Friday, April 24, 2009

In praise of Tourists





May Day is coming soon, and I'm sure the good people of Padstow, Cornwall are working frantically to prepare their village for the coming festivities. And for the throng of tourists who come to watch the procession of the 'Obby 'Orses.

Tourists get a bad rap virtually everywhere. They've spoiled countless places. The satirical paper, The Onion, once carried a headline, "Santa Fe Resident Pretty Kokopellied Out." referring to the ubiquitous flute-playing figure of Pueblo culture. And while Santa Fe residents may be sick of tourists, a lot of Santa Fe residents would be out of work without them.

And I wonder whether the wonderful May Day celebration in Padstow would have continued without the tourists. Countless villages had similar celebrations, but only Padstow, Helston, and a few other communities still observe them. I have a feeling the tourists have a lot to do with it. I mentioned this to Kathleen, and she said that it only takes one generation to dismiss such traditions as stupid, and they're gone. But Padstow, on the north coast of Cornwall, was a tourist attraction because of its location. The tourists went back to London, or Edinburgh, or Cardiff, and told others about the incredible May Day celebration, and pretty soon, tourists from around the world descended on Padstow each year. With the money they brought in, even those who thought the May festival was stupid would oppose it.

Of course, it didn't hurt that Padstow had a truly beautiful song. Steeleye Span, though substituting "King George" for "St. George," is true to the spirit of the song:



6 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I know, down here in New Orleans we definitely have a love/hate relationship with tourists. Thank goodness for them, though.

Tea N. Crumpet said...

I forgot that yesterday was May Day. . .

steve on the slow train said...

Charles--I was thinking about New Orleans when I was writing this. As I recall, the Mardi Gras crewes almost went out of existence.

Tea--Hey, these things are lile elections. They start preparing for next year on May 2. If you didn't click on "Helston" on this post to see a medieval Christian May celebration.

twoblueday said...

May Day has no significance for me.

Amazing how areas which depend on tourist dollars bitch about tourists, ain't it?

Olivia said...

I know. Tourists are never completely gone from DC at any time of year, but I am sure the Metro Center stop where I change to the Virginia line will be absolutely seething with them in the mornings.

steve on the slow train said...

Gerry--It didn't have much significance to me, either, until I learned about Padstow.

Olivia--DC could survive without torists, though not thrive. Still, without them, DC would be a poorer place, financially and otherwise.