Not-So-Great GoogaMooga

The weather was ideal for the inaugural Great GoogaMooga, the first ever “foodie festival” in Brooklyn on May 19-20. But most attendees would say this was the only thing that was ideal.

Glitches are to be expected with any inaugural event, however the not-so-great GoogaMooga — that seemed to be ruled by Murphy’s Law on Saturday when I attended — experienced heightened backlash from attendees via social media. The fact that the event started a half-hour late, the two-hour-long beverage lines, the mandatory (and confusing) drink tickets called “GoogaMoola,” the spotty cellphone reception, the high prices, the lack of shade, and that fact that some vendors ran out of food by 3 p.m. (even in the V.I.P. section), all combined to make that Saturday a less-than-perfect affair — and prompted a lot of attendees to take their frustration to the net. None of these mishaps would go unnoticed, or un-tweeted — with many references to The Hunger Games.

The event featured food from over 75 local restaurants, 20 musical performances, more than 35 winemakers, and 30 beer makers. It was called a “food amusement park,” meant to showcase the gourmet side of New York dining. The vendor booths, some curated by Anthony Bourdain, were arranged in a horseshoe surrounding a large stage where Hall & Oates and The Roots later played. Bourdain also spoke at the event (but only for those with a $250 V.I.P. ticket).
During our time there on Saturday, my friend and I had no cellphone reception, so we were unable to join in on the Internet roasting. And we did enjoy a lot of aspects of the festival, including the wine tasting tent, checking out Hamageddon (metal pig pictured below, made specifically for the event), and the humorous menus being passed out to the crowd. Fortunately for most attendees (and me), a lot of the tickets were free, given out months ago on the event’s website—they handed out over an estimated 40,000. I would say we definitely made the most of the crowds, pricey food, and sunburns.

One burn that might not fade as quickly, however, is the one left by all the vehement attendees online (once they got cellphone service). GoogaMooga and Superfly (the company behind the event) may have redeemed themselves somewhat on Sunday with properly stocked vendors, less attendees in shorter lines (likely a result of Saturday’s fiasco), and by doing away with “GoogaMoola.” But it remains to be seen whether the foodie festival will break New York’s Festival Curse.

With all events, I think it’s important to remember that bad reviews go beyond the press nowadays, and an impression of your event will be all over the Internet before it even begins. And while feedback sheets are quiet and discreet, the Internet is anything but. In summation, at your next inaugural event, if you’re encountering some speed bumps, make sure to be extra nice to the disgruntled attendees with smartphones.

Sarah Beauchamp

Sarah Beauchamp was formerly assistant editor of Convene.