This weekend Richmond held its first ever Bacon Festival. I typically enjoy festivals–and our city holds a lot of them: Greek Food, Folk, Wine, Vegetarian, etc.–so when we saw ads for the Bacon Festival (basically Andrew’s dream come true,) we decided to attend. Admission was free, food and drink tickets were relatively cheap, and who doesn’t love an afternoon of people-watching?
Well, from start to finish, the afternoon was a disaster (though admittedly, many of our complaints were completely out of the hands of the event organizers.)
The festival was held at the 17th Street Farmer’s Market downtown. Street parking in the area is tough when the aroma of bacon is not luring people in, so we decided to pay to park in a parking garage a few blocks away. We pulled in, grabbed our ticket, and noticed the line of cars backed up at the exit gate. The festival had been happening for a few hours at this point, so I assumed there was a wave of people who were leaving around the same time. This assumption was quickly put to rest when I saw that our line (those entering the garage) had stopped, and people were getting out of their cars. We asked a man walking by what was happening: the exit gate to the garage had broken, and despite calls to the owners over the last hour (yes, people had been sitting there for an hour at this point,) no one had come to fix it. Plus, because no one could exit, there were very few parking spaces available or accessible to those who had driven in, so everyone was just waiting in their cars. I could feel my blood pressure rising. There were three parking spaces very close to us, but they were blocked off with caution tape and paint buckets. After about twenty minutes of sitting, the girls in the car in front of us got out and moved the buckets. The spots looked fine, and we decided that any ticket we might receive for parking there would be worth not being trapped in the garage for another minute. As we walked down the stairs to the street we said, “Okay, we’ll go get some good food, probably a drink at this point, and by the time we are ready to leave, the gate will be fixed.” After all, many calls had been placed notifying those in charge that the gate was broken. Surely, help was on its way.
Now, in fairness to the organizers of the festival, we were already irritated when we finally arrived, and as I previously stated, many of our complaints were not things they could control. The parking garage incident. The fact that it was 90 degrees, but felt hotter because people were so packed in to the Farmer’s Market. The crowds: the event was so well attended that we could see lines of people wrapping around the perimeter like bacon around a scallop, but could not actually see the front or end of any line due to its length. Step one was finding where to purchase food and drink tickets. We saw signs, we followed them, we reached the other end of the market (after saying, “Excuse me… excuse me…” to push through the aforementioned lines,) and saw no tickets. We ran into a few friends who also could not find the tickets. I was sweating, hungry, still worked up from the parking garage (and now more worked up from the chaos,) and looked up at Andrew and said, “This sucks.” He responded, “Yeah. Want to leave and just walk up back up to Shockoe Slip?”
So we left… baconless. On our walk we passed our parking garage and saw one car exit. Hooray! That put our minds at ease, and we continued walking, stopping in a bookstore for AC and a bit of browsing entertainment. A little while later, when we were ready to head home, we walked back to the parking deck and, looking up at the second and third levels, saw tail lights and people standing around outside their cars. (Not a good sign.) We arrived at the entrance/exit and saw, once again, a line of cars backed up, unable to exit. A few people were standing there with their cell phones, calling the number listed at the booth. (As a side note, that’s great that you have an automated payment system, but when there is a large event happening, and you know that deck is going to be a popular parking option, pay someone to work in the freaking booth!!)
At this point people were angry; some had been waiting for hours, with no response from anyone who might be able to help. Andrew and another man decided there was only one option: free the people. Using nothing but brute strength, they lifted the gate and directed people out.
Drivers were flying out of there like it was a jailbreak at Alcatraz (and cars were boats, of course ;-)), and people sitting on the patio of the restaurant across the street cheered. Someone called the parking deck’s helpline again and said, “Hey, don’t worry about coming down here. We’re lifting the gate and letting people out.” And you know what happened after that call? They finally sent someone to help! When the man arrived he walked up to Andrew, and said in a very stern voice, “Sir, put the gate down.” Andrew, riled up from the injustice of the whole situation, said, “Sir, OPEN the gate. People have been trapped in here for hours, and NO ONE has come to help. You can’t do that.” No argument.
We returned to our car and still had to wait almost thirty minutes to actually get out of the garage (and if I believed in karma, I’d say the fact that my debit card didn’t work at the gate, so he let us out for free was good karma for Andrew rescuing the oppressed… but I don’t believe in karma.)
On the drive home, we had a very stimulating conversation:
“That was a complete waste of an afternoon.”
“I hate bacon.”
To redeem the day, we parked ourselves on the couch and watched a few episodes of Parks and Recreation, went out for sushi, then watched a few more episodes of P & R.
Cucumber rolls and Leslie Knope to the rescue.
Have you ever been trapped in a parking garage?
Richmonders: what did you think of the Bacon Festival? Was anyone else in that parking garage?