There you are in early June, putting the finishing touches on the festival site for a Christian youth event in Frankfort, Ky., when violent storms level almost everything.
Can’t you just imagine the festival director having a little chat that went something like this: “Why me, oh Lord, why me?”
Or, of course, you could have been director of the 24th Annual Jacksonville, Texas, Tomato Fest, scheduled in mid- June, just about at the very moment that the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes made international headlines and sort of turned people off to tomatoes for a while.
Then again, you could be long-time Hartford politician and entrepreneurial eager-beaver Mike McGarry, who, at the very moment he got the nod to launch a low-key travel-and-tourism initiative for the city, was hit by the double-whammy of the savage mugging of a former deputy mayor and the hit-and-run, we-don’t-give- a-damn morality tale that played out on Park Street.
McGarry isn’t one to run away from long odds. The former Republican city councilman ran for mayor in 2003 — in a city that would rather attend a celebration of salmonella-riddled tomatoes than vote for a Republican mayoral candidate. And just to cement his status as Captain of the Titanic, McGarry was recently anointed chairman of the Republican town committee in Hartford, which gives him power over all 15 Republicans in town.
To be sure, he is no slick marketing executive. McGarry is rough around the edges and an acquired taste. But it is hard to imagine anyone better to sex up the city’s constipated marketing and lure suburbanites and tourists to walk the mean streets of Hartford and spend a long weekend.
He wants Dixieland bands to wander the downtown streets, popping in and out of restaurants and showing people a good time. He wants to peddle VIP passes for city events that would get you backstage for drinks and a handshake with celebrity performers. He wants city hotels to coordinate weekend packages that discount rooms, restaurants and concert tickets.
McGarry and all the usual players, from the MetroHartford Alliance to the Convention and Visitors Bureau to the Rising Star Committee, are, in theory, one big happy family in the new initiative. In time, McGarry will be throwing chairs and screaming; he won’t do bureaucracy well.
Already, the GOP has done a mailing to every new address in town. Before long, McGarry may convince city residents that Republicans are not mysterious creatures that only come out at night. More challenging, of course, will be to convince tourists to come out at night. The Park Street hit-and-run and the beating of Nick Carbone, produced more reasons to stay home.
Was the apparent apathy of neighborhood residents to the victim of the hit-and-run a media distortion? That issue is one for Sunday school or journalism class. More to the practical point, the publicity is cemented in public consciousness — and it represents a marketing nightmare for Hartford’s travel-and-tourism efforts.
McGarry, of course, is sure that all can be overcome and the city will learn to party all night. The city’s many strengths won’t be depreciated, “just because you have a spate of bad publicity.”