Tag Archives: musikfest

Is Jeff Parks the Lehigh Valley’s Steve Jobs?

No…Jeff does not have a closet filled with black turtlenecks…the similarities are at a different level. In fact, it is more about perception and the strong reactions they generate, from both fans and critics, than about the men themselves.

Both men tend to have polarizing effects on people. There are lots of fan-boys and lots of haters, and seemingly few in between. I say seemingly because I think there are actually as many if not more who lie somewhere between fan-boy and hater, but they just tend not to be as vocal.

Both men have turned their vision into hugely successful products and both have remained synonymous with their brand. You don’t become one with your brand without being, to some extent, a control freak. Take the criticism that Apple receives for their tightly regulated iPhone App process, the whole no Flash thing, heck even the fact that you can’t just pop out the iPhone battery, and compare that with complaints about food and beverage tickets at Musikfest, what some believe was the rerouting of Musikfest over the years away from Joe’s Tavern and Ripper’s to reduce non-fest beer sales, and conspiracy theories that Jeff Parks was behind the sudden enforcement of open container laws at the beginning of the 2010 Musikfest, also to prevent non-fest beer sales.

As the center of their brands, the center of their respective universes, it is also hard to imagine their organizations without them. Critics can be found in the comments sections of local on-line newspapers calling for Jeff Parks to step down from Musikfest, that somehow the organization he built from his vision would be better without him. While I may not agree 100% of the time with the changes that Parks makes with Musikfest, I couldn’t imagine it without him behind it. The guy knows what he is doing but you will never please all the people all of the time. I see the three most probable possibilities with someone else at the helm as: 1) just about status quo (no changes, no evolution, someone takes over and they just follow the current recipe, an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude) 2) a gated festival 3) an attempt to “fix” the festival, based on critical feedback resulting in lower food and beverage tickets, an attempt to get “more relevant artists” and soon after finding that those high food and beverage tickets are high for a reason and the whole thing going under in a year or two.

We all know that Steve Jobs is stepping back from Apple. He remains as Chairman but he has health issues and eventually there will be an Apple without him at all. What will that look like? I think the possibilities are similar to Musikfest without Parks: 1) reduced innovation due to “following the recipe” 2) a new culture that is more about profit than product or 3) an attempt to “fix” things based on critics only to find that there was a method to his madness.

Of course, the hope for either would be for the organizations to continue the same vision as their founders, similar to Disney after Walt Disney died. Unfortunately while Disney shows us this is a forth possibility it is by no means automatic and is easily the most difficult outcome to achieve.

Apple has its fan-boys and its haters, as does Musikfest. Apple fan-boys see no faults, get every new product the day it comes out-camping overnight even though they can buy it on day 2 with no line and for hundreds of dollars less if they wait 60 days. They have a retort for every critic. If Steve says they should hold the phone differently, they do. They don’t jailbreak. Similarly, Musikfest fan-boys have no patience for beer bootleggers, plan their days actually around performances, performances they are eternally grateful to see for “free” and they totally get that their beer and food purchases subsidize them. Therefore, all of their food and beer purchases are with tickets and from tents. They do their Christmas shopping in Handwerkplatz and the Merchandise tent. They know the platzes by name, they use the shuttles, and if they are able to go every day, they do. Any given day of the year they know how many days there are to Musikfest. The fan-boy pre-orders both the non-light up and light up Musikfest mug (one for day, one for night) and they have a shrine of every Musikfest mug (even the ones before they were insulated with caps) in their basement. They correct you when you call “Cast in Bronze” the “Bell-Guy.”

Apple also has “one-product fans” who are not fans of the entire brand but they have an Apple product they just can’t live without. Many are PC users with an iPhone (like myself). They don’t like all the Apple “rules” but they play along for the most part because the product is so much better than anything else out there. Musikfest has similar non-fan-boy fans. They aren’t blind to the faults and they will criticize. Maybe it’s the price of tickets, maybe it’s the teenagers on Main Street, maybe they think all the main stage acts are washed up or the beer selection stinks. Whatever the complaints, there is still a product at Musikfest they cannot resist and they go. They may buy some, most, or all of their beer at local bars instead of with tickets but they will get enough tickets for a Hogar Crea shish kabob and an Aw Shucks corn, a Theo’s Gyro, and a taco from Take a Taco or the Holy Infancy Melting Pot. They stock up on salsa from the Salsa Guy too. They attend several days and go more for the hanging out, less for the music. They may have a few shows they know they want to check out, but often they are just stumbling on acts. The one product fan has a recent Musikfest mug, it may even be the current year. They call “Cast in Bronze” the “Bell Guy.”

Then there are the jailbreakers. They love the product but not the rules. They laugh when you say you can’t run Flash on the iPhone or that you have to pay extra to tether. At Musikfest the jailbreakers bring their own beer, in strollers, in cars parked near by. They know the secret free parking spots or they live close enough to walk. Many have grown up with Musikfest in their backyards and know all the tricks. Others are newbies who think they are hot shots and get busted. All pride themselves on working the system. Most get that the free shows are supported by food and beverage tickets but also know that Musikfest has already factored their jail breaking ways into the equation, let the “suckers” pay for it. Some jailbreakers are there for the music, many are there for the ability to walk around with a beer on the street. The jailbreaker has an old Musikfest mug from 2002 that his buddy left at his house. He may have drilled a hole in the lining. He calls “Cast in Bronze” the “The Creepy Bell Guy” if he knows who he is at all.

Then we have the haters. Apple haters won’t go within 100 ft of an Apple store. They have lost friends when they switched from PC/Blackberry/Android to Apple. They write posts called “Steve Jobs Exposed as a Terrorist” Similarly, Musikfest haters troll the local newspaper websites and blog for every Musikfest article ever written and complain about trash in their yards, drunks peeing in their bushes, the price of beer, conspiracy theories about Jeff Parks spending tax payers money or being in the pocket of the Liquor Control Board They schedule vacations the week of Musikfest, but not to attend-to get the hell out of Dodge. I think some haters actually secretly want to enjoy Musikfest but have been so outspoken about it they have to save face and not go. I imagine them attending secretly, in disguise. Haters don’t own a Musikfest mug, or they have one they found one at a yard sale and wrote something obscene on it with a Sharpie. They’ll swear up and down they don’t know who “The Bell Guy” is.

So there you have it. Jeff Parks is the Lehigh Valley’s Steve Jobs and therefore Musikfest is our Apple.

Where are you in the mix? Honestly I’m a bit of each of the above. Fanboy in that I take vacation every year and go almost every day, know all the platzes, buy my mugs early (no blinky ones) and I’m an Artsquest member. One Product fan in that I don’t buy all my beer in tents, I complain about the main stage acts some years (not this year) and I tend to stroll more than plan. I’m also a bit of a jailbreaker, but I won’t get into that here ;). I’m not really a hater, but I will occasionally partake in weaving a conspiracy theory or two.

Bucket List Update…I’m Slacking

Back in January, one of my first blog posts was a personal bucket list of local attractions that I have never been to and want to cross of my list in 2011. So how is it going? Of late….not so good. In the beginning I crossed off a few items rather quickly. I thought that June, mid-year, would be a good time to look back and review my progress and regain some momentum.

So here’s what I’ve done so far:

  1. America On Wheel’s Museum  - see my post
  2. Visit a local vineyardsee my post
  3. Souper Bowl at Banana Factorysee my post

Three things. I did three things, that’s it??? And all three of these were crossed off by mid-February!

So here’s what I didn’t do, along with my sorry excuses…

  1. Easton State Theatre - I originally wrote:
    “Everything I am interested in seeing is always sold out by the time I hear about it or the cost is not in-line with my level of interest.” Pretty much the same thing is happening. I either fail to check the schedule or I do find something I’m sort of interested in but the price is higher than my interest (for example, Bryan Adams).
  2. Any number of restaurants in Easton I have yet to get to. We aren’t big restaurant goers…my husband doesn’t care for crowds and we have a kid. Might have to turn this one into a birthday dinner.
  3. Godfrey Daniels - busy weekends…wanted to take Hailey to a storytelling event but was already over booked. Need to take another look at the schedule.
  4. Touchstone Theater - I’d like to get there sooner but if I don’t, I plan on seeing the Christmas Follies in December.
  5. Gio’s Italian Grill in Macungie - I jinxed myself. This was supposed to be a done deal…my reunion was supposed to be here but it got hijacked and turned into a picnic. I must admit the picnic was a lot of fun, not that Gio’s wouldn’t have been good, but it was great seeing everyone’s kids so it worked out for the best. Even if that means I have to make new plans to cross this off the list.
  6. Historic Bethlehem Cemetery Tours this is in October so I’m still ok…for now.
  7. Renninger’s Antiques and Collectors Extravaganza in Kutztown. I made plans to go to the June Extravaganza with a friend who also loves antiques. They are moving into a new house in July and she has sworn off buying more stuff that they will have to pack and move so we rescheduled for September’s Extravaganza.
  8. Glass blowing and/or photography classes at the Banana Factory. I found the class I want to take (a photography class where you make a book) but I forgot to sign up and I think it already started. I’ll have to check the next schedule.
  9. Martin Guitar Tour - I’m going to go to this when I’m on vacation for Musikfest in August.

To be honest, I’d be happy if I got through more than half of this list this year. I think the hardest one for me is going to be the State Theatre and maybe the Banana Factory class, depending on what is offered and when. 

I’m also making a summer to-do list. Not really a bucket list because many of the things I’ve already done previously, but just want to get there again. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing a post about it soon.

Did you make a bucket list for this year? How are you doing with it? Let me know in the comments! 


Bucket List 2011 – Lehigh Valley Stuff I Want to Experience for the 1st Time

Do you have a bucket list? I don’t. I’m more of a take it as it comes kind of person. Which is probably why I haven’t done a whole heck of a lot! So….one of my new year’s resolutions was to put a short term bucket list together of things I’ve never done in the Lehigh Valley that I’d like to experience in 2011. In the past I’ve only done this in my head and might have knocked one or two off the list and then forgot all about. I’m getting old…it’s time to put it in writing!

So here goes  12 things to do, because there are 12 months (actually it just worked out nicely that way):

  1. America On Wheel’s Museum - This place looks pretty cool and right now there is a British Invasion exhibit. I actually HAVE to go there this month as I’ve signed up to volunteer to help take down their Christmas decorations (which is laughable because I still haven’t finished taking down the Griswald-esque display at home), but I’d like to visit as just a visitor too.
  2. Easton State Theatre – Everything I am interested in seeing is always sold out by the time I hear about it or the cost is not in-line with my level of interest.
  3. Any number of restaurants in Easton I have yet to get to.
  4. Godfrey Daniels – I still can’t believe I haven’t been here. It’s on the Southside and not only do they have great music acts they also have story telling sessions for kids. I have no excuse.
  5. Touchstone Theater – Again no excuse. I really want to see the Follies show they do at Christmas. I saw the kid friendly version at Christkindlmarkt in 2009 and it was a lot of fun.
  6. Gio’s Italian Grill in Macungie – everyone raves about the food here. It’s just a bit off the beaten path for me. But…I graduated from high school with Tony the owner and he is hosting our 20th High School Reunion this June so that should make this an automatic cross off! (I’ve jinxed myself, haven’t I?)
  7. Historic Bethlehem Cemetery Tours in October – I actually bought tickets through Groupon for this in 2010 but scheduled my tour during the Halloween parade. #FAIL
  8. Renninger’s Antiques and Collectors Extravaganza in Kutztown. I forget about this thing every year. And they hold it THREE times a year. This is so right up my alley. Not officially the LV but close enough.
  9. Glass blowing and/or photography classes at the Banana Factory. This has been on my unwritten list every year since they opened that glass blowing studio. Well, now it’s in writing damn it.
  10. Visit a local vineyard - Yes, I’m lame…I haven’t done this yet.
  11. Martin Guitar Tour – I’m not a guitar player but appreciate the workmanship that goes into these beautiful pieces. Another one that is on my yearly bucket list in my head.
  12. Souper Bowl at Banana Factory – Last year I failed to buy my tickets in advance and it sold out. I’m buying my tickets today!

And just in case I managed to inspire anyone…here are 12 things I’ve already done, that I love, and maybe you haven’t gotten around to doing yet:

  1. Farmer’s Markets: Allentown (year round), Easton, Emmaus, Hellertown, and South Bethlehem all have great to nice farmer’s markets. (Listed in order of my favorites-*sigh* yes southside is last, it’s small and its on a weekday…booo).
  2. QMart (whoa, they have a website?)  Quakertown’s Farmer’s Market – I didn’t list it with the above because, well, its in a whole class of its own. It’s a great place to go when you are feeling bad about yourself (As a friend likes to say “QMART – where men are men and sheep are scared”). You can buy anything from blow dart guns to used porn there (ok, I think it is just back dated, but used is funnier).
  3. Merchants Square - Kind of like Qmart, on a smaller scale, a little less weird, and there is no food. My favorite place there is K.D Smith Auctions. It’s a monthly bid board auction with some great finds – furniture, old cameras & radios, military stuff, old toys, local memorabilia, even classic (50′s -70′s?) nudie pictures. There is also a good children’s consignment store and many collectible toy stores. If you want weird…go on the second floor and check out the wrestling memorabilia place. They have ring worn costumes. Enough said.
  4. Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Tap Room - Awesome store on Main St. They have the best olive oils and balsamic vinegars in the world. Go in and sample, my favorites are the dark chocolate balsamic, the pineapple white balsamic, and the tuscan organic olive oil. Yum….and they make excellent gifts…hint…hint.
  5. Abode - I LOVE THIS STORE. Beautiful, unique furniture that is reclaimed and refinished. The store is in a historic home behind Tika’s, just off Main St. on Market St. It’s easy to miss but definitely worth finding.
  6. First Friday –  It amazes me how many people have not been to this event. Every first Friday of the month the stores, restaurants and galleries stay open late (until about 10PM) and the streets bustle with activity. See artwork, hear musicians, eat, drink and be merry. Many of the shops have free alcohol!! Small little cups…but still…free alcohol! Oh and sales! Can’t forget the sales!
  7. Musikfest – Another one that amazes me. Just go. If you don’t like crowds, go during the week during the day. If the heat is the issue, go later in the evening. Parking the problem? There are shuttles.
  8. Blueberry Festival - This is a lot of fun if you have kids, like crafts, or really, really like blueberries. If none of these apply, then it may not be for you. If this leaves you wanting more, try the Kutztown Folk Festival.
  9. Take a non-credit class at NCC or your local community college. There are soooooo many cool classes, I just got my catalog in the mail today.
  10. Go to an Iron Pigs game – It’s a beautiful stadium and there’s stuff to do besides just watching the game. If you have kids this is a must. If not, it’s a lot of fun to just sit at the tables near the entrance and drink beer with friends.
  11. Crayola Factory – Again, if you have kids. This place is a lot of fun and there is a lot of stuff there to tire them out. If you don’t have kids, and you don’t like being around a bunch of over-excited ones, you should probably just get your Crayola fix at the gift shop.
  12. Lehigh Valley Zoo – This is a lot of fun because it is relatively close, there aren’t a ton of crowds, the penguins are cute and did I mention there aren’t a ton of crowds? You can make a day of it or squeeze in a quick trip and have the rest of the day to do other stuff. Get a membership and  get 50% off of participating zoos, including the Philadelphia Zoo! It’s the best deal if you have kids.

There’s a lot of good stuff here, a little something for everyone. Even if a person did just half these things she would have a great 2011. If you have other places and events to recommend or have questions about any of the experiences listed here please leave a comment.