News: 1999-04.20-Editorial

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Title: Editorial
Author: John M Vinopal (
Date: 4/20/1999
Disclaimer: This writing reflects ONLY the opinion of the Author (who has never worked in an official capacity for the Corporation REC).

Much of the Antioch debate consists of the traditional protectionism arguments. Residents, once established, fight the flow of any newer residents, conveniently discounting the impact of their own household and automobiles -- after all, they're already in, right? This exclusion also applies to any sort of event.

Any large event generates traffic, trash, and often, unruly behaviour. Around the Bay we've seen county fair shootings and 4th of July fireworks cancelled, which the next year moved all of the problems (people) to the next town down, creating a domino effect guaranteeing the eventual extinction of these too-popular events.

And too popular is the problem: rush hour(s) traffic, yuppified SF "warehouses", ~0% vacancy rates, sky-high housing prices -- all symptoms of the endemic problem of too many people, too little space, and a common denominator of greed. These are exactly the two topics in the RPFN/Antioch debate: people and money.

A read of the Contra-Costa Times articles indicates that this fight was inevitable -- faire or no. One property owner says, "The area out there is beautiful, covered in oak trees. That's part of why we bought out here. We're a step away from the country." She then goes on to say that she had hoped for a golf course when she moved in four months prior. A step away from the country club.

The supporters argue that the faire will bring in revenue and "put Antioch on the map". The detractors think (correctly) that maps bring more people. Sadly, despite what the detractors think, eventually there will be more people. If not dressed in bodices and jerkins, then probably driving a new SUV towards a new suburban tract home, or perhaps, if they're really fortunate, wearing plaid pants and sending golf balls through windows. Given the alternative, 8 weekends of traffic seems a small price to pay for 348 days of mostly empty land.

More than an Antioch problem, this is a California problem. RPFN moved from Black Point due to construction: more money could be made from building houses than from an ersatz craft-fair that only ran for 8 weekends out of the year. The original RPFS site in Agoura was abandoned for the same reasons. Housing encroachment will always be a problem for all large outdoor events.

Traffic and people aside, some Antioch concerns strike closer to home. Several people at the Antioch meetings expressed criticism regarding RPFN's cost and lack of educational benefits. Costs directly visible to the public include gate ($18), parking ($5), drink ($5), food ($5), and indirectly the merchant's prices. Less visible to the public are reduced stipends for actors, less funding for guilds which eventually have a pronounced effect -- catering to a larger lower-common denominator audience. This does not go unnoticed: even those who believe in faire have a difficult time defending the notion of RPFN/RPFS as particularly educational. Then what are we left with? A large, expensive, boozy, craft-fair Disneyland that has a hard time finding a home.

These concerns are difficult to allay because we as faire workers have the same concerns. We'd like less emphasis on money and we'd like to see more education -- more of what the faire originally was: Living History.

Antioch, we're just as scared of you as you are of us. We're worried that your heat will smother us, that YOU will smother us. We're afraid that you may be the kind of people who like to get drunk and grab women. We're afraid that you may think a day at the faire won't be complete without your handgun. We're afraid that you may be so brusque and unworldly as to not appreciate the enormous amount of effort and rehearsal it takes to suspend disbelief, puncturing our own faith in what we do, draining our art away.

We're not the best of neighbors. We dress silly (perhaps shockingly) and talk sillier yet. Our humor is often coarse and ribald. We make noise at night. In our ranks are Artists, Musicians, Actors, Jews, Christians, Catholics, Homosexuals, Witches, and people who are such a tangled combination so as to defy description.

Even if you, Antioch accept the company REC, it's not clear that you'll accept us. You're fighting for your homes, and we're looking for one. We may be too weird and too popular to make a good neighbor.

And this is the paradoxical thing about 4th of July fireworks and fairs: they're not cancelled due to lack of attendance; just the opposite, they're cancelled because they're so popular that they don't fit.

JMV 4-20-1999