If you live in Brooklyn and use the internet, you are probably sick to death of hearing about The Great GoogaMooga. For anyone who visits ONLY this website (hi Mom) and doesn’t know what I’m talking about I’ll fill you in real quick – the Great GoogaMooga was a food festival that took place this past weekend, featuring food vendors from all parts of New York City as long as they fell into the category of totally delicious. Each vendor offered one outstanding item to guests, usually in half/whole or single/double portions. The festival occurred outside (duh) in Prospect Park’s Nethermead Meadow, and also featured live music from such bands as Holy Ghost and Hall & Oates. In theory, this is the most genius event ever devised by man.
And in practice, it was pretty great too! If you had the good sense to arrive before about 2pm (which is pretty manageable, even if you’re hungover) waiting in line for most items was not much of a problem. With so many different vendors and tons of space, people were able to spread out rather than crowding, and since each stand offered only one or two items, lines moved pretty quickly.
When we first arrived on Saturday, we were starving our faces off, so we made a beeline for a vendor with a short line – DBGB. Actually a lot of the lines were short around 12:30pm, or, “The Lunching Hour.”
You might think that preparing food in large quantities in an outdoor situation would compromise quality, but to be honest, I have no complaints about any of the food. Sure, I liked some items better than others, but everything was consistently delicious, and was served fresh and hot, which I found to be fairly impressive in itself. Among my favorite items were the Thai Sausage from DBGB, the Pulled Pork Banh Mi slider things from Num Pang, and the Toasted Coconut Frozen Banana from the Big Banana.
And where other festivals tend to fail, GoogaMooga was pretty successul – there were plenty of tables to stand & sit at while eating, shade was available if you wanted to find it, and there were tons of “restrooms” (port-a-potties, yeck) and even outdoor sinks with clean water and paper towels. The crowd, for the most part, seemed happy and even friendly; it was fun to talk to strangers and discuss what they’d eaten and would recommend, what lines were long or short, etc. fostering a good ol’ community feeling around the food. And despite the madness, staff at most of the booths were friendly and seemed remarkably stress-free. Roberta’s Pizza was one of the most impressive stands to observe, with their giant flame-filled outdoor pizza oven and expert pizza grillers hard at work toasting pies to order.
But as great as it was, seeing as the festival is in its first year, there are a few things they can work on for next year. I went both days, and my experience on Sunday was better than on Saturday, largely because (I think) organizers of the festival seemed open to guest feedback and did implement some changes to facilitate overall improvement. For instance, on Saturday, beverages in the beer & wine tents were only purchasable if you got some kind of electronic payment card with “GoogaMoula” – which I did not do because it seemed like a hassle. I guess other people agreed, because by Sunday they ditched the system and went back to good old cash as acceptable payment for all items.
The organizers deserve major credit for making a change like this, especially if it is based on customer feedback. Overall, I think everything was really well-managed, but there are a few other improvements I think they could make for next year, or, “unsolicited advice from a person who no experience in event management whatsoever”.
1) More retail! Eating is great and fun and everything, but what about those times when you are so stuffed you might just die? I would’ve loved to see more retail stands with food-related products, especially stuff that’s New York specific, like local preserves, baked goods, sauces, etc. Community shops like Blue Apron or Stinky Bklyn would’ve made great additions.
2) Fun & games? Seems like a lot of the non-eating attractions were reserved for the lucky people who had $250 ExtraMooga tickets, but what about the rest of us poors?! Of course there was the live music and occasional lecture/talk sort of thing, but it would’ve been great if there had been games (like at a carnival?) or demos or maybe other things to engage with during those times when you just need to put on the brakes and digest.
3) Cell service!! For a festival that is so plugged in to social networking, and encouraging guests to tweet and check-in and whatnot, I had to laugh that there was no cell signal and no wi-fi. Probably because every single one of the billion people there was trying to Tweet and Instagram and overshare all of the stuff they were doing and eating, thereby clogging up cell networks (save it for your blog when you get home, like I do). Sure, we’re all probably better off for spending a weekend without Facebook and Twitter on our phones, but having no signal made meeting up and communicating with friends difficult. How did we ever live this way??! Of course they can’t build their own cell tower, but maybe there’s a way to offer super-beefy free wi-fi to the masses?
4) Better stock. Showing up early to events like this seems like a no-brainer, and if you got to the park by 2pm on either day, you’d probably have no issue getting the items you really wanted. But on Sunday, a number of stands were sold out of their stock by 3pm. This is another way cell service would’ve come in handy – if Twitter were accessible and the organizers could notify their followers of which stands are sold out to save them the last-minute disappointment.
5) Line management. While “line talkers” did emerge on Saturday afternoon to try and guide lines and provide info to guests, things still got a little messy. In line for a beverage tent on Saturday, a security guy started checking IDs and giving out 21+ bracelets right next to the front of the bev line for people who either didn’t know or didn’t care they had to get a bracelet for alcohol at the tent near the entrance. That’s all well and good, except people would receive bracelets then just shimmy sideways into the bev line, cutting the dozens of people who had been waiting behind them and creating a general mess of people. We waited probably 45 minutes to get water after being repeatedly cut while a security guy stood a few feet away. The removal of the “GoogaMoula” system on Sunday seemed to relieve the crowds at the bev lines a bit, but it still seemed like there should’ve been a better system in place for managing lines, keeping them moving, and preventing people from blatantly cutting.
6) More ice cream! I don’t think I need to go into detail here, but where was Blue Marble? Steve’s? Etc?? Melt and Big Gay Ice Cream are both amazing, but I wanted more more more!
7) Cocktails for the masses. I believe ExtraMooga patrons had cocktails available to them, and yet again, the poors got shafted with only beer & wine choices. Wine is weird to me when it’s hot out, and while beer is nice, it was only taking up valuable real estate in my stomach that could’ve been used to house more food. I would’ve been happy to spend a little extra on a nice cocktail, especially something interesting and refreshing on a hot day. Even some sangria would’ve been a nice option.
8 ) Which leads me to… alcohol prices. You can always expect to spend more than usual for alcohol at festivals like this, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to see beers at the regular bev lines running $7 and $8. But beers in the beer tent, for a “large” which appeared to be about 10 oz. (the same size as beers in the regular bev lines), cost between $10 and $14. In the words of Mark Twain, “That shit cray.” I can understand prices like that for beers that are super alcoholic, but many of the drafts available were regular old Brooklyn Brewery, Blue Moon, etc that are only as strong as your standard beer. You could get a smaller sampler size (3 or 4 oz. it looked like) for between $3 and $5, but to “feel any effects” (or, get wasted) you’d probably need about a dozen of those. I think the full-price beers should’ve either been a full pint, or a good bit cheaper, for that to make any damn sense. Maybe pricey alcohol was just part of the plan to keep people from getting rowdy, though I can’t sure for certain that it worked.
In all, I was really impressed with most things about the festival and how well-run it was. We had a great time eating everything in sight, and will now be on a liquid diet until further notice. Assuming they do it again next year, hopefully it’ll be even better and bigger and more people will get to attend and join in on the fun! Check out the gallery below for more pics from the weekend.