Fall Fest, Spring Fest, Band Fest, and Cinco de Mayo; all great examples of festivals, but what makes a festival THE Fest to attend?
Is it the planning and organization? Or is it the main line band you select? Could it be choosing to celebrate the right holiday? Or could it be effective marketing and advertising?
Guess what? It’s all of the above – plus more! This series of articles will help you make it through festivals from start to finish. In this first portion of the series, we will be discussing the conceptual and initial planning processes.
Let us now go to go to the land of “pretend”. We invite you to join us, as we produce a “Festival Fantastic.”
If you start seriously thinking about it in January, you have a really good chance of producing a successful Spring Festival. The first thing to establish is a solid team of producers. This team will consist of a production manager and 3-4 other helping hands.
Once your team is in place, it’s time to gather ideas. One example of gathering ideas is to create small forms known as “idea chips.” The “idea chips” should contain one very simple question: What is your favorite part of a festival?
Now let the people elaborate. In addition to the “idea chips,” you will need to make a small “creative computer” out of a cardboard box. Explain to the congregation, that your “creative computer” is running low on ideas. Therefore, several “idea chips” are needed to keep it running. Once they have filled out the “idea chip,” they can drop it in the “creative computer” box located in the main lobby. Now you have some ideas to give your festival a direction to go and some high-octane fuel to get it going. Other people’s ideas will amaze you as you read the “idea chips.” (Never think that you have all the ideas and that your ideas are the only good ones. This is definitely fuel for a lousy festival!) For our pretend “Festival Fantastic” we are going to plan for an all-day outdoor shindig with live bands, a DJ, contests, food, crafts, and game vendors.
First up: budget. Budget must be established. It is not a good idea to think the money is just going to come in because you have a great idea; however, it is a good thing to plan your great idea with what you already have. For example, if your church has set aside “theatrical production money” for the Easter season, and you decide to do a festival instead, check to see if it is all right to use that money.
Find a suitable venue. Is the parking lot of your church big enough? If not, where are the people going to park? Check with a nearby public park that could offer both festival space and parking. Perhaps your church sits on enough property that you are able to use a large grassy area. Will it need to be mowed? Is it OK to trample that particular section of grass? Do you have people in your church that live out in the country and are willing to let you hold the festival at their farm or ranch?
Regardless of the venue you choose, you will need to find out what type of electrical power is available for sound, lights, and vendors. Are there are curfews of any kind? (time, noise, etc.) Are there restrooms within a reasonable distance, or will you need to rent the dreaded portable units? (Sing some kind of scary music to yourself right here; it will add to the effect of this particular point!) Make sure to have plenty of trash cans and/or recycle bins throughout the entire festival area.
Moving on… If live bands are going to be at the top of your entertainment list, you will want to check out stage prices. Will the festival be going on at night? Will it need to be covered to keep the performers and equipment shaded and dry? Talk to the staging company; they can help you decide what features are best for your event.
A comfortable-sized stage when you are talking about live bands is 40’w x 32’d x 5’h. You may want to include two 8’x8′ side wings to hold speakers (if they are not flown) and the monitor rig. Another option is to include an additional 8′ x 8′ x 2′ solid platform to elevate the drummers. With this size stage, your performers will have room to move, and stage hands will have plenty of space to make stage changes while the “in-between acts” (such as a DJ handling promotions or contests) are taking place on the front of the stage. Being 5′ high, it becomes quite difficult for crowd members to end up where they don’t belong; on stage!
At this point, you will want to pick yourself up off the floor because you have just heard how much it costs to rent a stage. The ridiculous notion to build your own 40′ x 32′ covered stage with a truss grid will fly into your brain like a jet airplane. Let us save you the hassle, as we have “been there, done that!” By the time you: 1) purchase all of the supplies, 2) take the time to build it, 3) come up with a place to store it, 4) find a truck to transport it, and 5) acquire a crew of 12 people for two days; one day to set it up and one to tear it down every time you want to use it, you will find that renting is a much more cost-effective and “peace-of-mind” route in this situation.
Portable outdoor stages are not noted for their beautiful appearance. They are made to handle weather extremes. Be sure and ask the staging company if they will be providing any type of skirting for the front and sides. If not, you will want to find some way of covering the exposed portions, as leaving them open presents a safety hazard – people of all ages simply cannot resist crawling underneath a stage.
Be sure to include stair rentals. How many sides of the stage need access for getting on and off? Do you want to be able to have your crews enter from the back or from the sides? Take a moment and sketch out a rough draft to plan your “ons & offs.”
Chances are, if you played your cards right and landed sponsors for your festival, you will be providing advertisement banners. These are often hung from the front of the stage. The major problem with this is that the crowd will be blocking the view to these banners. Sponsors tend to like to have their names exposed as much of the time as possible, and rightfully so. We suggest flying the banners from the top of the stage or overhead at the entrance to the festival.
Sets and decorating are the aspects of a festival that set mood and create atmosphere from the stage. Most of the set and decorating time is consumed prior to the festival itself. One important thing to remember is that this festival is outside, so make sure to secure decorations. You do not want them to blow over, blow away, or get stolen. You will also want to make sure the decorations are something that won’t cost you your salvation if they get ruined from rain.
For example, one of our stages needed to produce the feeling of a fiesta for a Cinco de Mayo festival. Our set design and decorating team got together approximately three months before the event to plan out the logistics this creation. Once the idea was conceived, it took six people approximately two months to draft, design, and make the decorations, and to create a miniature mock-up set. Here is the stage recipe we “cooked up” for this “fiery fiesta:”
2 – 10′ fan stands (black with multi-color festoon)
1 – 13′ fan stand (black with multi-color festoon)
4 – 3′ fan boxes (black with multi-color festoon)
6 silk Ficus trees
Gold metallic wrapping paper to cover the tree pots
120′ of red, white, and green tulle
6 flats of spring flowers
30 tissue paper flowers
12 gold-strand metallic curtains
3 clay pot
300 sparkle toothpicks
Once the stage was set and decorated, the mood was created and people were ready to “fiesta!”
If temperature is going to be a factor on the day of the festival, you will want to take a look at the option of renting a large tent. If you rent a tent, make sure it is tall enough to accommodate the stage you select. Design sets and decorations accordingly. Check into side flaps in case of rain or wind. Will you want your guests to sit or stand? If they are to sit, do they bring their own lawn chairs, or are you providing the seating?
In the next issue, we will continue the discussion on the planning process. You mean there’s more? Yep!