Portland Rose Festival: Here's to "Community" (TM)
The warships are coming upstream again, and the logos are in the air. Must be time for the Portland Rose Festival. This is the time of year when citizens shut the city down, block all the streets, and make lots of noise. But the police, for once, don't pepper spray them. This is a permitted, sanctioned activity.
There's something for everyone in this year's Rose Festival. If you're into a dose of sexist objectification of women, you probably checked out the Fred Meyer® queen's coronation last night. Missed it? Not your thing? Fear not, there's more. Tonite, you will be treated to the STARsm ATM/Debit® Fireworks Spectacular. If you like to run, you can participate in the Key Bank® Starlight Run this weekend. Saturday night, the Portland General Electric® starlight parade will wind down the streets, and on June 12th, the Southwest Airlines® Grand Floral Parade will do the same. (It's all right. We can take the streets for corporately sponsored festivities like this one, just not to protest against a war.)
Any day of the week, head on down to the Pepsi® waterfront village, and check out the Wells Fargo® Western Trail, the Fred Meyer® Kid's Kingdom, or take one of a number of exciting tours. You can experience the Nivia® Skin Inspiration tour, to learn about the exciting new skincare products brought to you by Nivia®, and the Allavert Allergy® "wherever you are" tour where you can win prizes and learn tips for coping with indoor and outdoor allergies.
Do you prefer "experiences" to "tours"? Like I said, there's something here for every consumer. Try the Hewlett Packard® experience, also at the Pepsi® waterfront village. According to the official rose fest website, this fascinating exhibit "is an interactive museum designed to help consumers realize ... spectacular realms of experiences through the use of HP's digital technology and applications."
There's even an experience for your cat. Be sure not to miss the Purina Cat Chow Way® of Life Experience, where you "will enjoy the opportunity to mingle with the Purina Cat Chow Mentors as they explore the cat adoption area, learn something new and exciting at the Cat Chow® Life Stage Gauge, and experience the video, "A Cat's Perspective"!" Wow, I know I can hardly wait for this one.
I'm not making this up. It's all right here, on the official website: http://www.rosefestival.org/index.html.
Do you get the feeling you're being sold out? That's because you are. This is not community, it's consumerism. The civic spirit left events like this long ago. You're no longer a human being going to the fair to socialize with other human beings. Now you're a commodity. A "Consumer." A "prospect." The city is selling you to one corporate sponsor after another after another.
According to the rose fest website, corporate sponsorship has many benefits. Here are some of them, in their very own words:
Increased sales: 70% of attendees say they are more likely to purchase a product/service from a Rose Festival sponsor.
One-to-one marketing: interact directly with millions of customers and prospects.
Brand awareness: increase your product's visibility both on-site and through ads on highly rated event broadcasts.
Sampling: put your products in your prospects' hands.
Promotional offers: distribute coupons, create sweepstakes or contests, etc. to maximize your return.
Retail traffic: build promotions that increase store traffic.
Database building: integrate promotional elements that provide demographic and buying behavior information.
Goodwill: enhance your perception in the community by partnering with the longest running civic celebration in Portland.
Employee relations: involve employees in event activities to build enthusiasm, teamwork and loyalty.
If this list isn't disgusting to you, you haven't read it closely enough. This is a diagram on how to sneak into your life through a supposedly civic event. This is about helping corporate profiteers "maximize their returns" at your expense. This is a cold, jaded analysis of how our sense of community can be co-opted and used as a tool for the corporate machine.
It's also about invading your privacy. The "database building" item seems innocuous enough, until you consider that they're talking about using your name and personal information in ways you do not necessarily agree to. This happens when you're asked to fill out sweepstakes and questionnairs at the fair, and months later you start getting unsolicited ads in the mail. Who knows where all that information winds up? But if anyone ever wants to know anything about you, a fairly extensive dosier can be assembled from these corporate databases: everything from your name, age, gender and address to what toothpaste you buy, what magazines you subscribe to, which medications you're currently taking. Anything you say can and will be used against you.
Clearly, the organizers of this event have no respect for you, me, or this community. To them, we are merely "prospects." Rose fest organizers proudly proclaim, "More than two million people attend 60-plus events during this world-class celebration that generates $80 million annually for Oregon's economy." But the spoils don't seem to be going to Oregon's economy, even if that were all we cared about. Pepsi, Wells Fargo, Nivia, Hewlett Packard, Purina...these are not Oregon companies. Even Fred Meyer is no longer a local company. These are leeches who have descended upon our town this week to suck up whatever goodwill and dollars they can find here.
The fact is, we DO care about our community. And we care about much more than how much money the capitalists among us can make. We crave each others' company. We crave opportunities to come together without being manipulated and sold out. We owe it to each other to blow off faux corporate extravagaanza events like this one, and instead build our own communities. Let us seek each other out without the speculative interference of Pepsi or Wells Fargo or Southwest Airlines. Let us find, and create, events that allow us to celebrate who we are and who we want to become without asking for money at the gate and without self-interested corporate sponsorship.
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