Friday morning the Pennsic staff announced that Pennsic 49, postponed from last year, would be postponed again to next year. This did not surprise me; I figured a 50-50 chance this year was optimistic, given the uncertainties involved. Our camp had already been discussing the possibility of holding "Little Pennsic"; one person has enough land for our 25 or so vaccinated people to camp for a week.
A few hours later, Cooper's Lake Campground announced that they would be holding "Armistice" during the Pennsic timeslot, and that they need this event to succeed or they might not be around in 2022. As a business that relies on events -- except for this year, they no longer host plain old camping, only large events -- they are certainly hurting, but there was something about the language that felt off-putting to me. (More on that in a few paragraphs.)
The event announcement has the basic information: not an SCA event but designed to resemble Pennsic in most ways. No battles, but groups can "check out" list fields or archery ranges for their own use (and presumably at their own liability). Tents will be available for classes. Merchants are welcome. There will be some semblance of "land grab" for camping spots. You can register now (prices are higher than Pennsic). But they don't yet say anything about pandemic-related restrictions, like whether vaccines will be required and whether, even with vaccines, masks will be required. They'll follow state guidelines but, in April, nobody knows what those will be in July/August. That makes it hard for people to commit.
Pennsic has, over the last several years, felt more and more like a Cooper's Lake event and less and less like one controlled by the SCA, so in a way this is a natural step in the evolution of the event. For most events, the SCA rents space and is responsible for running the event; with Pennsic, Cooper's Lake has much more control, particularly over the financial aspects of the event. It's kind of a weird hybrid.
Pennsic has been at Cooper's Lake for about 45 years. The original Coopers (and Wilvers), who were friends of the SCA and shared its values, are gone. A new generation is running the campground now. They don't have that history and they don't share those values, so it's not surprising that they run things differently. The old Coopers could have said "hey folks, we're in trouble" and help would have flooded in from their friends in the SCA. The new Coopers have not maintained that close relationship, focusing on the business over the people (sometimes at the expense of the people), so it's hard to predict what will happen now. I think this is why I react to their plea the way I do; they moved from personal relationships to a business model, which is a valid decision for them to make, but this is the kind of appeal one makes with personal relationships. It feels out of place, given the changes in direction.
I suspect that when (if) Pennsic returns in 2022, the SCA will own less of it than it did in 2019. Only time will tell what Pennsic will look like in a few more years.
In comments somebody asked whether it's feasible to move the event. I wrote:
In principle it could be moved. There would be a ton of work in re-jiggering things that have grown a particular way because of the current facility, but people with the will to make it happen could move the event.
There would be a lot of resistance, calls to "save Cooper's Lake at any cost", because most people have only ever known Pennsic at Cooper's Lake and sentimental attachment is strong even though the original Coopers are gone. If the business closes then the event would be forced to move or shut down, but if Cooper's Lake limps along but in decline, then I suspect Pennsic would limp and decline with it.
Pennsic is the largest event in the SCA and it was the first big interkingdom gathering. Others have since arisen in other places, and I suspect that if Pennsic were to face the "move or shut down" decision, there'd be sentiment to say that it had an awfully good run and there are other big events now. Most people in the SCA just want to show up and camp; they don't want to rebuild a 10,000-person event from scratch. (Who could blame them?) So if Pennsic isn't working but there's Gulf Wars or Estrella or others, people would probably attend them instead. Some subset of people would just drop out and be treated as natural (if accelerated) attrition.
Another interesting element is that the next Pennsic, rescheduled now for 2022, is Pennsic 49. Pennsic 50 is expected to be a big deal (round-number milestone). Whether, where, and how large Pennsic 51 is is anybody's guess.