The tale of our festival plates
Folk Fest Reusable Plates, Calgary Herald, Friday, May 14, 2010.
A recent tour of eBay turned up a few decent festival-related collectibles. A Portland Rose Festival souvenir spoon was being offered by "wildwoodsummer," while "timscokes1" from Georgia was hawking an official Essence Music Festival 15th anniversary Coca-Cola bottle (no mention of a bottle deposit, but shipping to Canada is $12). While we might dig around in the Swerve couch for small change to bid on the signed Devo Blue Energy Dome from the 2010 Coachella Festival, we're saving our toonies in case a set of Calgary Folk Music Festival plates shows up on the online auction site.
Following the lead of its Edmonton counterpart, Calgary's Folk Fest, in partnership with Enmax, introduced a plate-recycling program in 2001, stamping plastic plates with its iconic cow and guitar logo. It quickly became one of this city's most successful green initiatives, but "there was an unintended consequence to getting really cute plates," volunteer manager Talia Potter says. "In the first year, over 1,000 went missing." Festival director Kerry Clarke remembers performer Victoria Williams happily announcing, "I bought four of them" (thinking her two-dollar deposit was the price of the plate), while new volunteers boasted that they'd picked up "the full-on picnic set of festival ware."
Last fall, a pair of missing plates was discovered 10,547 kilometres south of Prince's Island. Volunteer Tracy Meier-Ragazzi, who had relocated from Calgary to Sao Paulo, Brazil, found a blue plastic plate with the familiar guitar-slinging cow in a hole-in-the-wall shop in an area called Liberdade. "I always returned my plate for the toonie back home, but I bought this one and its mate for four reals, about $2.50 Canadian," Meier-Ragazzi says.
Unfortunately, the economics of global redistribution worked against the Calgary Folk Music Festival, which had paid $5 for each cow plate and quickly wound up $3,000 in the red. It had to stop printing cow plates a few years back, with the remaining Bossies reserved for volunteers and performers. The rest of us will have to be content with no-frills dinnerware and the good feeling produced by returning dirty plates so they can be reused, as per their original purpose.
© Calgary Herald 2010