Some Real Talk about the GoogaMooga


image Here’s one thing I have learned after living in New York for a long time: there are a LOT of people here. It’s a city that 8 million individuals from all over the world call home–people with different backgrounds, talents, ideas, priorities, perspectives, and needs who all contribute to the pulsing cacophony of industry, creativity, and opportunity for new experiences that defines this town and makes it unlike any other in the world. The tradeoff? Well, your rent is too damn high, the mode of transportation you are expected to get to work on sometimes feels like actual hell, and we just can’t seem to get a muzzle on Donald Trump. Oh, and it’s almost impossible for anyone to do anything around here without directly affecting someone else and potentially pissing him or her off. In some cases, it’s very clear who is in the wrong (Exhibit A: those gremlins who listen to music on speaker on the train), but things like the Great GoogaMooga, the beleaguered food and music festival in Prospect Park, present a more complicated picture.

Last year, the hype surrounding the first ever Googa was so intense (Hall & Oates! Foie gras donuts! Subway ads casting local chefs as crazy rockstars!) that it seemed doomed to fall short of people’s expectations. And fall short it did, thanks to a perplexingly severe underestimation of demand. I covered the event for this blog, and was disappointed by two-hour lines for a $12 half beer and the fact that most vendors ran out of food by mid-afternoon. I also somehow managed to keep in mind that I was not being held against my will and that I paid exactly zero dollars for my tickets. The weather was spectacular all weekend, and if I really got THAT hungry/thirsty/tired of looking at Tom’s shoes I could simply walk out of the park–at NO COST to me–and go about having a normal day in Brooklyn.

This point seemed lost on the hangry masses, who took to Twitter with a ferocity previously reserved for Beliebers and #tcot. That most of the logistical issues were resolved by Day Two was not enough to quell the outrage GoogaMooga had unleashed: when it announced it would return in 2013, it never really stood a chance.

photoThis year, the organizers made a few changes in response to complaints, adding a third day and more vendors, including a Blueprint juice stall. Remember what I said about NYC being a crazy patchwork of different types? Let’s pause to recognize that there are at least a few weirdos out there who went to GoogaMooga, walked past things like a truffle burger, a “bacon flight,” and a car bomb brownie, and chose to indulge in tepid kale juice. Are they the true heroes? We’ll probably never know, because people on juice cleanses are notoriously silent on the topic of their juice cleanse, and would never dream of inserting it into an unrelated conversation in an attempt to bore their friends to death.

But I digress. The adjustments GoogaMooga made really seemed to work this year. I have heard nothing but glowing reports from Friday night’s concert, and Saturday went off without a hitch. Sure it was a little damp and the craft beer was comically overpriced yet again, but come on, it was fun! Free music, hanging out in the park, a Ren Faire area where you could challenge your friends to a swordfight! Am I the only one who thought Matt & Kim put on a great show? Did you people even TRY the truffle burger? It seems not, because despite the success of the first two days, the internet has sounded a death knell for Googa. Why? Because it rained on the third day! Yep, a totally normal rainstorm in the middle of May is the reason that there probably won’t be another GoogaMooga–or anything like it–ever again.

This isn’t to say that GoogaMooga detractors don’t have valid arguments. There are clearly legitimate questions about whether it is okay for a private, profit-minded interest to close off a portion of a public park and fill it with port-o-potties for a yupster food festival, and the damage the grounds evidently sustained last year is a real cause for concern. Incidentally, the Parks Department, Prospect Park Alliance, and GoogaMooga collectively decided to cancel Sunday’s event in order to prevent injury to guests and damage to the park. But that kind of responsible decision-making wasn’t going to fly with rabid would-be attendees who feel that their free tickets entitled them to a perfect day. [And seriously? Chilling on a blanket in the sun, listening to De La Soul and while eating something delicious from Big Gay Ice Cream or Northern Spy Co. would have indeed been a perfect day. The weather in New York is the worst, end of story, but who wants to move to Denver? –ed.]

The light grow dim for the Mooga.

The light grows dim for the Mooga.

Over the past 48 hours, I’ve read as many blog posts and tweets that actually place blame for the crappy weather on GoogaMooga, and phrases like “the culinary Altamont” have been bandied about. Really, guys? Because it got rained out? You know that people died at Altamont, right? And that a guy was shot in the head in front of Gray’s Papaya on Friday night just because he was gay? And that instead of a spring shower we could have been mowed over by a mile-and-a-half wide twister? I’m just saying that there might be better places to direct your energies, and there are hardships that exceed being burned by an errant auto-email and having to walk a few blocks to eat brunch inside because of a rainstorm.

An obvious place to start is the GoogaMooga vendors, many of whom lost tens of thousands of dollars on Sunday. Sadly, several of these small businesses, including Kasadela, Northern Spy Co., Baked, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Rippers, Caracas Rockaway, and the Big Banana, were counting on GoogaMooga to help pull them out of a financial hole created when Sandy f’ed up their restaurants. If you can, try to go eat at one of these places this week and in the weeks to come. Hopefully, they will get some sort of reimbursement from the festival, which has stated that it plans to meet with them and work on a solution.

Did GoogaMooga do everything right? Obviously not, and maybe the cost of the screw-ups is too great to justify bringing this particular event back for round three. But if trying something new these days requires ensuring each and every person’s happiness at every moment, even in the face of forces beyond human control, I’m not hopeful about where we go from here.

11 Responses

  1. JoJo Demirel -

    my biggest complaint might be that it was billed as a “rain or shine” event when clearly that wouldn’t stand to be the case. A massive undertaking of a festival with soooo many great vendors (who are now hurting financially thanks to poor Googa planning) and they didn’t think about rain…in May…in New York? really?!

  2. Anonymous -

    Fantastic piece, particularly this sentence: “I’m just saying that there might be better places to direct your
    energies, and there are hardships that exceed being burned by an errant
    auto-email and having to walk a few blocks to eat brunch inside because
    of a rainstorm.”

  3. SkillSets -

    The sheer bulk of GoogaMogga means it should not be in a park built as Prospect Park is. It demands flat concrete or asphalt surfaces, not grassy fields. The damage to the park’s Nethermead is extensive, as many pictures on Twitter show.

  4. Anonymous -

    I genuinely, strongly hope that GoogaMooga becomes a regular event. I went both years on Saturday. Year One was definitely the mess everyone made it out to be…but I still had a decent time. Year Two they really, really got it together and I and everyone I know had a GREAT time. Damage to the Nethermead (which I live five minutes from) is a valid concern…and also pretty minimal. Grass grows back, people.

  5. anette -

    I’m sorry to upset anyone… but I had a great time at friday night’s googa mooga…. :/

  6. pssdinps -

    The drizzly rain that we had that day wasn’t going to add to the damage that was already done by the previous 2 days. They did seem to care much then, I don’t know why they’d care so much after a little rain (it rained in the evening on Saturday as well, if you recall). No, I think they saw the horrible turnout for the first two days and decided to cash in on the insurance payout rather than taking a loss for the last day. Using the weather was a great excuse.

    The guests probably thought the event was great considering they didn’t have to wait on line at all. And while we generally want to avoid two hour waits for food, no wait at all pretty much means that there weren’t enough people there. Obviously the weather had something to do with the turnout, at which point GM organizers should have put the word out to open admission up for Saturday, but they didn’t.

  7. Guest -

    “There are clearly legitimate questions about whether it is okay for a private, profit-minded interest to close off a [large] portion of a public park.”

    It’s not okay. They need to do this somewhere else, or else not close it to the public.

    • Still Anonymous -

      Seriously. I guess this is not a big deal for journalists who get into whatever they want, but for the rest of us it is pretty lame.

    • Lori -

      Exactly. And close it off not just for the weekend, but over a week. I think it’s disingenous to make the argument about whether people over-reacted to rain, or whether or not they got what they wanted from the festival experience. That’s not the issue, as anyone who uses the Park on a regular basis knows.

      I get what this writer is saying about the opportunity to support our local businesses. But when we (non-attendees) were attempting to cross the park via Center Drive on Saturday — a route recommended as open by the PPA — we were not only turned back and re-routed by event organizers several times, we also noticed that every other truck was branded Coca-Cola, Bud-Light, and the like, along with the ubiquitous Lexus-sponsor vehicles. The idea that local businesses are somehow the good guy force behind this park privatization — when the organizers themselves are based in Tennessee — is kind of silly. And there are so many other great — and more appropriate — venues for our local food trucks already — Food Truck Rally at Grand Army, Smorg, the Seaport — I just can’t imagine that the vendors involved would be counting on profiting so much from this one event that generates such damage and local ill-will. This isn’t NIMBYism, just common sense.

      Finally, since no one else has mentioned it, let’s note for the record the grand total the Park reaped from this event: $75,000.

  8. fiercedubposse -

    “Rain or shine”? “Bring enough food for 4000 customers”? Hyper-inflated prices for foods available just minutes away: I mean, $10 for a scoop of ziti and melted cheese? Sections of the Nethermead to be closed for the entire summer due to the Googly Moogly? And did anybody else have the pleasure of a security guard more crotch-curious than a Peter Gatien club’s doorman?

    There are TONS of festivals in this city, from ethnic celebrations on streets, to symphony performances on lawns, to flea markets, bike gatherings and raves. I cannot remember any as poorly organized as this.

    But, hey, I guess they let a select group of the city’s most privileged white folk to feel superior for eating “artisanal” food and listen to indie rock for free, so it must be great.

    After running the Bklyn Half, a couple free cocktails and an underwhelming overpriced Calexico quesadilla were fine… then off to Crown Heights for Trini doubles that were a 10th of the price, 10 times better, and free from entitled, park-destroying, pretentious, pushcart-pushing gentrifiers.


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