Saturday, December 05, 2009

Pay to Shop?

I volunteered a shift at Christkindlmarkt (C't) yesterday. I was initially signed up to help at the information booth, but was reassigned to "St. Nick's Assistant." (No, I did not have to wear an elf costume.) I got a kick out of seeing the little kids interact with Santa - I kid you not, our M.O. was to encourage them to 'Give Santa a High Five' - and surprisingly, seeing so many adults cozying up to the old guy. A few even paid to have their picture taken with him. The tradition of children seeing Santa, telling him what they want for Christmas, and getting a gift, evolved into a moneymaker once malls figured out they could milk you for another few bucks. Polaroid cameras made it possible to instantly have a momento of your child screaming because Mommy left him on the lap of some stranger. With the advent of digital photography, everyone's got a camera or a phone with a camera in it at all times. We don't need anyone to take our kid's picture. But not only will ArtsQuest volunteers take a picture, they'll take a few, and let you pick your favorite. Then they'll print however many you want in whatever sizes you need. I noticed that most people only got one 5"x7" photo; I'm sure most will scan it, put it on Facebook, and email Grandma. Some people didn't want to purchase a photo. One teacher held up the line of paying customers while she took pictures of her students with multiple cameras and cameraphones. But here's the problem - the proceeds from this annual photo op benefit kids' programs at The Banana Factory. While the artists profit from the purchase of the items in the booths and pay a small fee to exhibit, it's ArtsQuest that pays the bills (including St. Nick's salary). Many locals shun C't, because they 'don't want to pay to shop.' I justify the $7 entrance fee this way (we saved $1 using the coupon on the Artsquest web site): I paid $2 to park in one of the City's municipal parking lots. I figure that I would pay $5 or more in a bigger city. So that's a $3 donation for parking. Then I'd pay at least $3 for the entertainment - there's live music and performances all day inside, plus glass blowing and ice sculpting demonstrations outdoors, between tents. And finally, I'd make a $1 donation to the folks at ArtsQuest for creating a warm, festive holiday wonderland that has become an annual tradition. Then the $7 entrance fee doesn't seem so steep to me. Considering the large groups of visitors that come on tour buses from all over the mid-Atlantic, it seems like a lot of people agree. I went to C't today and purchased two wall-hanging pieces from an tile artist from Easton whose company name is BB Tiles. The artist's web site is a little outdated (shows listed are from 2004), but contact information is correct.

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