To the Editor:
The Smoky Mountain Submarine Veterans, the Knoxville chapter of the United States Submarine Veterans, has had a booth and performed a Tolling of the Boats Ceremony at the Secret City Festival for the last 11 years. I was very disappointed with the festival this year (Celebrate Our Heroes weekend). It was difficult to deal with the committee in charge of the event; each was helpful but compartmentalized and hard to communicate with as many were volunteers that had day jobs. There were no invitations to planning meetings for participants to get a feel for the event, get emergency information, or face-to-face communication. The parks and recreation people who we normally were able to get help from did not have the information I have found so helpful in the past.
I liked the idea of a separate weekend for veterans, but it seemed to have the effect of diluting the festival and participation was diminished. The food vendors had small or no lines. One of the speakers was Ed Harrell, a survivor of the USS Indianapolis sinking in World War II. Rather than speak to bleachers full of people facing the building and the many people strolling by on the main walkway through the festival, he was on the opposite side of the stage with a limited audience. There were no bleachers as there have been every other year. I have heard Ed speak in the past; this was a loss for those who may have heard him in a denser population of festival attendees.
The festival had fences everywhere dividing it into many individual venues rather than an open festival style setup that encourages a mingling social interface that feeds a festival atmosphere. Like a shopping center that entices people in to see many stores and stroll the halls, a festival is a community function, not a single endpoint of interest. [Read more…]