I did a festival yesterday. I belong to a group called "Broadway Public Art" (a collective of people that make things...anything. OK, there's just 5 of us so far, but it's in its infancy and is part of the efforts to renew our neighborhood) and we had a couple booths at the neighborhood festival (thanks to Charles Gliha for organizing, who does the most fabulous woodworking and restoration work, BTW).
This festival, the 37th annual Slavic Village Festival, has shrunk from a 2-day, many blocks long street fair with 2 stages of continuous music and tons of vendors and food that attracted huge crowds to a one day, one stage, maybe a dozen vendors (both food and non-food) with hardly any people-and not the 75,000 they advertise as being there.
Frankly, it was sad, but not without potential. I know the demographics are changing, but that shouldn't affect the attendance as people will come from all over if they have a reason to come. I think the problem is that the festival planners are reacting to the changes rather than being proactive trying to accomodate it and grow. Right now the festival, which has always promoted Slavic heritage, has no face, no focus, no theme, no continuity, no real reason for exisiting.
It all comes down to basic business practises. What is your brand/identity? Who is your market? Does everything you do enhance or detract from that effort? In this arena, only the strong survive.
I really think business and marketing courses should be mandatory. Everything comes down to marketing whether it is getting a job (selling ourselves to a prospective employer) to getting your toddler to eat his peas.