Pop Rocks: As arts festival grows, so does need for better flow

Women cook masala dosa, a rice crepe with potato filling, at the India tent on the Augusta Common on Saturday at the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival.

The growth of an event can be both inspiring and hard. It can lead to new highs as well as new challenges that must be acknowledged and addressed.

 

It doesn’t matter if said event is relatively new or a beloved tradition. Growth nearly always comes with some trial and error. It is the nature of all dynamic things. The natural order of things cares not if intentions are noble – the unexpected flaw or loophole will always provide a roadmap for organizers to move more effectively forward.

If this were Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum would back me up on this. As it’s the Arts In the Heart of Augusta festival, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Please, make no mistake. Arts In the Heart is an event nearly unparalleled in terms of its success and rightfully so. It is exceedingly well organized, booked and executed. That does not, however, mean there is not room for improvement.

This year, a veritable United Nations of food vendors were added to the festival, requiring the Global Village, which usually occupies the Augusta Common, to spill over onto Broad Street.

On paper, that’s excellent news. It certainly smelled like excellent news.

The issue, however, was that this change in established festival geography came as a surprise to many and left those overflow groups in something of a culinary Siberia.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like people didn’t venture down Broad and discover those vendors, but often, when they did, they were not looking for them.

Food is something you seek. It’s not much of an impulse purchase, particularly when there’s so much available, and probably sampled, elsewhere and in a spot more expected.

Now, clearly, the answer is not to squeeze all these groups and grills into the Augusta Common. That math just doesn’t work. Nor is the answer to exclude groups.

Arts In the Heart is clearly an event where more is, in fact, more. I think what needs to be addressed is a question of flow.

Part of the problem with the existing layout is a real sense of separation between the two food areas. Instead of having food seamlessly feed into Broad Street, it really felt like separate areas, with the Broad Street area feeling substantially inferior.

There are, of course, complications. The infamous Broad Street parking pits prove something of an obstacle for those looking for an easy route from the Irish whiskey cake to the delicious Swedish meatballs.

Still, putting all the food on the common and the river side of Broad would go a long way toward ensuring the festival’s important food component feels cohesive and, if planned correctly, it might leave room for growth as well.

 

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