[Coco] The future of the CoCoFest

Nickolas Marentes nickma at optusnet.com.au
Tue May 2 05:29:28 EDT 2006

I'm glad there is a discussion about the future of the CoCoFest. I've been
concerned about it for several years now. I've always felt that in its
current format, its lifespan was limited.

Let's face it folks, the CoCoFest is going to keep shrinking unless an
injection of new and fresh ideas is made, these fests will merely become a
yearly meeting place for a small group of die hard CoCo'ists...actually,
it's probably reached that stage already.

Not that this is bad but it does lead to the situation we have now.

I can appreciate that the Glenside folks do the best they can with limited
resources. I understand that they have family and work commitments beyond
the CoCo. I do believe though that more can be done to improve on the Fest.

I don't wish to sound like I'm beating my own drum when I remind people that
I was the primary organizer for PennFest 2000 alongside Ron Bull. We both
had family and work commitments yet we pulled off a successful fest on very
limited resources. It's made even more spectacular when you know that I live
in Australia (the other side of the planet) and the Fest was in Pittsburgh,

We had huge expenses, one of which was my airfare to the US to run the show.
Ron and I managed to cover our expenses due to the support and generosity of
the CoCo users who attended. We didn't make money on the fest nor was it easy
but we were just happy not to have lost any money while doing something for
the benefit of the CoCo community.

Like I said, I'm not saying all this to show how smart I am but I just want
to make the point that the downward spiral of the CoCoFest can be reversed.

Here are a few things we did to make PennFest 2000 a success and could be
taken onboard to help the Chicago CoCofest.


This is the most important tip of all. Because family and work commitments
need to take first priority, this left less time for fest preparations. The
way to counter this was by giving ourselves plenty of lead time up to the
fest with a "ready-to-go" target date of at least 2 weeks before the actual
event. We gave ourselves a 9 month lead on the fest for preparations. 


Let everyone know exactly what the status of the fest preparations are. We
setup a web site that not only gave the "when,where,why" of the fest but
also listed the current stage of planning with regards to special guests,
activities, a theme and most importantly...who was coming. We were taking
admission payments in advance and listing paid attendees on the web so that
others who were thinking of attending could see who they would meet. As time
went on and the fest began to take shape, we managed to get several special
guests...Jeremy Spiller, Mark Hawkins and Kevin Darling (we almost got Steve
Bjork and Marty Goodman).


The theme was the CoCo's 20th anniversary birthday and I had designed and
made up all the banners and decorations while in Australia and carried them
with me on the plane. Ron Bull organised 2 large cakes and the helium
balloons. Dave Poitras supplied some of the front door signage and on the day,
everyone helped with the setup.


The fest belongs to everyone, therefore it is important to let others have a
part in the fest preparations. We have a great community of people who would
love to help if they can...use that resource. There are many others who
contributed to the fest that I haven't even mentioned. All it takes is to
set the groundwork for the fest then allocate tasks to people who would be
happy to volunteer their services.

The fest needs an injection of fresh ideas. We need to determine who the
target attendees are and satisfy their desires. We can't keep targeting the
diehard CoCo'ist, we need to chase up ex-CoCo users. These users do not have
a CoCo anymore and so we can't expect them to be interested in buying CoCo
hardware/software. The fest needs to be shaped more as a showcase of what
the CoCo was/is/will be. We may even need to consider merging the fest with
other TRS-80 organisations such as the TRS-80 Model 1/3, and MC-10 users. We
may have different computers but we all share an interest in "retro

If I was in a situation of organising a fest that turned out with low
attendance, I would blame myself, not the community. It would be my failing
not to have worked hard enough to make people want to come, just as I did
with the special guests at Pennfest 2000.

Money is an issue for many but just as starting fest preparations early is
an important step, so too is saving money from now for next years fest.
You'd be surprised how much can accumulate if one puts aside a dollar a day.

For anyone who wants to read a detailed report of Pennfest 2000, go to...


Nickolas Marentes

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