The second annual Clark Park Welcome to the Neighborhood Festival never happened. The reasons why are many, complicated and explained below. But they all boil down to one thing: A festival that was good for Penn and good for the surrounding community fell apart because the two sides did not speak the same language. This sort of failure is all too common in the borderlands around the University. It is the type of failure that no one notices because nothing changed. It is a tragedy of what could have been. The first Welcome to the Neighborhood Festival was held at Clark Park in the fall of 1999. It was moderately successful. The second time around, Penn decided to partner with the Clark Park Music and Arts Committee, which had run its own fall festival in most years out of the last 29. The idea for a combined festival first popped up in June in a conversation between Glenn Bryan, Penn's director of city and community relations, and CPMAC President Glen Moyer. Each had something the other wanted. Moyer had a festival "the neighborhood" actually attended. Bryan had money. One thousand five hundred dollars, to be exact. Nearly as much as the festival's entire $2,000 budget and enough to put the festival on solid financial ground. But like any good donor, Bryan had very definite ideas about how that money should be spent. He wanted the festival name changed to the Clark Park Music and Arts Festival and the University of Pennsylvania's Welcome to the Neighborhood Festival. He asked that President Rodin be invited to give a Welcome to the Neighborhood address. And he mentioned that Penn Police would provide security. Moyer felt like Penn was taking over his neighborhood festival, but he also knew that he needed the money. And so, Moyer spent much of the summer talking to Dawn Lee in Bryan's office, trying to get Penn's support without ceding too much control. Miraculously, it sounded like Penn was listening. By August, Lee had acquiesced on all key points. The Clark Park Funtabulous Fall Festival was back on track, community-run and Penn-sponsored. Only one problem: The $1,500 check that the festival had been depending on had yet to arrive. On August 31, Moyer arrived for a scheduled meeting with Lee and Bryan to make final arrangements and pick up the check. Storm clouds were brewing. Just days earlier, Bryan had told Moyer that he still wanted Rodin to give a welcoming speech at the festival. Moyer said no and, by his account, Bryan responded, "It's Judy's money and she'll say what she wants to." According to Moyer, it was not the first time Bryan had shown a measure of contempt. Moyer says Bryan had canceled several meetings and failed to arrive at others. On one occasion, he arrived on Moyer's porch two hours late. When Bryan finally showed, Moyer was across the park walking his dog, but he figured better late than never. That was the day Bryan first told him about Penn's conditions. Now, Bryan failed to show up to address his concerns. That, for Moyer, was the last straw. The festival might have been better with Penn's money, but it would not be the best community festival that $3,500 could buy. The deal was off. Of course, Dawn Lee knew nothing of Moyer's growing irritation. All she had was an e-mail informing her that his group had not accepted Penn's latest proposal. She says she never even knew that the Penn Police presence was of concern. And the festival's title? Funtabulous Fall Festival was fine, Lee said. But how was Penn supposed to market the event to freshmen without linking it in to the broader Welcome to the Neighborhood theme? And then there's Judy. Both sides knew she was a dealbreaker. Cut her and the University walked, keep her and CPMAC was having no part of it. In a letter to Lee, Moyer wrote: "Judith Rodin can be included as a guest as long as CPMAC approves the content of her speech. "Since this is not an orientation event, a welcome to the neighborhood speech to freshmen would be inappropriate." Bryan had no idea what Rodin was going to say, but he was in no position to impose conditions upon his boss. Penn was providing $1,500, and Rodin would speak as she liked. Only now, there was no festival for her to speak at. At this late date, there was no way to do it with CPMAC and no way to do it without them. Bryan hadn't requested funding for his own fall festival. It was too late for Lee to pull a listing in the Almanac's September at Penn calendar:
23 Clark Park Funtabulous Fall Festival; music and arts festival in support of Penn's "Welcome to the Neighborhood" initiative.
It was a final reminder of what could have been.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.