The Death Throes of a Festival

Many hundreds of years ago (okay – a little over 25), we became involved in Freedom Weekend Aloft.  We were the souvenir vendors.  The first year, we created and printed tshirts for children.  We got asked (the whole week) for the same design on adult sizes.  The year after, we did all tshirts as well as souvenir items such as cups and Frisbees (those didn’t sell at all).  We were the souvenir vendor for many years.  The first few years were amazing.  We had over $50K in sales in the early 2 years.  Then things changed.

First, the festival moved from Donaldson Center to Anderson.  Many of the food vendors told us that when a festival moves, it becomes history.  We followed it there, where the event moved to Memorial Day Weekend from July 4th.  That was the first sign.  The people with whom we worked were easy and fun.  Then it became political. 

Then it moved again to the park in Simpsonville.  I think we were part of that for 2 years.  After that, a “friend” wanted to become the souvenir vendor.  We were pushed out.  That was okay, because it was such a guessing game, and the last few years were simply not profit making years.  The whole idea of the festival became an issue of who knew who, and who was greasing the palm of who.  There were too many who’s in the whole process.  We still have hundreds of pins – which we attempted to give to the committee – but no response.

We visited on Monday afternoon.  For twenty bucks a person (there were two of us), we could go in and see the 5-6 food vendors – there used to be well into the twenty-something vendors.  There were no souvenirs.  There were a number of trade show like vendor – Bath Fitters, Geico, Banks, Cabela’s.  What happened?

This went from being a celebrated event to a weekend carnival.  There were only a few rides for people to jump on.  It was rather sad to see the dilapidation.  I’m amazed that it is still there.  We were part of history in the early years.  I rode in a few balloons.  I worked for the vendor before us – I dated a balloon pilot (or two).  Perhaps there are simply too many of these kinds of events.  I don’t know.  But the window for this one has closed.  Got to a move theater, or a real concert.  Good bye, Freedom Weekend Aloft.

Teaching in South Carolina

In South Korea, teachers are known as Nation Builders.  Really.  Nation Builders.  This is a label, which offers credence and respect to a role that is often overlooked in the United States.  What can be more important than teaching our children?  We hear the rhetoric often.  But how does it balance with the way we treat teachers?

Depending on the website you visit, the salary for beginning teachers in SC is around $28,000.  This can go higher if the teacher hired has an advanced degree.  Teachers who hang around for eight or more years can climb to $43,000.  Even 56K after 15 years.  That is not a bad salary.  There are benefits as well.  According to teacherportal.com, we are 30th in the nation in beginning salaries.  Hmmm.

Is a Nation Builder supposed to take on his/her profession out of complete passion?  Without any desire for a better lifestyle?  To improve the condition of one’s car?  To be able to stand on one’s on without a necessary 2nd salary?  On the other hand, do we as a country need to recognize that we get what we pay for?  In a country that highly values celebrities and sports heroes, wouldn’t it make sense that those who are developing the minds of our children be as important – dare I say it – or as enriched as the doctors who care for their bodies?  As the people who build their schools?  As the attorneys who approve the contracts of the principals?

Okay.  Let us pretend for a moment that the above amounts are sufficient salaries for teachers.  What I cannot find in a website is the average amount that teachers spend on classroom and student supplies out of their own pockets.   Why not ask your child’s teacher.  How much did you spend this month on your students? How much do you think it is?  How many crayons, backpacks, lunches, or field trips do teachers finance because they love their students?  Or they can’t stand to see little Johnny not have sufficient paper on which to draw or do math?  Or they just feel it is right if there are apples or bananas (and occasionally candy) – or valentines, or stockings, or juice for their charges?

I know it is up to them whether they spend their money on the kids.  Sure it is.  It is also their choice to become teachers.  To get that three months off in the summer.  Which never equates to three months.  To arrive early, stay late, sponsor a club or team, eat the cafeteria food, encourage the student whose parents never show up to give attention to their children.  Never respond to emails, nor call the teacher back about the attendance of their own children.  Our teachers are supposed to be the best and the brightest, and the developers of our children’s’ minds.  They are supposed to carry the weight of making sure your child passes, or does his homework, or doesn’t cut up in class, or gets some love and attention to help him or her to grow as a student.  To be a parent often in the parent’s absence.  Do we pay them enough?   What was I thinking?