Monday, January 09, 2012
Blog Fest is coming!
The Spring 2012 edition of NEPA Blog Fest will be held at Rooney's Irish Pub in Pittston on the evening of Friday, March 30.
Blog Fest grew out of Gort's periodic gatherings of Wilkes-Barre area bloggers and others at a small bar in Wilkes-Barre. Occasionally a candidate for local office would stop by to put in some face-time. Two years ago Gort decided to try something new: working with local political bloggers Joe Valenti and Dave Yonki, he moved the event to a larger venue - Rooney's Irish Pub in Pittston - and put out an invitation to as many candidates running for state and local office as he could. He also put out the call to local media, letting them know this was happening.
And, whaddya know: it was a huge success.
We did it again in the Fall of 2010 with a slightly smaller turnout. (This was, however, the first time the event was dubbed "Blog Fest," on a handwritten sign in front of the place.) But in the beginning of 2011, Gort was taking a break from blogging. As the Winter started to edge into Spring I began to wonder about whether a Spring edition of the event would be held at all. Finally, while catching up on posts I had missed on Dave Yonki's blog, I came across the announcement - nearly three weeks after it had originally been posted on Joe Valenti's Pittston Politics blog. (Dave's blog is indexed by issue number, and Joe's by date, so if you miss an announcement on either one, the only way to know about it is to go back and read through every post you've missed.) While word of the event may have gone out to Dave and Joe's regular readers, the larger community of bloggers throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania were generally in the dark about it.
Michelle and I found out about this at about the same time, and with just a few weeks to go she decided to try to publicize the event to non-political bloggers and the general public. She wrote up a post for NEPA Blogs, she sent out information to the local media, we posted announcements wherever we could find available space.
In the end it was a mostly political event, less well-attended than the first one (and possibly the second.) Non-political bloggers were few and far between. (This may have been due in part to a major political event in Dupont and a dinner for the Luzerne County Historical Society being held that night.) For whatever reason, Rooney's seemed to be unprepared for the size of the crowd, and service was very slow. Gort, however, was in attendance, and I believe that he was inspired that night to resume blogging, and to be at the helm for the next Blog Fest.
Gort announced the upcoming Fall 2011 Blog Fest on his blog and through Facebook. Unfortunately he did this with just nine days to go until the actual event! This wasn't as last-minute as it seemed: he had been working to schedule the event so that as many candidates as possible could attend without having a conflict with their campaign and fundraising schedules. The Blog Fest was held just weeks after the worst flooding in the region's history, only a hundred feet or so from the high-water mark, as a light rain managed to re-flood many of the roads leading away from the venue. There were plenty of candidates on hand, and a few more non-political bloggers than at previous events, all of which was quite remarkable given the circumstances.
So now the news is going out about the Spring 2012 event. Michelle has issued a "Save the Date" announcement - because, what the heck, this time there are twelve weeks until the actual event, and we're going to need to issue reminders every week or two or everybody is going to forget about it.
So who is going to show up? In the past a lot of non-political bloggers didn't show up because they perceived it as a political event, and their absence made it even more so. But it doesn't have to be that way. Politics is a part of life, but life is about more than politics. Blogs are about more than politics, too; some people - especially some political bloggers - may not see it that way, but a quick glance at the live updates list on the NEPA Blogs sidebar will reveal a whole lot of bloggers who do not write primarily about politics, if at all.
Yet non-political bloggers cannot pretend that politics doesn't exist just because they, say, find political chit-chat so godawful dull that they would rather core out their ear canals with a grapefruit spoon than listen to someone drone on and on about the intrigues and treachery in some local school board or political body. This stuff affects us all - if not directly, then regionally; the corruption of judges in Luzerne County or county commissioners in Lackawanna County or whoever in Wilkes-Barre or Pittston or Scranton affects the overall perception of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and affects little things like how willing companies are to move into the area, and therefore what the likelihood that more and better jobs will ever come back to NEPA.
So if you're a political blogger, show up: you'll find plenty of candidates who want to talk to you and try to get in your good graces. And if you're a non-political blogger, show up too: you'll find other non-political bloggers who would love to meet and interact with you. And maybe the two groups could mingle a bit. Political bloggers might discover a world of blogging that exists outside of politics, and non-political bloggers might find a few thoughtful, intelligent candidates who are willing to actually listen to what normal people have to say.
But whatever you do, please keep me away from the grapefruit spoons.