Whether or not to pay the suggested donation at a street festival probably isn't the most vexing decision you'll make this summer. (It's got nothing on the "skirt or romper?" quagmire.) But when you're passing through the temporary gates and a fest volunteer's expectant eyes lock with yours, how's a person to decide whether to fork over the cash?
Keep a few points in mind: First and foremost, how much time are you planning to spend at the fest? If you're just walking down that street to get to a friend's apartment, I wouldn't worry about skipping the donation. But if you're making a whole day of the fest, listening to the bands and browsing the vendors, then consider whether that entertainment is worth a few bucks. Most likely, it is. Think about how much you'd spend to see a band in concert; it's probably way more than the $5 or $10 fest donation. We all prefer high-quality music instead of some high schoolers' cover band, but organizers need a budget to make that happen.
Second, consider whether the fest is in your neighborhood. Your donation could make a difference to schools or the local chamber of commerce. If you've wanted to see some flowers planted or new benches installed, you should probably hand over a few bucks to help make it happen. Most of us don't have the spare cash to fund the programs that make our neighborhoods better, but a fest donation earns you a share of the warm fuzzies.
Third—and you probably don't need to be reminded of this—can you afford the donation? A $5 suggested donation is fairly standard, but some fests ask $10 on top of the money you'll spend on beer and food. When I was fresh out of college, I could stretch $10 a long way. If donating a whole ten spot feels like a lot, consider giving just a few dollars. And if you really can't spare the cash, don't feel judged. There are way more egregious fest crimes—just ask the sunburned dude puking into a planter.
Kate Bernot is RedEye's nightlife reporter. She covers fests and has never said no to a drink served in a pineapple.
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