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Venetian Festival days came to Lake Geneva. There has always been an attitude of positive reinforcement that goes along with public displays of celebration and great good fun. Carnivals, circuses and fiestas are words used to describe such community celebrations in small and large towns across all of America.

Some of those “celebrations” don’t turn out so well for everyone, however. One would think that the influx of more than fifty thousand people into a small community the size of Lake Geneva would be simply grand for everyone (outside of the police, fire and street departments). Those small organizations have to work extraordinary hours, under very difficult conditions, to make the events happen in safety and comfort. They are usually invisible unless something goes really wrong. Another bit of invisibility belongs to the small businesses that make up the body of the rest of the downtown area. They don’t fare so well during celebrations like the Venetian thing. Oh, the bars do fine, as so many carnival attendees go to the bars after the fairway closes to get partially or totally tanked. The restaurants that adjoin Flat Iron Park, where the event is primarily held, do fine.

The rest of the businesses in town fall flat on their collective butts for an entire long weekend, one of the prime weekends of their vital summer trade period. For those businesses the Venetian event is more like an asteroid strike. No customers flow up from the Venetian event to enter their stores, shop and then purchase goods. It’s an entire weekend of that. The people, for the most part, who come to the celebration buy everything they want or need at the event and on the grounds of the event.   Rides are about four bucks apiece and there are tons of rides. The fairway is loaded with expensive games that return prizes so ridiculous one would think they would be handed out by modern day politicians with giant fake smiles.   Beer flows expensively through the throngs while they are entertained by live shows charging a lot of money in cover fees. Parking, nearly unavailable downtown, has become more and more expensive when that amount is added to total expenditures for event attenders. Not only does the flow of consumer traffic not move up into the commercial sector of Lake Geneva’s downtown, but what potential customers do show up are those that have been so fleeced down at the Venetian event that they don’t want to spend a penny more on local goods of any kind unless it is alcohol related.

This same phenomenon has been noted at Olympic events. Those Olympics where the entire cluster of different stadiums and arenas and tracks are built in one centralized location have tended to virtually kill off the cities where the facilities were built and operated. For the entire time the Olympic events were held there everything outside of the encapsulated enclosure comprising the facilities and events basically died off from inattention and lack of traffic. This effect has transferred itself to many local festivities wherein the local businesses have been totally, and many times without thought or plan, cut out of everything. Those business owners slowly, over time, grow angry at the organizers of the event since the operators are always from out of town or even out of state.

The Venetian affair will have taken in hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time it is over this year. Almost none of it will have flowed in and through the businesses that make up the heart, center, and even soul of Lake Geneva’s identity, and the prime attraction for serving the people who come to enjoy the lake itself. Many people love the rides, the fast food cooked on the spot by charitable organization volunteers, and the fireworks. Are they wrong to love those things? At what expense are those things provided?

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