Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thoughts on the 2010 Livable Communities Fair

The 2010 Livable Communities Fair was a shadow of the 2008 event. The 2008 fair was a one day free event held on a Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. This year's fair was a portion of the Puyallup Spring Fair, a four day event with an entrance fee, held at the Puyallup fairgrounds.

I wonder if the organizers thought that combining it with a well-attended event such as the Puyallup Spring Fair would give it increased exposure. The fair will continue through Sunday, but my impressions from attending it yesterday is that it might not, for several reasons:

--The Livable Communities Fair has its own tent/pavillion, and you have to intentionally enter to see the exhibits there. With so much else going on at the fair (carnival rides, performances, a livestock fair, etc.), people seem unlikely to accidently drop in. The few people I saw wandering around there yesterday already seemed to have an interest in sustainability/eco-living, and made a point to visit.

--I also got the impression that people are eager to visit the sections that have been long-time parts of the Spring Fair, such as the livestock exhibits. A new component, without something special to draw people, might not get a whole lot of attention.

--Some of the types of exhibits that might have been a part of the Liveable Communities Fair two years ago are now split with other exhibit halls. For example, there is a kids' pavillion with activities for young children that was packed with people, and groups such as health care providers and even the Master Gardeners have displays there, rather than in the Liveable Communities tent.

Although having such groups in the kids' tent is great, this saddens me a little, because one of the things I loved in 2008 was the wide range of exhibitors at the Livable Communities fair, demonstrating that the types of programs that make a community "livable" go far beyond environmentalism/eco-friendliness (although those are two important aspects of liveable communities).

--Even taking into consideration the other exhibit halls, the number of exhibitors was greatly reduced. This might be because this year's event requires more time (four days rather than one) or more travel (to Puyallup, rather than downtown Tacoma), and some organizations just couldn't make that commitment. There may also have been a greater cost to participate, although that's just pure speculation on my part.

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