The Big Splash: Rained Out or Fizzled Out? You Decide!
I journeyed to Binghamton’s Recreation Park on June 3rd out of curiosity to see how natural gas opponents “2nd Big Splash” was going to play out as far as attendance went. I arrived at 11:30 a.m. wondering if many people would be in attendance, or if it would be like so many of the recent anti-natural gas meetings that has witnessed an ever diminishing crowd? Would our opponents finally score a public relations coup with their antics or would it be another example of a water-logged firecracker that wouldn’t light? Well, here is my report. You decide.
I drove along the back side of the park where I noticed our friends had set up an area for handicapped parking. The lot was empty, there were no people and a few Porta Potties were set up by the swings. Plenty of on-street parking was still available. Although it was early, I recalled there were a few hundred people already at the park by this time last year. I thought to myself that perhaps the light sprinkle of rain was keeping people at home. Or, was it that this year our friends, capitalists all (just kidding), were charging $15 to get into the event.
Well, I drove around to the Beethoven Street side of the park where they had their big tent set up. It was 11:50 a.m. when I pulled up to the parking lot and not wanting to donate $15 to a cause I rejected, I told them I was only going to turn around and leave. This gave me a good look into the Big Splash Big Tent. It looked to be about 50 yards in length and 25 yards wide and was providing shelter for about 30 people. I asked the ticket collector at the gate “what time did this start?” to which she replied it already had!
About then, they noticed the “pro natural gas” stickers on the bumper of my car and about eight people descended upon me telling me I wasn’t welcome, asking me to leave, calling me by name and not even asking if I purchased a ticket. The gate keeper noticed the commotion and hollered to them, “He said he was only turning around.” This was true, as I made no attempt to park and my vehicle was already headed out to the exit. As I pulled out of the lot, Vera Scroggins (a/k/a Vera Duerga), a Pennsylvania resident and natural gas opponent yelled something at me, but I couldn’t make it out – probably for the best. I mean, after all, who listens to Vera?
Leaving the Big Splash, I realized it was only noon, so I decided to go home, have some lunch and return later in the afternoon.
The time was now 2:40 p.m. in the afternoon and approximately 100 to 150 people were attending the event at that point. The rain was a light sprinkle; not enough to warrant an umbrella, but enough to keep anyone from sitting on the lawn. The band was playing under the protection of the promenade and vendors were selling food, wine and beer. One person told me the wine and beer were free with admission, but I could not verify this because I didn’t have a ticket.
“Big Splash, I said to myself, sure looks like a big failure to me.” The only music I could hear in my head was Neil Young’s “My My Hey Hey.” I had a vivid memory of how it poured at that concert while tens of thousands braved the rain to listen to him. This was a poor imitation and these musicians were hardly of that class. Interestingly, one of the lines from the song is “it’s better to burn out than it is to rust.” It appears our friends on the other side are doing both. The burnout is pretty well over and now the aging members of the gang seem to be little more than the scarred ironworks left when any large building burns down.
I then approached a picnic table where two couples were sitting drinking beer and wine and seemingly enjoying the music. I asked them what brought them to the park today and they replied that it was the beer, wine and music. I asked them if they knew what this event was about and they were evenly divided, two did and two didn’t. I asked them if they were against natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing? One lady told me she didn’t know enough about it. The man she introduced me to as her husband said he was for it. The other couple stated they were for it if natural gas development could bring jobs into the area. The woman even stated that because “They tested the wells in Pennsylvania and found no contamination, I think New York should start developing natural gas.” About then the rain started to get hard and I thanked them for their time and left for my truck.
As I drove around the park again to get one last look, I took a close look at the people in the tent. They were the same ones who stopped my car. They were dancing to the beat of the music, with wine and beer in hand. It was then I noticed something else. There in the park, at a concert rally, where people were to be promoting clean water and air and wrongfully saying natural gas development will destroy both, I saw people smoking their cigarettes. There were just a few, but, still, the signs are posted at every entrance stating “THIS IS A SMOKE FREE AREA, NO SMOKING ALLOWED.”
My last thought as I pulled away was “hypocrites,” but maybe… just maybe, like last years event, those weren’t cigarettes at all. Maybe, this event was just another music fest without meaning; billed as if it did have meaning just to give some Binghamton City dwellers a reason to gather for some partying, drinking and smoking – not that I’m against any of those things.