Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 1997 NOMAD Festival, which was held November 6-8, 1997, at the Newtown High School, Newtown, CT.
NOMAD ’97 was a smashing success. Attendance was up sharply from 1996, resulting in a high energy level and a strong sense of community among the participants. We estimate that the total number of attendees was well over a thousand, excluding performers and vendors. We had sixteen craft/folk bazaar vendors and about 150 performing acts, performers, and dance leaders. Including all members of performing groups and vendors’ staffs, this works out to over 500 additional participants.
It rained off-and-on all day Saturday and Sunday at intensities ranging from mist to torrential downpour. We don’t know whether the rain reduced attendance, or increased it by limiting people’s choices of other activities (leaf-raking or other outdoor events). Alas, the ones who suffered most were the Morris and Sword dancers, who had to abandon their plans to dance on the front lawn and settle instead for a narrow sheltered entrance sidewalk.
We feel that we had more participation from the local community this year, thanks to fairly heavy newspaper and radio publicity and some purchased advertising.
For the local participants, the newly established Family Area was a big hit, with its variety of music, dance, and craft activities for kids and their parents. A particular favorite was Pete Lane aka “Vanilla Swirl the Clown.” Pete not only did a balloon-sculpture workshop and a magic show, but he also spent the rest of the weekend in the hallways making balloon animals by the dozens. The kids were all over the place with those things. It definitely increased the festive atmosphere.
The vendors and many festival attendees expressed pleasure at our decision to eliminate amplified performances from the cafeteria, which made socializing and conversing about merchandise much easier.
The food area worked quite well. There was a greater variety of selections this year, but there were a few instances of some items being sold out. We think that our major vendor, the Newtown High School’s Culinary Arts Program, was not quite prepared for the size of the crowd we drew this year. Also, there were some logistic problems resulting from the fact that the food is actually prepared at the High School’s kitchen, some 2-1/2 miles distant.
We have reviewed the evaluation forms left by attendees, and the comments were overwhelmingly positive, with constructive suggestions. Yes, we will have changing rooms for the performers in ’98! Next year, we are hoping to be back at the High School, and the food glitches will disappear along with the need for shuttle buses and the various other logistic problems. It will be a different place than the one we left two years ago, thanks to the extensive reconstruction and additions that took place during our absence. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.