For some reason that only made sense to the editor, the News-Gazette recently published a summary of Ebertfest's earnings in ticket sales over the past three years. Many people, including the managing editor of Smile Politely and festival organizer Chaz Ebert, were confused by the need to point out a downward trend in ticket sales. Within an hour of each other, I heard them both voice the question, "But what purpose does an article like that serve?"
I can't speak to the intent of our local paper, but I can report on Ms. Ebert's reaction to it: see title, above.
Chaz stood behind the podium, before introducing the director of the opening film, and she looked at the full-to-bursting seats and she affirmed her committment to our community and this festival.
Her speech denounced the thinking that we should be measuring the success of this festival by the number of seats sold. "This isn't a sporting event," she said, "...we're not a widget factory." She emphasized the relationships built, the friendships and marriages (and perhaps babies) formed through this event, the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that it fosters, and through these things, leads to even more creative effort.
The queen supreme of diplomacy went on to namecheck Melissa Merli, a News-Gazette writer who has consistently supported Ebertfest, saying that Ebertfest still embraces the people and community of Champaign-Urbana, and it will still keep coming back, per Roger's wishes, "as long as [Chaz] still enjoy[s] it."
And I, for one among the 1000+ people who were there tonight, applauded my hands off.
Image from Ebertfest 2015, by Sam Logan.