What can we learn from GoogaMooga's cancellation?

A riddle: How many drops of rain does it take to kill a GoogaMooga? The answer: None; GoogaMoogas aren’t killed by rain.

In case you didn’t know, the third and final day of Brooklyn's Great GoogaMooga food and music festival was canceled yesterday "because of the rain."  Unfortunately, the decision to close came in a drizzle, at approximately 12:30. Angry patrons had been waiting in line since 11am (when the festival was originally slated to open), and vendors had already started cooking for a day of fun, festivities, and potentially big $$$.

Spirits were high on Saturday, despite the constant light drizzle of rain.
Spirits were high on Saturday, as attendees toughed out the drizzling rain to enjoy the festival's exceptional line-up of food and music.

The closure reportedly resulted in sizeable losses for many of the small food business who had dreamt of big cash sales and profits. The reason for the early end – was it rain? Well, kind of. The rain caused “security concerns” and “potential damage to Prospect Park,” so it wasn't simply an issue of foul weather and sloppy footing. Sure, fewer people would come to an outdoor event in the rain, but hundreds of the hearty had already shown up at the time of cancellation. So the real death of GoogaMooga poor planning? Rain didn’t stop the Big Apple BBQ a couple of years ago.   Remember last year’s GoogaMooga—with huge complaints about long waits, limited seating area and vendors running out of food?  

To be clear, one would think that any outdoor festival would have plans in place for inclement weather, to ensure (barring another Hurricane Sandy or electric thunderstorm) the show could go on. Lots of little businesses count on it. They invest time, money and energy—and expect an organized event with well-defined contingency plans. The festival quickly announced they would refund money to VIP Sunday ticket holders. How about something for the little businesses?  

In my previous life, I had a large, off-premise catering business. If we didn’t think of every impossible possibility, we would have been out of business quickly, because—even with extensive planning—the unexpected happened. From the vendors' perspective, is there anything to be learned? Better to be very sure, before you invest, that you know all the "what-ifs". It's obvious that the possibility of bad weather should be an integral part of any planning discussion. At any off-site event—be it street fair, food festival or parade—there is always the unforeseen that can sour the sweetness of the day. Maybe traffic is gridlocked, the portable restrooms overload, or (like last year’s GoogaMooga) too much success and too little prep.

Alum Miguel Trinidad, Chef/Owner of Jeepney, was among the hard working vendors who contributed to the festival's success on Friday and Saturday.
Alum Miguel Trinidad, Chef/Owner of Jeepney, was among the hard working vendors who contributed to the festival's success on Friday and Saturday.

The real benefit of such events is cash in the pocket. I doubt that food vendors will win many new customers. Nor do the participants expect a real restaurant experience, sandwiched among throngs of sweaty New Yorkers, loud music and portable potties. Restaurants sell 4 products – food, service, ambience and sizzle. At most food festivals, the only one that appears is the food, which can be highly suspect at many outdoor eat-a-thons. If there is anything to be learned from the festival's cancellation, it's that we all ultimately answer to a higher authority. Let the festivals continue, but expect the unexpected.

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