I, like Beth, finally saw the other side of things from the organizer's view this past summer. Our site hosted it's annual CW event and this year decided to replace some of the docents in houses with willing groups of civilians. For the most part, the information provided them and their own knowledge plus their wonderful willingness to demonstrate and interact with the public was met with great success. It freed up our staff to accomplish other things, gave them a shot at being in a historic home doing a period activity and teaching, and the visitors got some new knowledge from some different faces. The one instance this did not go well stemmed entirely from communication issues. They were not aware of rules, procedures, had never been at the house before, may have been uninformed by their contact person as to what was going to happen, etc. All of this is fixable and no one's fault, but at that moment resulted in a very tense and unhappy experience on both parts. But now, having lived through it, I can reflect on what "went wrong" and say that yeah, we were trying something new and though they were great at interacting with the public, the rules about being in the houses were not communicated well enough. It was tough, and my heart goes out to the group because I seriously believe I offended them and they may never come back again.
So next year I plan to use a yahoogroup for communication related simply to those groups coming to this event to relate house rules, site maps, events for the weekend, and each persons specific area of expertise for the weekend. Maybe that would help rather than me forgetting who I have and have not e-mailed what to. I would also choose to place docents in more of the buildings in conjunction with reenactors.
Liz, you have hit it on the head though. It depends alot on what capacity one is going to the event in, and what the purpose of the event is. One would Never go to a school presentation expecting to "have fun" as a modern person simply dressed up. One would go to educate the children.
It's also very difficult when you can have different types of reenactors at the same event. I can have ones that are totally wonderful and into education, essentially volunteering their time and money, and those who just come, sit in camp and talk about modern stuff. I always strove to be one of the ones there to help the site out, there is so little money for interpreters and they do such a hard job, but due to some others experiences with reenactors, sometimes the site is not amenable to any "help". In that case it is carpe eventum.
I guess what I'm saying is it really helps to see the "other side of the coin" in this case. Once you do, you really get a sense for what some sites go through to put these things on and it helps you to understand how you can fit into it. My husband and I have gotten around to enough events that we pick and choose based on the experience we want to have. He loves to teach, so we always go to events that we can teach the public at. I like Immersion events, and we don't generally go to the big nationals because there is really no point. It does not educate us, nor do we get to educate, and it's not immersive, so we don't go. But to someone who's never been and is still enjoying just getting out there, a national event may be something they look forward to all year. That's fine.
At the very least, I think we all owe organizers to follow the rules set forth by them. We owe the public interaction on positive levels and to make ourselves available to them. We owe others respect and courtesy and that they may not wish to talk or see modern stuff.