1: GO FESTIVAL
The first festival was on Saturday at the Royal Exhibition Building. It was called the GO Festival and was billed as “the ultimate girls’ day out”. So a girlfriend and I decided to go because we’re getting tired of going to the mall every weekend like a couple of teenyboppers. I mean, we’re in our late 20s and it’s past time we broadened our horizons.
We couldn’t get there until the afternoon because my friend had a morning fitness class, so we got there around 2pm, hopeful that we would still have time to see everything. Well, we need not have worried. I’d never been to the Royal Exhibition Building before and it looks big from the outside, but the festival space wasn’t that big (smaller than most fair pavilions, for sure). We had seen all the vendors within an hour.
Our favourite vendors were the lady with the photobooth who was letting people take pictures with props for free. We each got three photos on a film strip. That was pretty cool. We also liked the lady who was doing free body fat analyses, until she told us we were both overfat, despite leading pretty healthy lifestyles. (Okay, I already knew I was, but it’s different when someone else points it out!)
Other than that, there were a few psychics, a few local fashion designers, a lot of fitness and health related booths, aaaaaaaaaaaand that’s pretty much it.
They had three stages with events going on. One was strictly for cooking demonstrations, which neither of us was interested in. We stopped by the main stage to see some talk called “Celebrity Fitness: Train Yourself Sexy” by a guy who spoke in a monotone and had no stage presence whatsoever. If he said anything useful, I wouldn’t know because he lost my attention within two minutes and eventually we just got up and left. We might have stayed longer if he had been shirtless and demonstrating cool fitness moves, but he wasn’t, so no point in hanging around.
We also listened to a 15 minute talk on the Health & Wellness stage about organising your wardrobe, which I was keen to hear because my wardrobe is a disaster, with lots of deep shelves and only one small hanger rail. It was pretty basic stuff, though. I guess if you really need someone to tell you that hanging your clothes is better than folding them, you might have gotten something out of it. I was hoping for some tips on how to organise when hanging isn’t an option.
Back on the main stage was a “fashion parade”. We caught the very end of it. One bit was plus size clothes and the last bit was very ugly wedding dresses. We hung around afterward for a talk on why protein is good for you, which was clearly geared towards people who don’t even know what protein is or what foods contain it.
At this point, we were getting bored, having seen everything there is to see and generally being sick of people trying to sell us gimmicky weight loss products. (Apparently, the organisers think women are predominantly interested in weight loss, because that was 75% of the offerings.)
We were also very hot. The building was incredibly warm and stuffy with only a few fans here and there. And there was almost nothing to eat or drink. Despite all the weight loss advertising going on, the only food available to buy was tucked away in a corner and all they had was overpriced junk food. So after two hours, we left and went to get an early supper somewhere else and complain about what a disappointment the whole thing had been.
The website had advertised free massages, which would have been awesome if it hadn’t been so hot. Who wants to be touched and rubbed on when they are all sweaty? Ew! They also advertised free makeovers, of which we saw none, and free product samples, of which there were only a few. (I got a small tube of sunscreen and we both got a sip of a disgusting protein shake. Big woop.)
Verdict: Now then. This is the first year they have done the GO Festival. I wouldn’t go again next year, but if they’re still doing it again in five years, I might consider it if it sounds like it has gotten any better. However, after paying $15 each for admission, plus $16 in parking charges, I felt pretty ripped off. I would have rather spent that money at the mall and had something to show for it. The concept is okay, but it needs a LOT of work.
My suggestions would be to stop focusing on stereotypical “girl” things like weight loss and other beauty related things and more on, um, interesting things. A self-defense workshop would not go amiss, though I’m not sure that would be as popular with Australian women as American ones. I’d also be game for an outback survival skills workshop. Or crafts. Why weren’t there any craft related things there? And if you want to keep the weight loss aspect of it, ditch the boring talks and actually have a few beginners classes in popular workouts like Zumba, Pilates, or pole dancing (my friend swears by the last one).
#2: SWISS FESTIVAL
I was actually really looking forward to the Swiss Festival. Melbourne (along with all other Australian cities, so far as I can tell) doesn’t really have any kind of German cultural festival. G tells me that Club Tivoli, the German club, used to do a really good Oktoberfest, but apparently they don’t do it anymore. So we were hoping to get our kicks at Swiss festival and I really wanted an excuse to wear my dirndl, even though the heat was sweltering.
Sorry to say, the Swiss Festival was an event bigger disappointment than the GO Festival. It was held on Queensbridge Square in the middle of a hot summer’s day. There was NO shade. Would it have killed them to set up some tents over some of the seating? If you wanted to watch any of the performances, your only choice was to sit in direct sunlight. And why bother anyway, because the acoustics were so bad you couldn’t hear anything anyway.
Now, my grandfather used to be a professional musician before he died and he had an alphorn duo and an alphorn quartet that he played with. I never got to see him play as often as I would have liked, so I was looking forward to seeing the alphorn musicians, along with the yodelers. Because we couldn’t hear them from the front of the stage (if they were amped at all, it was a very bad setup), we actually crept around to the side of the stage where the acoustics were better.
They looked very sharp in their traditional dress, but the aural experience wasn’t quite what I would have hoped for. I hate to put down any other musician’s work because I know how personal those kinds of comments can feel, so I’m not going to nitpick. However, they sounded like they hadn’t rehearsed at all and there were several moments were people were badly out of tune. I’m sure singing in the heat was no fun and they were all probably thirsty, but I can’t help but be disappointed in a poor performance from one of the few acts that was so quintessentially Swiss. They were followed up by some Asian break dancers (what does that have to do with Switzerland?), but at a Swiss festival, I really just want to see excellent yodelers and alphorn players because when else are you going to see that?
There was some food on offer. For $5 a piece, you could get a bratwurst on a stale piece of bread. The bratwurst was just okay, the bread not so much. The heat was sort of an appetite killer, but under normal circumstances, I would have been interested in sampling most everything. Instead, we just had the bratwurst and decided we didn’t want to spend any more money on mediocre food. There were crepes, waffles, ice cream, coffee, beer, some weird chocolate flavoured soda, and a couple other things I might have missed, but the lines were sort of long and disorganised, the food overpriced, and there was an air conditioned 7-11 selling Slurpees just across the square, so 7-11 won out over the vendor food.
The website said that Lindt would be giving out free chocolate at the festival, but they were nowhere to be seen. Also not to be seen, but advertised on the website were pretzels (my favourite, after chocolate), cotton candy, and artisan cheeses.
Besides eating mediocre food and watching mediocre entertainment, what else was there to do? Answer: nothing. The other vendors were all pretty much just advertising. There were tourism vendors and the Swiss consulate had a booth and SBS German radio was there, but no one goes to a festival because they want to be advertised to. They go because they want to be entertained.
Also, they go to a Swiss festival specifically to see and do Swiss things. The only people who were even in traditional dress (besides me, dork that I am) were a few grumpy old ladies selling second hand books and some of the entertainers. I don’t think I even heard anyone speaking German, which was a bit sad. G tried to speak German to a few people, but they just gave him confused looks.
Verdict: It was basically the lamest, most boring festival I’ve ever been to in my entire life. And they don’t even have the excuse of it being their first year. I’m just glad there was no entry fee and we were able to find free street parking. There wasn’t even remotely enough going on there to entertain people for very long. Certainly not enough to call it a “festival”. In my opinion, if you can’t entertain people for an average of at least three hours, don’t even bother.
But I hate to say “just cancel it” because there is a serious dearth of Germanic heritage celebrations in Australia. So my suggestions might be for the Swiss to team up with the Germans and Austrians and try doing a nice Oktoberfest-style celebration that’s actually big enough and fun enough to be called a festival. Set some standards for the performers and try to think about what people would actually like to see. Provide shaded seating areas. If possible, it’d be great to have vendors who are actually selling real Swiss/German/Austrian products, since those things can be hard to find here. I’m sure there must be someone who imports those things. Doesn’t matter what it is, but it’d be nice for those of us who come to such festivals because we can’t actually afford to fly to Europe all the time. Oh, and encourage people to wear Tracht. The more people who look the part, the better the atmosphere is. Those are my suggestions. I’d consider going again if they did at least some of these things, but if not, I’ll skip it from now on.
And from now on, I’m going to be a lot choosier about which “festivals” I go to and only attend the ones that have a solid reputation for being awesome.