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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blog Fest report, Spring 2011 edition

NEPA Blog Fest (Spring 2011 Edition) has come and gone.  For various reasons, I didn't get out of the house until after the event starting time of 6:00, by which time Michelle (who got there ahead of time) had texted me to be sure I was coming.  I picked my way along River Road / Main Street / Plank Road / South Main Street (the same street wears all these names between Plains and Pittston), noting the places where the Susquehanna River was lapping right up against the road, making a mental note to take another way back and hoping and praying that the river wouldn't experience a surge while we were all a stone's throw away at Rooney's.

I parked my car in front of the now boarded-up Valley Cat Rescue and walked a hundred feet or so down the street to Rooney's.  When I entered at 6:40 I was surprised to find the place half-empty - previous events had been jammed from start to finish.  I wondered if maybe the word hadn't gotten out. I myself had missed the initial announcement, as it was cleverly hidden away in a blog post on Dave Yonki's site entitled The LuLac Edition #1515, March 21st, 2011 - not exactly a title that screams "Blog Fest is coming!"  This post referenced a post on Joe Valenti's Pittston Politics - which, due to an unfortunate problem with blog architecture, does not have an RSS or Atom feed, and so his posts never appear among the list of most recently updated blogs.  (The bottom line is, if you're not making a point to read every word of every entry on these blogs, you might miss something and never be aware that it had been posted.) Even I had only mentioned this event in passing on a Facebook update when I found out about it a week or two after the announcement.

But Michelle had taken this ball and run with it.  She wrote up a post on NEPA Blogs that announced the event to the world, and especially to readers of NEPA Blogs.She posted about the event to the NEPA Bloggers group that she created on Facebook. Then she used her social networking skills with that newfangled Twitter thing to spread the word to the Twitter followers she has been gathering for NEPA Blogs.  She also contacted local media outlets about the event, got a notice listed in The Weekender, clued in some contacts at local news station WBRE, and just generally made sure that news of the event was out there, even among people whose primary interest in the world of blogging is not political.*

So I was puzzled by the absence of people at the event.  I saw Dave Yonki and Joe Valenti, who had organized the event and publicized it with their political contacts, sitting at a table chatting with a few people I didn't recognize.  I spotted a friend of Gort's and asked him if Gort - the founder of these events and the third co-blogger on NEPA Blogs, who is currently on hiatus from blogging - might be coming, but he wasn't sure.  Then I spotted Michelle on the other end of the bar and went to speak with her.  She told me that the place actually had been crowded from about 6:00 to 6:30, filled with candidates who had then headed out to a 3rd District event in Dupont.  Suddenly she spotted a familiar face where I had just been standing - Gort had arrived!  Now it was a party!

Michelle and I stepped down to talk with Gort, and I was called aside by Dave Yonki.  Before I could get to Gort I was chatted up by several of the candidates who had trickled in and were working the crowd.  (For a possibly complete list see Dave Yonki's after-Fest post.) I passed out Blog Cards and collected campaign cards and literature, and chatted with the charming, dedicated, and driven daughter of one of out local bloggers concerning her human rights legal efforts.  WBRE showed up with a camera crew, acting on Michelle's tip, and conducted some interviews that appeared on the 11:00 news - but have not, as far as I can tell, been posted to their website, pahomepage.com.

Unfortunately, while more and more politicians appeared as the night wore on, no additional non-political bloggers showed up, making the night one of mostly cocktail-party chatter between political bloggers and the politicians who are running for office.  Even more unfortunately, Rooney's kitchen and waitstaff were apparently overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who had showed up and decided that they would like something to eat.  Political chit-chat can work up an appetite, something I hope they keep in mind the next time there's an event held there.


From a political blogging point of view I suppose this was a relatively successful event, despite the unfortunate conflict with the event in Dupont.  (This was not the only conflict of the night, however, as the Luzerne County Historical Society dinner and the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association benefit Black and Blue Ball were being held last night as well.)  I would like very much to see future blogger gatherings where the focus is not on politics, but on the bloggers and their blogs.  Too often some people think of political blogs as the only sorts of blogs out there.  A look at the roster of blogs that have been added to NEPA Blogs over the years will show that there are many interests in the local blogging community beyond politics.  There are blogs about religion, photography, shopping, employment, beer, sports, cars, art, history, television - the whole scope of human experience, including and in addition to politics.  I hope to see some of these bloggers at future get-togethers!


Other accounts of NEPA Blog Fest (Spring 2011 Edition):
Blogfest turns out great crowd on Pittston Politics


*Michelle is also responsible for bringing NEPA Blogs out of an extended funk, resulting in more posts and more sites added in April 2011 than in the previous twelve months combined.

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