When the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed much of Santa Cruz’s Pacific Garden Mall, the merchants set up hard plastic “pavilions” and soldiered on in them as repairs were slowly made to their buildings.
These relatively cramped hard plastic tents — unheated, uncooled — made for a crappy shopping experience. But Cruzans made a conscious decision to support their community merchants anyway. They called it “mercy shopping.” Their support kept the merchants in business until they could get back in their buildings and return to normal.
There’s a similarity to that in this year’s Asparagus Festival. Stockton’s bankruptcy made it necessary to slash the city’s $350,000 festival subsidy. Nobody wants to say it, but there’s a concern this could trigger a death spiral for the event. Volunteers from charities earn money for their nonprofit base on hours volunteered. When they receive a lot less money, they may decide it’s not worth it.
Plus fewer people came last year.
Now, the concern about volunteers may be misplaced. I certainly hope it is. And the dip in attendance may have been due to the chilling effect of the Boston bombing, as festival organizers conjectured. What matters is that the asparagus festival needs us this year. That event has given us years of pleasure and the best publicity Stockton ever gets. Give it the love it deserves. This year, going is an act of good citizenship.