Attack of the Dirty Dogs

The Scene from Whitewater, Wisconsin           

Edgerton, Wisconsin once hosted a Harry Potter Festival; the event organizers then decamped to Jefferson, Wisconsin where the festival was held this past weekend.

A lengthy story in the Daily Union describes the history of the festival (“From Edgerton to Jefferson, fantasy event apparates to new home“).

In that story, one reads that the City of Edgerton wanted from the event organizers $10,000 that the municipality believed it was owed, and here’s what organizer Scott Cramer told the local paper:

“Legally, we didn’t have to pay it. The lawyer said, ‘You’re under no obligation to pay it,’” he noted. “But it’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re right. Thank you, appreciate that, but you know what? We know how the press works and we’re going to come out like dirty dogs anyhow, so let’s just write the check and get a move on.’ That’s what it boils down to.”

Well, the festival has now finished its first year in Jefferson, and there’s gotta be a dirty dog involved somewhere, because the event was a disappointment to many, and drew widespread complaints. It’s a shame that a book series beloved by many is incompetently used in this way.

From Big crowds overwhelm Harry Potter Festival in Jefferson:

“I envy those who went without buying (wristbands),” Smith Thom, 45, said. “Sadly, I do not feel the attractions were worth the cost. The Wizard’s Prison was literally an empty tennis court when we got to it”….

Brooke Haycraft of Brodhead took her niece and nephew and said the prison consisted of black cloth over the tennis court fencing with one person inside welcoming visitors. The Mandrake greenhouse at River’s Edge Meat Market had one character dressed as a professor accompanied by two plants. Besides wristbands, Haycraft said she also spent $60 on tickets for a character breakfast with a buffet of eggs and sausage and other breakfast items, but there were only a few characters in costume.

“Hagrid ate breakfast without his wig and played on his phone the whole time and did not get up once for pictures,” Haycraft said….

They [Reynolds Family] were most impressed by free exhibits at the Jefferson Public Library and at a free station at a downtown credit union where his children painted wands and were sorted into one of the four houses of Hogwarts. After visiting a “dragon slayer tunnel” on Sunday, only to discover the dragon was “an inflatable like you would see at Menards,” he asked for his money back but was denied by festival organizers.

“We hyped this up with our kids because (festival organizers) hyped it up,” Reynolds said. “They hyped it up but didn’t deliver.”

From Social media responses to Harry Potter Festival mixed:

“The festival itself was not enjoyable. Lines, poorly executed bus routes, and crowds made it difficult to get to any of the activities we wanted to participate in. We did go to the character lunch and it was a waste of money. The food was minimal and not kid-friendly, and the characters spent more time interacting with each other than with guests.

“As far as transportation, we got lucky and were able to utilize Uber instead of waiting 90-plus minutes for full buses,” she continued. “It was an overall disappointing experience for something that I was excited about. Great idea, but poor execution”….

“They have been talking about this event for almost a year and I felt like it was a flea market for Harry Potter fans,” she said….

Facebook’s been filled with critical remarks like this, from festival-goers who paid for wristbands and felt they were provided only a bad time. So, what does a Jefferson, WI city official have to say? Wait for it —

“It exceeded expectations from the city’s perspective,” said Tim Freitag, the city’s administrator. “It did tax the system, lines got longer and it did cause a few problems, but those are probably correctable in the future.”

“It exceeded expectations from the city’s perspective” only makes sense if one accepts that the city’s expectations are far below those of an average Wisconsinite paying his or her own money to attend. “It exceeded expectations from the city’s perspective” only makes sense if Freitag thinks that the city’s perspective – apart from the actual experiences of attendees – matters. It doesn’t.

The city government is a mere instrumentality, organized for narrow & limited purposes, to provide basic services for a community. It doesn’t matter what the city government thinks of the event, it matters what residents & attendees in the city (and from across the state) think of the event.

If vast numbers are disappointed, it matters not at all that Freitag thinks the event exceeded his middling hopes. The only benefit in knowing what he thinks is to learn that he doesn’t understand the instrumental role of government and that he’s too undiscerning to know the difference between a good and bad time.

(I’ve not been involved or attended these events. There’s no personal disappointment in my remarks.  Instead, I’ve over the years followed accounts of the festival in writing, and had my own discussions with attendees and insiders, interested as I’ve been by the idea of a small town relying on a big event.)

It strikes me as a bad idea: Jefferson did a poor job of qualifying the event’s organizers, and just as poor a job of hosting the event. One can feel sorry – truly – for people whose time was wasted attending an event of low quality. One can also imagine that, for some families, a hundred dollars or so for wristbands is a lot of money to spend.  They deserved much better than they received.

What will happen next year for this event, one cannot say. One can say, with great confidence, that under no circumstances should these event organizers even be allowed to present a proposal to Whitewater municipal government. (There’s no reason to think that Whitewater’s city government has that idea in mind, thankfully.)

Even for a libertarian who’d like to see fewer municipal services, one can yet admit there are times when creature control seems reasonable.

Upon the possible advance from Jefferson to Whitewater of any dirty dogs, our community’s full resources should be mobilized to assure that not a single foul canid disappoints this community as the residents of Edgerton and Jefferson have been so unfairly disappointed.