Da Vinci Days Bubble Gum Prescription

da-vinci-days1-274x300It seems a fair bet that Leonardo da Vinci could walk and chew bubble gum at the same time, but fast forward from the renaissance to present day and we find our fair burg’s beleaguered homage to the man not so adept at multi-tasking,

The quick recap on the da Vinci Days Festival is this; 2009 revenue was about $232,000 and 2010 brought attendance of about 20,000. Recent years have seen attendance drop below 13,000 and revenues follow to the mid $170,000s – last report on debt, about $40,000. After little more than a year on the job, it’s last paid Executive Director left in February of 2013. The press noted disorganization almost immediately; The Gazette-Times would write a scathing editorial. Even now, the festival cannot issue a timely press release.

Weeks after the 2013 festival, Board President Michael Dalton announced there would be no event this year. The rationale being that with all the declines, da Vinci Days would need to reinvent itself. Sounds reasonable enough, but could they not take advantage of the substantial momentum the Corvallis mainstay still had to reinvent the show and put it on at the same time? We’re talking about an organization that reports having 1,400 yearly volunteers.

The result so far is a survey that’s had only about 900 respondents at last report; it also suffers from a design that encourages an agree or disagree and, either/and/or response types – it’s not devoid of open-endedness, it’s just not encouraging of an all-the-above sort of mindset. For instance, one can range from strongly disagreeing or agreeing that the festival ought be focused on the community, but right above that it asks the same about promoting tourism, it doesn’t outwardly preclude ‘and’ but does make one wonder if that is the intent. Moreover, it does not address price of admission, which has been a major criticism in recent years.

The two public forums were not well promoted, attracting only about 25 participants each and the conversation did not stray much from the survey questions. One could start to wonder if there was some sort of agenda in limiting the conversation, ala that mid 1980’s public relations dreck intended to have folks thinking the presenters ideas are their own. After all, this ploy worked for the school district under Dawn Tarzian – reading this current admin? Repeat after guru, Visioning Process Redux, iPad.

Failing some far out pseudo-manipulation group-think conspiracy theory, this venerable Corvallis festival would seem to deserve more input than it has had thus far – we suggest a deeper survey and better publicized forums for a start. The board could extend their decision-making time a couple of months to accomplish this.

The other thing is this: the boards at these things are volunteers. That’s no excuse for anything, but it is also not entirely fair either; it is worth having a conversation about the city building some capacity to help, if not on an executive level, at least as a consultancy, providing managerial support and promotion. Obviously, this is a complex conversation, but it would be such a relief to hear it start.

by Rob Goffins

Do you have a story for The Advocate? Email editor@corvallisadvocate.com