- Many, if not most, of Richmond's festivals are food or drink festivals with music. This was a music festival with food. And drink. It was refreshing to see that in a town notorious for its drinking and famous for food, there were no lines for libations and precious few for food. People did jostle, however, for shady spots near the two stages.
- Speaking of space, this was in a remarkably small area, yet never became the madhouse of gridlock that Shockoe Bottom in particular can be when bacon, stew or shamrocks are involved. One reason may be that while there was a natural festival area, listening wasn't contained there. As the crowd grew, newcomers set up their chairs in the streets closest to the stages; apparently in New Orleans you don't have to go through a weeks-in-advance apply-in-triplicate process to close a street. It just happens.
-Free! I know that free festivals require a lot of organizing work and sponsors, but they really are the best. People love the Richmond Folk Festival because it's so amazing to hear such good stuff for free, and Satchmo Fest was just like that. I'm willing to do my part-put a "drop in the bucket" in RVA or buy drinks from the vendors in NOLA-to keep them free.
-I've always admired the RVA system of ID checks, bracelets and tickets when it comes to alcohol, and I was amazed that there was no such thing at Satchmo Fest. Old geezers like us can just step up and buy a mango daiquiri. Guess that's one reason it's called The Big Easy. Yet I didn't see lots of drunkenness; people were there for the music.
-I saw police, but their presence was low-key. Once we saw a drunk being escorted away from the stage. There was no struggling, no "incident."
-Children and children's activities were not kept separate from the rest of the festival. After they decorated umbrellas inside the Old Mint, the kids danced a second line behind the Tremé Brass Band as it made its way to the stage. A sponsor and seminar presenter, trumpet-builder Jason Harrelson, could be seen here and there talking to young players about their instruments. And a student group, The Roots of Music, had the honor of opening the festival with a second line from Jackson Square.
I know that my view of the festival is one-sided, but I certainly was impressed. I'm not saying that Richmond mishandles things, but I also believe there is much to be learned from a place where a certain amount of chaos, a certain amount of scofflaw attitude and a certain amount of laissez-faire is tolerated, not squelched.
How come the Chamber of Commerce never visits things like this when they explore other cities?