Why an Interview,,,

Over the years we have been able to meet and talk with some very interesting people. They have shared with us their knowledge and have provided us with a great deal of insight as to how and why festivals and events work and why they are so important to our communities and to the Province of Ontario. With this in mind, we decided that we wanted you to meet and hear from some of the wonderful people who work so hard to provide us all with such wonderful Ontario Festivals and Events! We are pleased and proud to present "THE INSIDE SCOOP"!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Contingency Planning

A while ago, we visited an event that was scheduled to have its activities take place inside and outside. When we arrived it was raining quite heavily, plus it was cold! A bad combination for a spring festival! When we got there I checked with the festival information desk to obtain an event schedule. One of the staff explained the schedule and outlined the changes being made due to the poor weather (rain/cold). Everything seemed organized with an adequate contingency plan. Unfortunately the execution of the plans was poor! Staff were walking about, confused as to where and when activities were taking place. There was one event that we particularly wanted to see, so we asked one of the staff members the time of the next performance. She told us 1:30 PM. When we came back at 1:15 PM to see the show, there was no line up, so we asked a different attendant the time of the show. He told us 2:45 PM! This was disappointing, not only because we were given incorrect information, but the time was in direct conflict with the main attraction which was to start at 3:00 PM. We decided to miss the 2:45 PM performance. We bided our time by walking the festival grounds, in the rain. Finally, with plenty of time to spare, we made our way to the main attraction’s venue. We found a good viewing spot and claimed as our own. As the time got closer to 3:00 PM, set up activities started to take place. This activity seemed to draw people to the staging area! People started to arrive in numbers and were sitting and standing wherever they could. So much for arriving early and choosing a good viewing spot! Finally the set up staff realized that the performance area had people in it and that they were going to interfere with the performers. After much wrangling and time, they managed to relocate the encroaching crowd to new non-conflicting positions. 3:00 pm came and went! At approximately 3:20 PM the first performers were introduced. The whole production was spectacular, definitely worth waiting for! However, I believe that the confusion and delays could have been avoided if the contingency plans had been taken more seriously. Plans like these need to be practiced and understood by ALL staff members, not just the planners! This was a world class event, at a world class venue. I am sure that in the good weather everything ran smoothly, but with the bad weather everything seemed to fall apart. This event deserved to have the same professionalism, good weather or bad!  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Amazing Recovery…

A number of years ago, we visited the Bowmanville Maple Festival & All That Jazz. The entire main street was closed off for the festival. That was no mean feat, as the main street is the former Highway #2 and is normally a very busy road! However, the road was closed and full of festival visitors. Parking close to the main street was difficult to find, but after a little driving we found a spot on one of the side streets. We walked from our parked car to the main street. The festival was in full swing! Vendors had set up their booth along the street. There was a long line up at the Lions Pancake Breakfast and jazz musicians were entertaining the crowds at several locations. What I have just described is typical of any great event. People walking the festival and having a good time.
This year’s Bowmanville Maple Festival was NOT typical! Bowmanville had just experienced a major downtown fire just a few days before the festival. Fire crews had spent hours preventing the fire from spreading and succeeded heroically! The citizens of Bowmanville must have been in shock, but the spirit of the residents and the festival organizers lived on! Despite the calamity the festival was held as scheduled. I know Gary and I enjoyed ourselves, as did the other festival visitors.
To me this shows what true “community spirit” is all about. People working together even in the face of great odds!

A tribute to the residents of Bowmanville!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Festival Amenities… (Part Two)

If Festivals and Events Ontario were to spearhead this program, they could use it as a membership recruitment tool and it would give them the opportunity to educate and upgrade their existing festival and event members. The standards should be detailed, but not be too complicated. The program could start out by standardizing simple amenities, ones that every attendee would appreciate knowing about. Amenities such as washroom facilities and their placement, seniors and disabled facilities, children’s facilities, first aid, shuttle services and “green” programs could be the first ones standardized, others could follow later. With gas and food prices drastically increasing, people are becoming more and more discerning about where and how they spend their money. They want value for money spent. They don’t want to drive long distance to events that have no appeal. They are using the internet more to select the festivals and events they are going to attend. Our Ontario Visited websites attest to that, as does the Ontario Travels site. The traffic on our site attracts over ½ million visitors per year. Other festival and event websites attract 1000’s of event goers per weekend. It is important that festivals understand the changing dynamics and take advantage of them as new opportunities. Those that don’t will ultimately fail. Standard guideline, I believe, will help festivals achieve their potential.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Festival Amenities… (Part One)

Gary and I determine what festivals we are going to visit by going onto websites to see what is being offered. I think many people use the same method. If you look on most festival websites, it is very hard to tell what basic amenities they are offering, disabled parking, children’s activities, shuttle services, first aid, etc. and if they are offering any of these, what are they actually offering.  Right now, it is mainly a guessing game on the part of festival goers.

Perhaps Festivals and Events Ontario or some other authoritative body could come up with some standard guidelines that festivals could use to describe basic amenities being offered. These guidelines could list each amenity and describe minimum standards for each. Special icons could be developed that could then be used by festivals if they met the minimum standards as outlined in the guidelines. These special icons would be the property of the developer and could only be used by festivals on written authority. By developing these standards, both festival organizers and event goers would benefit. Organizers would have amenity goals and standards to aim for, thereby making their event better. This would especially be true for new events. Festival visitors would benefit because they would know what amenities are being offered and what to expect from each amenity. I believe the overall effect would be a win-win for everyone. Festivals who participate in the program would have better events, would draw more visitors and have fewer disappointed attendees. Visitors going to these festivals would know in advance what to expect. This would mean happier attendees and happier attendees usually spend more.(To Be Continued in Part Two)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Following the Crowd…

Gary told me, that as a young man working at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) that he was amazed at the crowds that came to visit. Back then he never felt threatened by the crowds. In fact, he loved them! He used to make a game of walking through the crowds to see how quickly he could maneuver his way through them! Gary was never rude, but he did say a lot of “excuse me’s”. Back then he could move quite quickly and was very agile! Now, of course, it’s different. He’s a lot older and not quite as quick or agile as he used to be! He still love walking through crowds! For me, it’s a completely opposite story. I hates crowds!
This “love/hate” is the challenge that all successful festival and event organizers have to face, because success brings bigger crowds. So how does a festival prepare for this type of success?
First of all, traffic control, vehicle and people, has to become an intricate part of the planning process. If your traffic control is poor or non-existent, your success will be short lived! Festival and event visitors will only stand for so much inconvenience. I have talked before about parking and shuttle services, so I won’t talk about them in this blog. Rather, I want to talk about pedestrian traffic flow. This type of traffic is much harder to manage than vehicle traffic because there are no “rules of the road”! It is basically every man (person) for themselves. If organizers take this fact into consideration, they should, at least, be able to help the traffic flow. This is especially important if you are encouraging seniors and the disabled to attend you event! One suggestion that I have in this area is to use “people movers” (golf carts, mini vans, and handicapped bus) for people who are unable or unwilling to move through heavy crowds. This takes some of the pressure off both organizers and seniors/disabled.

Other suggestions for traffic control includes strategic placement of major attractions, clustering like attractions together (food court, craft show, midway). This helps divide crowds into a variety of different interests. One of the best festivals we visited for traffic control was the Mississauga Waterfront Festival. Their events were well spaced and due to their location, Memorial Park in Port Credit, they were able to take advantage of the park’s great walkway system. Whatever the solutions, festival and event organizers should make traffic control a high priority.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Helping Hand…

Over the years Gary and I have been involved both as organizers and participants of many festivals and events and, of course, we have visited many more. As vendors we always appreciated when we were treated well and were disappointed when we weren’t. Festivals that treat their vendors and participants well will always be the event of choice for the better vendors. If your festival or event’s revenue is based upon the success of your vendors, treating them well just makes sense! It should play a major part in your event’s vendor marketing program. The Cobourg Rotary Club in their section of the Cobourg Waterfront Festival has taken this treatment to heart and offer their vendors a variety of amenities. Some of them include special vendor parking, booth sitting services and s vendor relaxation area with refreshments. Tenting and electricity are also included as part of their booth fee. By providing these, the club’s Craft Show and Sale always has a long waiting list and they have the “cream” of the crafters participating in their show! The Makers Hand in Picton, offer their vendors a lunch service. While we were visiting this show we saw volunteers go to each vendor and ask for their lunch order. We found out that the volunteer then went back to the in-show cafĂ©, put up the order and then brought it back to the exhibitor. On a short show where selling time is precious, this is a great benefit! I can tell you from experience that these services are really appreciated and good vendors seek out festivals and events that go the extra mile when it come to the treatment of their  vendors. By doing this it’s a win-win situation for everyone, great vendors, equal great events and happy visitors!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Activity Planning…

A while ago, Gary and I visited a festival and were disappointed when we found out the amount of down time we were going to experience if stayed for the whole event. With this particular festival, they had plenty of activities planned for the morning and musical entertainment for the evening but not very much in-between. The type of planning may be acceptable for local residents, but for out-of-town visitors it is a deterrent. Having an interesting array of activities and events, strategically scheduled for the entire day/weekend is critical to a successful event.

When planning an event, organizers should keep in mind who they are trying to attract, and then plan the event/festival accordingly. One event (Mississauga Waterfront Festival) that we visited one year, in my opinion, planned their activities and event to perfection. They had a wide range of interesting events that appeal to their target market. The activities and events were planned in such a way that none interfered with the other. This included timing and just as important, sound interference. Also, the events were planned in such a way that visitors could make their way without having to run to make it in time. This type of scheduling avoids the tension that so often results in angry parents dragging their children from event to event. Judging the reaction of fellow visitors, I could see that they also appreciated the efforts of the organizing committee. Successful festivals always know who their target market is and how to cater to them.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Festival Dining…

To me food and how it’s presented is an important part of how people perceive an event or festival. Part of the festival experience is the food and it’s likely the biggest festival expense for a family. If the food being offered is of poor quality, visitors will think the same of the event. I doubt this is the message that most festival organizers want to send to their attendees! I don’t mean that the food has to be at the gourmet level, but I believe that it must be prepared well and have strong appeal for the whole family. Fortunately local governments and health boards are taking a closer look at outdoor eating facilities and making vendors prepare their food in a more hygienic fashion. This answers the preparation concern, but not the appeal.
Festival organizers should screen potential food vendors very carefully to insure the only reputable operators are allowed to participate. Careful attention should be made to the types of foods being offered. A wide variety is preferable, not only for the people attending but for the vendors themselves.
In addition to hygiene and variety, people are demanding healthier and more nutritional foods. Festivals should be aware of this trend and make sure they are making this type of food available. One food related area, that most festivals miss, is having a decent eating area close to the food vendors. There is nothing more annoying than having to juggle food, drinks, purses and packages or to have to stand up to eat. It is such a simple thing to provide food area seating. I can’t understand why festivals don’t offer this amenity. One of the best examples of how to combine all of these elements is the Winona Peach Festival. At the Winona Peach Festival they have one large food court area. All the food vendors are located in this one area. The food vendors, all of whom are manned and operated by local community and service groups, offer a large variety of wholesome foods. Visitors, after purchasing their food, can take it to a covered eating area! The Winona Peach Festival is a great event to learn from and copy. Good food, at a reasonable price, will always win the hearts of festival visitors!
Finally, I have one further suggestion. When setting up an eating area, festival organizers should include a wash-up facility. I am sure that this is one element that would be very much appreciated by all visitors.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Top 10 Event Suggestions…

The Nomad and I were having coffee and a bagel at one of our local Tim Hortons. Believe it or not we like to go there to write. I find it less distracting then home! While I was there, an acquaintance stopped to say hello. He is the past chair of the Rotary portion of the Cobourg Waterfront Festival. Naturally our conversation turned to the Waterfront Festival and festivals in general. I told him about Ontario Visited and that Gary and I completed a personal event evaluation after visiting each event. He asked me if I had any suggestions on how to improve the Waterfront Festival of just festivals in general. I told him we would give him our top 10 suggestions! I want to share these suggestions with you in this blog. They are presented in no particular order of importance, but my biggest pet peeve is poor or no external or internal signage. That being said, the others suggestions will vary according to the type and size of the events being organized.

Here is my Top Improvement 10 list:

  1. Good and well placed signage
  2. Well designed and informative websites
  3. Shuttle services when needed
  4. Package delivery service
  5. Services for seniors and the disabled
  6. Clean and well placed washroom facilities
  7. Shaded seating areas
  8. Informative festival guides
  9. Informed well trained volunteers
  10. Good food at fair prices

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

“CONTACT US” (Part Two)

Continuing on this topic of “CONTACT US”, why don’t all website have an e-mail address? After they are using the internet, so someone must use e-mail. In this day and age, who wants write a letter and wait weeks for a reply? Or, who wants to make a telephone call, get an answering machine and then wait for a call back? I know I don’t! E-mail is such an effective and efficient way of communicating. The worst group for this lack of a contact e-mail is the fall fairs. As a group, they don’t seem to want to communicate through e-mail! At first I thought it might be because it was run by rural people who might have slow internet connections, but technology is zooming ahead in leaps and bounds, so I don’t think this is a factor. Beside more and more rural people are becoming very savvy when it comes to technology and communications. Gone are the days of party lines and outhouses, today its satellites and high definition TV.  So what is the answer then? I’m not sure. I am just telling you my observations as a person constantly looking at festival, event and attraction websites. If someone does have the answer, please let me know! In the meantime, if you are a festival or event organizer or you develop websites for them, make sure you include and easy to find “CONTACT US” page and that it includes a contact e-mail address!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“CONTACT US” (Part One)

Have you ever been on a website and found that you had a question or comment? I know I have. So, it always bugs me when the “CONTACT US” page is either non-existent or impossible to find! How can you have a website and I am talking about festivals, event and attractions, and not have a readily accessible “CONTACT” page. I will give you an example. I wanted to visit a Santa Claus parade. I went onto their website (very cute and hard to manipulate, but that is another blog) to find out more information about the parade. After reading the website I had a number of questions I wanted to ask. I started to look through the site to find their “CONTACT” page. NOTHING! I know where to look to find obscure “CONTACT” pages, but I could find nothing in this case. I even tried to send an e-mail to info@theirsite.ca but no luck. The message was sent back as undeliverable. So much for ingenuity! The organizing committee obviously did not want to communicate with its patrons! WHY you might ask! You would think that they would want feedback, suggestions. Wouldn’t they want to help people who had questions? You would think so, but not this event! The sad part is that they are not alone.

(Continued on Part Two)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Community Involvement… (Part Two)

Cobourg Waterfront Festival
This is really a number of festivals and events within a larger community festival. Four community groups have banned together to host one of Canada’s most successful Canada Day weekend festivals. The four groups involved are the Cobourg Lions Club, the Cobourg Rotary Club, the Northumberland Central Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Cobourg’s Canada Day committee. The effect of this coalition is that it attracts 70,000 odd visitors to Cobourg each July 1st and raises 100’s of thousands of dollars that are invested back into the community.

Kleinburg Binder Twine Festival
Each fall the entire downtown business section closes its streets for 1 day to celebrate the fall harvest. The unique feature of this festival is that out-of-town vendors and local merchants co-exist for this one day! To walk down the main street and see the line of white tents flanked by colorfully presented retail stores shows the true meaning of community involvement and cooperation!

Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest
The K-W Oktoberfest is the ultimate example of a community coming together to celebrate its people and their heritage! I don’t think that there is any one or business that doesn’t have at least some involvement with the Oktoberfest festivities. During the event, I think residents of the whole community, Kitchener, Waterloo and all the surrounding hamlets and villages, put on their Alpine Hats and Lederhosen and have a great time with all the attractions!

“We are all richer (not monetarily) when community residents join together to celebrate their community and its heritage.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Community Involvement… (Part One)

A Number of years ago I wrote a Blog about community based events. The Blog was appropriate then and it is still appropriate now. I am re-posting this Blog now in two parts.

Most festivals and events are community based. As such, they give whole communities the chance to come together and show off their town to visitors.

Festivals and events not only make residents proud, they are just good business! Think of the economic impact. Festival visitors eat in community restaurants, stay in community accommodations, enjoy community attractions and purchase goods in community retail stores. If visitors like the festival community they come back and bring their friends and the cycle begins again. And, if they really like the community, they may come back to live there. Community supported festivals and events have the domino effect, so how does an organizing committee ensure maximum community involvement and, thus the benefits of that involvement?

Here are a few thoughts based on 5 Ontario community based festivals ~

International Plowing Match 2016 (Huron County-Walton)
This was a one-time event that pulled together a number of communities and groups into one cohesive unit. Although there were no large towns close by, the IPM organizing committee was able to attract volunteers and financial support from all the communities in Leeds-Grenville! It was a Herculean task that took over 3 years to achieve, but the end result was nothing short of spectacular! All the communities involved were enriched by the experience.

Winona Peach Festival

The food section of this festival is almost completely manned and operated by various community groups, church committees, sports associations and service clubs. The food that they serve and the presentation of their respective booths far surpasses most commercial food served at other events, and, the beauty of this community involvement is that the money stays in the community to help the community!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Things That Make You Ask WHY… (Part Two)

The next day, bright and early, we arrived at the show. This is when the next series of “ask Why” started. It began when we were about to order ordered food. Two bottles of pop were going to cost us about $9.00 and a hamburger the same. Why do the food prices need to be so high? Is it because the food vendors have a captive audience and can charge as much as they like because people need to eat and are willing pay the high prices or, is because the facility owner charges the food vendors so much that they have to charge that much to make a decent profit. Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Whatever the answer it still makes you “ask WHY”. The most shocking “WHY” came when I tried to access the Internet! I just wanted to check my e-mails and do some work on my website during downtimes in the show. When I tried to log on, I got a message giving me to phone to arrange access. Instead of phoning, I walked to the facility office in the complex to arrange for access. I asked the girl in the office what I needed to do. She told me that there was a charge for access. I asked “how much” and she told me “750”. I said naively “$7.50”. She said “No sir that would be $750.00”. I could not believe what I had just so I asked her to repeat what she had said. The girl, a little embarrassed now, repeated the amount “$750.00”. I asked her “how they could justify such a price”. She shrugged her shoulders and said “I am sorry sir but that is the cost”. That was the end of our conversation. Needless to say I didn’t purchase access. So this brings me to my final “ask WHY”. How can they possibly justify charging this much? High speed wireless can be purchased for one year for less than half that price. I can understand charging that amount or more to a large corporation who needs a complicated installation, but all they needed to do for me, and others like me, is give me access through a username and password. Hotels do this for their customers all the time and don’t charge for it. Ultimately, it just makes you ask why!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Things That Make You Ask WHY… (Part One)

We had the opportunity to be an exhibitor at a large consumer show in Toronto, so I decided to check out the pricing. I was surprised how reasonably priced the booth was. Several years ago Judi and I had exhibited at the same show and the booth prices were almost the same. I also checked out the other costs associated with have a booth at the show. Such cost as installing electricity, renting furniture and obtaining a parking pass. The cost of the electricity was comparable to what we had paid before. The parking was comparable and this time we could park indoors. We had never rented furniture before, so I had nothing to compare prices with, but the show package seemed reasonable. With the pricing confirmed, we decided to go ahead with having a booth.

On set up day Gary packed the car and came to Toronto with my 14 year old nephew. I wasn’t feeling well so I asked my nephew to help with set up. When we got to the show, the security guard stopped us and asked my nephew how old he was. When he found out my nephew was only, he told us he had to be 16 to be allowed in. This was the first thing that made me “ask WHY”. The guard told us that it was the city’s rule and it was because there were “tow” operators in the building. I can understand now allowing little kids in the building, but a 14 year old is not a little kid (my nephew is almost taller than me and likely smarter). It seems to me that the government is using a cannon to kill a fly! Eventually we were allowed in and we set up the booth. 
(To Be Continued)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Festivals within Attractions…

A few years we visited a festival that was held within a large well known attraction. The attraction, itself was great, but the festival it was trying hold, fell well short of expectations.
Gary and I thought, given the prestige and type of attraction, that the festival would be fun and interesting. Unfortunately it was far from it. After entering the attractions grounds, we started to look to see where the festival portion was being held. As we passed through the gates, there was a large festival sign greeting us. However, there were no directional signs to tell us which way to go. After looking around for a short time, we asked a passing by volunteer where the festival was being held. He pointed to a foot path and said “just follow the path and you will come to it”. What he failed to point out was that there were several paths that split off from the path he pointed to. After several attempts to find the festival area, we came across it by chance. We had passed it once before, but there were no signs and the “festival” grounds were very small, with little apparent activity. It was no wonder that we had missed it the first time past. The “festival” volunteers were trying hard to make the most of the event, but there were too few activities to make it interesting. While we were there, very few people came to the site. I believe that if an attraction is going to hold a festival or event within its grounds, it should put its best “foot” forward. Unfortunately, that is not what happened here.

Festivals and events will bring people to an attraction. If the event is interesting and well run they will come back and bring their friends. However, the converse is true. If the festival or event is uninteresting and poorly run, people will stop coming to the attraction and will tell their friends about their experience. If an attraction is going to hold separate events, they must treat them as a “total attraction experience” not just as an “afterthought”!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Basics Make Good Cents…

Some time ago, I wrote about the “Disney” experience and how well trained the volunteers were to make this experience happen. This week I want to continue this thought, not with volunteers (although well trained volunteers always make things happen), but with executing the basics in extraordinary ways.
I have heard, and I am not sure whether it’s true or not, that Disney only allows well trained senior staff to clean and maintain its washrooms. I like the idea, because it shows how much emphasis Disney places on the “Disney Experience”. In short, they not only pay attention to the small details, they live by them! I think clean, well-stocked washrooms are a true indicator of the quality of an attraction or event. To me, it shows that management cares about the people it serves. Let’s face it, if they care about the state of their washrooms, it gives a very clear indication that they care about the quality of all that they do.
So why is it that so many of the festivals, events and attractions we visit fall down in this area? I don’t think it’s because they don’t care or that they are unclean people. I think organizers and mangers get so wrapped up in the “big” problems that they forget about the “little” things. It’s too bad, because I think they are missing a great opportunity to please their customers (attendees) and, happy and please customers spend money!! I believe that all festivals and events should appoint a senior dedicated volunteer to oversee this responsibility. If Disney thinks it’s the right thing to do, festivals and events should too! These volunteers should be assigned to pay attention to the “little” details that mean so much. Details like placing washroom facilities in strategic areas; making sure that there are plenty of disabled/senior washrooms; having wash up facilities in every washroom area; making sure there are plenty of supplies, including hand washing water, on hand for easy replacement; have the washrooms and area cleaned and monitored regularly and have all portable washrooms pumped on a regular schedule (more on busy days).

Finally, why not go that extra distance by adding flowers or plants to the washroom area; pipe in music to the area and place seniors/disabled seating there. All this may cost a little more, but your festival or event will reap the benefits.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Every Day Is Not Created Equal!

Unfortunately, due to the schedule we set for ourselves, we can’t always visit a festival on its prime day (usually a Saturday). This sometimes causes a problem for us. The reason for this is that too many festivals plan all there big events and attractions for the prime day and leave the other day(s) with lesser events. For people coming from out of town on an “off” day, this is a big disappointment! It leaves a “bad taste” and they are likely not going to come back in future years. Worst still, they will tell their friends how awful their experience was. I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, Gary and I visited a very popular event just east of us. We had heard a lot of great things about the festival, so we wanted to see it for ourselves. Due to previous commitments, we could only visit it on a Sunday. After we had arrived, we started to look around the town for the attractions. We could find very little happening. We explored the few attractions that were there but left with a great sense of disappointment.
Festival organizers and volunteers put a tremendous amount of effort and time into making their events happen, so why spoil it with having only half a festival? To me, the solution is simple. Either spread the activities equally between all the festival days or cut down on the number of event days. You may think that by having more days you’ll have a better festival. This only happens when each day is as interesting as the other(s). The reality is that you disappoint all that are involved! Visitors are disappointed because they are not attending a quality event. Vendors are disappointed because of poor sales (lack of quality attendees). And, volunteers because they feel negative vibrations from both visitors and vendors.

If you have the attractions and can make all festival days meaningful and fun, go for it. If not, do everyone a favour, scale down your event and make the 1 or 2 days the best they can be! 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mass Confusion (Part Two)…

We did, however, decide to go back to the play zone to see if they had a festival guide available for us to read. They didn’t, but they did have a site map. Much to our surprise and delight there was another part of the festival that we weren’t aware of. It was in the downtown area and some distance away! We followed the map to the downtown area and discovered the heart of the festival. In the downtown park two giant “Pumpkin” pyramids had been erected. They were full a hundreds of carved and lite up pumpkins! You could see the tops of the pyramids as we descended the hill to the downtown centre. It was wonderful to discover this important part of the festival. What a shame it would have been for us to have missed it!

The solutions for this festival and others are simple. Here are some suggestions:
  1. Strategically place directional signage at key entrance point to your town
  2. Prepare large site maps showing where all activities are taking place. To reduce or eliminate the cost of these signs sell advertising space on the signs
  3. Make sure you prepare enough signs and place them conveniently throughout the festival grounds
  4. Have an information booth or booths placed near to major festival entry points. There should be at least one at each site.
  5. Make sure you website site has a printable comprehensive site map. Also, make sure it is easy enough to understand for out-of-town visitors
  6. Print enough Site Plan Maps to hand out to visitors
  7. Have identifiable volunteers regularly walk through the festival grounds. Make sure they are well informed about the festival and the community.

I know I have said this before, but if you want to attract out-of-town visitors to your event, you have to make sure you plan for their needs. It is very difficult to sustain a festival or event, year after year, without attracting new attendees.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Mass Confusion (Part One)…

It is very frustrating to visit a festival only to find mass confusion. The confusion I am talking about is site layout. I realized that not all sites lend themselves to be laid out perfectly. I also realized that some site locations are not large enough to hold the entire festival and that multiple sites may be necessary and/or preferable. People who go to a festival either want to see the entire event or want to see a specific aspect(s) of it. Well planned festivals, with single or multiple sites, which have good signage and an informative festival guide reduce or eliminate much of this kind of mass confusion.
Here is an example of what I mean. Gary and I drove quite some distance to attend a well-known and respected fall event. Here are some of the problems we encountered.

·         As we entered the town, there were no directional signs. We had to guess where to go and where to park.
·          Once we were on the festival grounds, there were no festival site signs to show us where activities and attractions could be found.
·         We looked for an information booth, but couldn’t find it.
·         There were no identifiable volunteers for us to ask where to find things.

We were left on our own to discover what the festival had to offer. This might appeal to some, but not to us and, I think, not to most new attendees. This was a “theme” festival, a Pumpkinfest. We were excited to see how they carried out the theme. As we walked through the grounds we discovered a food area, a play zone, a climbing wall, an arts and crafts show, a huge antique and classic car show and a Raptor Conservancy Show, but no “Pumpkins”, not one! We started to think that the festival organizers had missed the mark. We almost went home disappointed. 

(Continued in Part Two)

"The Raptor Conservancy Show was there."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Volunteers at Their Best…

Although I have not experienced it first hand, I have heard that organizations such as Disney Theme Parks and some cruise lines really know how to treat their guests. It seems that they learn as much about their customers as possible, and then use this information to make each guest as comfortable as possible.

While I realize that festivals and events can’t use this exact technique, they can use the philosophy behind it. That is, make their customers (attendees) as comfortable as possible. What does this mean to festival organizers? To me it means having a well-organized festival with informed “identifiable volunteers”.

Some time ago, Gary was fortunate to judge some very outstanding festivals and events in a number of different categories. One of the categories was “Best Volunteer Program”. There were a number of entries, but one stood out, to me, above the rest! Their Volunteer Program, from recruitment to retirement, was amazing! It was complete and covered all aspect of managing their volunteers. It is no wonder that this festival is considered one of the best in the world.

So, taking a lead from their program, here are 10 smart ideas to consider:
  1. Screen your volunteers, just as would for a job interview
  2. Determine what would be the best and most appropriate job for each volunteer
  3. Prepare detailed job descriptions and make sure each volunteer is given one
  4. Have volunteer orientation and training sessions
  5. Appoint mentors to new volunteers
  6. Give each volunteer a festival uniform and identification badge
  7. Give each volunteer an event work schedule
  8. Have a meaningful volunteer appreciation program
  9. Develop a volunteer perk package
  10. Hold a volunteer wrap-up event and let everyone know how the festival/event did
The whole point to this blog is to remind festival organizers that they should treat their guests (festival attendees) like princes or princesses as soon as they enter the festival grounds (sooner, if possible). This means having volunteers having well informed, recognizable volunteers who are friendly and prepared to guests on all aspects of the festival and the community. If you get this part right, everything will fall into place.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Where to Park? (Part Two)

A few years ago, Gary and I went to an event that included a large parade. The parade was to go straight down the main street and then turn right onto the street that led to the park and the final destination. However, someone had forgotten to put “No Parking” signs at the corner of the street. In the morning several car had parked there. By the time the parade came it was too late to find the owners and asked them to move their vehicle. As a result the larger floats couldn’t make the turn and were told to continue straight. Needless to say, this caused mass confusion. The whole parade became disrupted; parade participant didn’t know where to go, parade watchers didn’t know where to stand and the police had difficulties controlling crowd and traffic! This was a situation that could have been avoided if the committee had paid attention to the “little things”.
Creating a simple but thorough checklist will go a long way towards having minimum problems come parade day. Here are a few ideas to consider adding to the list:
       Prepare a parking strategy with map that shows existing parking availability, no parking areas and potential off-site parking areas
       Determine if off-site parking required
       Determine if a shuttle service is needed and what the costs would be, plus if it could be paid for by a sponsor
       Determine how many “No Parking” signs are required and where they would be placed (make the signs large enough to be seen clearly)
       Determine how many “Directional Signs” are needed are where they would be placed (consider placing signs at all town entry points)
       Develop a strategy to work with local residents and businesses
       Develop a “parking patrol” strategy
       Work with town officials and local police to make sure “No Parking” areas are strictly enforced
       Plan for a number of handicapped parking spots
       Plan for convenient drop off areas
       Plan for parking attendants at off-site parking areas

       Make sure your local media advertises all road closures, parking areas and parade route. These should also be included in any festival materials produced.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Where to Park? (Part One)

I feel sorry for most festival organizers when it comes to event parking. It’s a no win situation, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed head-on. And, the problem doesn’t end on where to park festival visitors. It also involves dealing with local businesses and residents. These people must be considered, otherwise your festival or event will be plagued with complaints from angry citizens, and angry citizens usually translate into uncooperative politicians and bureaucrats. Along with parking challenges comes traffic control during the event. That’s why forming a parking and traffic control committee early in the planning process is very important. I know there are a lot of festival committees out there that feel that they have plenty of existing parking so why bother planning. I guess that’s fine if you are only planning a small local festival, but if you are looking for out-of-town visitors, a having planned parking and traffic control is a must! Even if it’s just to have directional signage! Careful thought early in the game will mean fewer problems during your event. It’s not just the BIG picture that needs to be considered, it’s the small details too. Having the event committee consider all aspects of parking and traffic control, including consultation with the community (officials and businesses), will help eliminate future problems. Having contingency plans is also important. Real-time challenges WILL come up, so being prepared is always wise!

(To be continued – Part Two)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How Do People Find You?

I am sure that Gary and I are not the only ones who visit out-of-town festivals and events. While we are normally able to find most places, there are some smaller towns that need the help of directions to find them. It is important, therefore, for festival organizers to include directions or better still, a map, to their town. These directions should also include directions to the festivals location. This, however, is not enough!

This brings me to my greatest complaint against festival organizers. Most festivals have few or no directional signs. They seem to expect that out-of-town visitors will just know where the local fair ground or community centre is. The problem is, out-of-town visitors don’t know where these locations are. I can tell you from experience that having to drive around looking a festival site is very frustrating and usually takes the fun out of visiting the festival. All that is needed are few well-placed directional signs scattered strategically around town. I don’t think organizers are lazy (just the opposite) or are trying to save money. I think they are so familiar with where everything is located in their town that they think very one else is too, even out-of-towners. Festival organizers must get out of this mind set and start imagining themselves as festival visitors, not festival organizers. By doing this their festival will become more visitor friendly, which will eventually lead to greater attendance. Greater, more diversified attendance will help the festival grow and prosper. If you think this is an isolated problem, I can assure you it is not. Of the 40 plus festivals we visited this past year, over 90 percent has poor to no directional signage. This is not a good statistic. Those who did put out directional signage, did a very good job. To the others, look for signage opportunities. Think about contacting local merchants and asking them to create and pay for directional event signs (with their names on them)… good for the festival, good the merchants and better still, good for the people who want to visit your community and event!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Festival Websites… Keep Them Simple But Factual…

When Gary and I choose the events we want to visit, it’s normally as a result of the event’s website. I believe a lot of potential event visitors do the same thing. It is an easy and fast way to see what an event is all about, and when it is going to take place. So, it amazes me when a festival either doesn’t have a website or has one that is so vague that it is useless as an information tool.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, being too cute or over exaggerating, can be just as bad. The old KISS principle – “Keep it simple, stupid” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle ) should be applied here. Having a simple but factual festival website, in my opinion, is best! The following is my list of “What festival websites should include”:
       Accurate description of your event
       Event dates
       Event times
       Event location
       Event costs (all of them)
       Parking information, including costs if any
       Directions to the event including a map for out of town visitors
       Disabled information
       Event program and guide, including activities, activity locations and activity times (A site map is always helpful)
       Contact list, who and how (I always like to see a way of e-mail contacting)
       Sponsors list
You or your web designer may have other ideas, and that’s okay, but these basics should always be included.
Other good things to include, but not as important as the above are:
       Event history
       Volunteer acknowledgement
       Special links (local restaurants, hotels, attractions and businesses)
Also, make your site printer friendly. I like to print out festival information and take it with me. I get more out of the festival that way.
Finally, it is important that your website is accessible to mobile phones. Search engines, especially Google are penalizing (not showing your website high on search page) websites who are not accessible. This doesn’t mean that you have to have an APP, but just that when your website is reduced to mobile size it is readable.

Your website is your voice! Make sure that your web designer understands this and adheres to your instructions!