DO’S AND DON’TS FOR PLANNING A SUMMER FESTIVAL

Dedicated to the summer of 2020, aka the summer of cancelled events.

In honor of our calendar that is typically packed with summer events (and we mean packed!), here are a few of the do’s and don’ts that we have learned over the years that you may find valuable as you gear up to start planning for 2021 events.  

  • Do keep everyone hydrated. Staff, volunteers, contractors, attendees – drinking water should be a top priority in any summer event. Water towers back-of-house, water stations for attendees, have a sponsor provide bottles at the entry of a show – there are many options that should be considered when planning your festival. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!
  • Do provide guidance for new staff. Summer festivals are not for the faint of heart. I was lucky enough to have a mentor share with me some great advice going into my first 10-day festival (more like 25+ days for set up and tear out). Bring extra socks, swap out shoes halfway through your day, bring a fanny pack for all the essentials, meal prep, plan for snacks ahead of time – all of these things, are not to be learnt the hard way. Share your expertise ahead of time and make the first festival for your staff more manageable. (Thanks for sharing your knowledge with me, Sue!)
  • Do celebrate staff & volunteers. Putting together a show is a big task, and often appreciation goes in the direction of monetary investments or community influence such as sponsors, public officials, and so on. The endless hours, regardless if they paid hours, should receive special recognition from organizers as well. From event site signage, to appreciation gifts or parties – it should be on the radar to do something for staff and volunteers. Truly, shows would not go on without them.
  • Do make safety a priority. Now more than ever, safety at events is in the spotlight. However, this should always be the case when you are hosting people at site, not just during the pandemic.  From crowd management, emergency response, food safety, noise management, weather watch, evacuation plans, etc. – safety is not a small task and should be planned for well in advance. Staff and volunteers should be trained in all safety measures that organizers have planned since they are the frontline staff that will most likely need to know protocols if something were to happen.
  • Do consider the target audience. Summer events mean that school is out, and kids are looking for activities. Is your event family friendly? If so, plan the right activities to keep kids entertained and parents’ content. If not, be sure to include notes in all messaging prior to the event to families know it may not be the best option for them.
  • Don’t go overboard. When planning a summer festival, there is a lot of ideas that can leave the event lacking in other areas. Focus on what you can do, and do that well before growing too quickly. Set realistic budgets and outline the goals of each activation that you choose to move forward with. Often a smaller imprint can provide more value for guests than trying to fill a large site without the proper resources. Be mindful of each element you are adding, and the actual value that adds.
  • Don’t leave things to guess work. Whether it is budgets, forecasts, safety, layouts, staffing, contracts, and so on; you do not want to leave anything to guess work. Make sure you do proper project planning and engage the right professionals to ensure the project is done on-time, and thoroughly.  
  • Don’t go about it alone. One word: collaboration! Bring your team together, have brainstorming session and allow those dreams to flourish. Everyone brings a different expertise to the table, and we find great value in this approach to make a thoughtfully curated event.
  • Don’t leave waste behind. How did you find the site before your event moved in? Well, you should have a waste management plan in place to ensure the site is left in the same, if not better condition then that. No questions asked.

What are you most curious about when it comes to organizers of summer festivals?

What is a major do or don’t for you as a summer festival organizer?

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