Thought Repository

Bailing Water on the Titanic

The last week, I have spent in Pittsburgh working on booth. Of course it was a very different experience as an alum than as a student, and every carnival is always different, but this one was extra different. We almost didn't finish.

I guess I better start by saying that the overall theme was "To be a kid again" and our theme was "The Wizard of Oz". Pictures are up in bbGallery. My projects were the giant hot air balloon you see out front, the 2 smaller balloons that were part of the game, and part of the electronics for the game that controlled the sound effects and the lights that displayed the winner. The game was clicking your heels together to race the balloons up.

My projects went pretty well. I worked together with Linda sewing the balloons. I did the design, marking, and cutting; she did all the sewing. The big balloon is 6 feet in diameter and 8.5 feet tall. It is made up of 32 pieces. The smaller ones are 1/6th scale models. It was quite a challenge, especially to support, but a lot of fun. There's something great about working at such a big scale.

As for the rest of the booth... Maybe it was the rain on monday and tuesday. Maybe it was a number of buggy or other people not helping out on booth. I don't think we've ever been that close to not finishing before and I blame the management. In the end, when you realize you are too far behind, you cut back, concentrate your effort, and do only what is neccessary. That is what we did, but that started around 1pm on Thursday instead of 5pm or so on Wednesday when I would have done it. At the end there it was getting clear we couldn't finish, at least not how we wanted to. The booth chair didn't change his strategy and I felt that all the stuff we were doing was going to be useless if we didn't take care of other things. Thus I likened it to bailing water on the Titanic. If you aren't fixing the problem, "doing what you can" won't stop the ship from sinking.

I think there are certain things that I know about running booth effectively. I know the only 2 booths I've seen finish completely to our satisfaction and on time were Easter Island and Exodus, last year, and Easter Island was a very simple booth. Maybe I just got lucky but I'd like to think that the success of Exodus, maybe the most intricate booth we've built, was due to my management philosophy. This isn't the place to detail it, but the point is I feel I know how to manage a booth successfully and that I should write a Booth HOWTO for the house that will help for future years. I'd really love another chance to be booth chair. However, even if I'm allowed to under the rules, I don't think that it would be allowed in the ETC. However, rule #1 is something I learned from Randy during BVW: Structure any project like a mountain with plataeus. In a limited time you won't complete everything so define an ordered set of goals so that you have multiple points you could stop at and be finished, if not 100% done with the design.

The rest of carnival went well. The weather was wonderful. The other booths were great. Sesame street was amazing and great for kids. It really reminded me what I used to love about booth and that we should get back to building fun not just beautiful booths (especially since we are much better at the former than the latter). I got to hang out with a lot of alumni and other friends. All in all an excellent trip.