It was quite ironic that I entered this new phase of poverty just before the Labor Day weekend, with events taking place all over Kansas City. One of the biggest ones is the Santa Caligon Days Festival here in Independence. I've been to it twice over the past six years, mostly because I had the money to have left town on each holiday occasion. The last time I went to Des Moines, or at least I think that's where I was. It's hard to remember because nothing special happened besides the usual pub crawl.
The Festival is the one big score local merchants get to make outside of the Christmas holidays. They get charged exorbitant fees to set up their tents for three days and nights, putting up their stands on Friday morning and having to take them down Sunday afternoon. They don't even get Labor Day. As a result, they fleece the locals to get their money back. Having to walk ten blocks to get to the bank because the police have the festival area cordoned off, I saw prices of $2.50 for water and $8 for red beans and rice. As I watched couples and all their children braving the 100-degree weather today, it was hard not to have a sense of outrage. Imagine some poor soul having to fork over twenty dollars for eight half-liters of water for his parched family. That is without buying them a bite to eat or letting them go on one minute-long ride.
It's truly a vicious cycle, and those with kids can readily understand how hard it is to tell theirs how they can't afford to go when everyone else on the block is going. Sure, you can load them up with food before leaving the house, but what do you do when they start feeling the effects of the brutal temperature? You can load Mama up with enough bottled water to supply a Marine squad in Iraq, but the jarheads will tell you that it won't last forever. Maybe tourists from Iowa or Nebraska will think it worth their vacation money, but the blue-collar families on my block will have hell to pay.
Imagine if Lewis and Clark were able to travel through time and see how these price gougers are profiting on this celebration. If they saw how the point where the road through Independence Springs led all the way to Santa Fe, California and Oregon was being exploited by scalpers, they might well have left a warning sign: "Let the buyer beware!"