Thinking Out Loud

February 9, 2013

Festival Attending in a Security Obsessed World

Beruna Music Festival

So yesterday we remembered the Cornerstone Festival; part of the carefree days in the ’70s and ’80s when Christian music festivals sprang up in Midwest parks and Pennsylvania dairy farms. Ahh… simpler times.

Things have changed. I’ve never been to Kingdom Bound, a bit of trivia which my closer friends find amazing given my history with CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) mostly because the idea of a Christian festival in a theme park seems somewhat contradictory.  Two hot elements competing with each other: The bands and the rides.

But then there’s another issue. Back in the day — and you know you’re getting older when you start talking about ‘back in the day’ — the speakers and the musicians shared a somewhat equal billing. Even the most star-struck music fan could tell you about things the speakers said in the tents. At some festivals today, you’re lucky to get three speakers for every twenty music acts. Or less.

Which brings us to The Beruna Festival being held in July (19-20) on “The Flats at Molson Amphitheatre” in downtown Toronto; the first multi-day Christian event to be held there.  Well, almost downtown; the picture makes it look like the CN Tower and Air Canada Centre are directly in the background, when in fact they are a few miles further down the road. But you wouldn’t want the sound echoing off the high rise buildings anyway, nor the complaints from the condo owners.

Having nothing better to do on Tuesday night, I went poking around their website. The lineup is certainly good.  The pricing is probably somewhat normal for this type of event. The sponsors and event organizers are well respected.

But buried away on a FAQ page, you’re reminded that this is a venue used for general market events not Christian events; that this is 2013, not 1983. So no backpacks. No rigid liquid containers. No beach balls. Really? From all the outdoor concerts I’ve seen, I thought beach balls were required.

And then the one that broke the proverbial camel’s back. No SLR cameras.

What the festival is up with that?

My wife has been talking about getting a Canon SLR camera for some time now. But if we decided to attend this event in July — and we’re free that week and greatly admire some of the 22 bands and both of the speakers — she would be denied admittance.

“You mean I can’t take a SLR camera to the event?  Seriously?”

A camera with a removable lens is considered a professional camera, and professional cameras are not allowed. You might intimidate the people with smaller cameras.

And I’m sorry to say this, and perhaps it sounds rather petty, but with that, they lost me…

…Working with concert promoters for many years before I got married, the management and operating staff of the various venues we used were always impressed with the good behavior of the people who attended Christian events. In two words, they liked that there was “no trouble.” Over the years the promoters built up credibility equity, which meant they were afforded some grace, which they were then able to pass along to ticket buyers. (Neither grace nor customization of the rental package here; the beer vendors will be open though probably not quite doing business as usual.)

In a post-911 world, security at mass gatherings is essential. Purses and satchels do need to be checked. And refreshment vendors are counting on the dehydration of young people spending 12-hour days in the hot sun. And yes, it only takes one person to ruin it for everyone.

And I know that those in youth ministry see the value of these events for their students, and really want these events to be there as an option for the youth they work with.

But in the contract negotiations, I would be crusading hard against a one-size-fits-all approach which, for example, bans beach balls.  (Headline: Beach Ball Ban Baffles Blogger) Or a camera easily picked up for free with Sears points. If it’s that uptight an environment, it’s just too easy to lose the heart of the event. What’s next? Security staff at the megachurch? Oops! Too late. Maybe this is what happens when we get too big.

In a world of liability litigation, environmental impacts, and stricter safety standards for staging (Headline: Staging Safety Standards Set Stricter), it’s not as easy to find a Pennsylvania dairy farm willing to host tens of thousands of teens and twenty-somethings; but make no mistake; those dairy farms do exist and some of those dairy farmers are willing to give it a try.

Anytime soon would be good.

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