For those of you just joining us, in the last issue, we provided the first in a series of articles regarding the production of a festival. Just to re-cap the scenario, we are in the midst of planning an outdoor festival that will host live bands, a DJ, contests, and vendors. We covered venues, stages, sets, and decorations. Let us continue.
How many and what kind of vendors are you looking for? Food vendors are normally Number 1. You may have plenty of people in your church who enjoy cooking. Setting up your own food booths, filled with people from your church can make for a fun day of fellowship! Foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos – you know, the usual festival kind of stuff; can be great moneymakers.
Craft booths probably run a close second to food. Crafts can be another great fund-raising project for your church. Before the festival itself, ministries (such as children’s church, singles, and senior groups) will enjoy making crafts to sell at the festival to raise funds for their particular ministry.
If your church does not have the “man power” to handle its own food and craft booths, you can sell booth space to outside vendors. There are a couple of ways this can be handled: 1) you can charge a flat rate for booth space, or 2) simply ask vendors to pay you a percentage of their total sales.
Games and rides are also popular with festival goers looking for fun. Inflatable “jumping rooms” and bean ball pits are still a big hit with the kids! If it is going to be hot outside, why not try a misting tent to keep the folks cool.
So you want live bands eh? How many do you know? And of those, how many can you afford? Should you consider popular local bands that can fill most of the day, then perhaps pull in one mainliner for the evening’s concert? How much time do you want to fill with live music? You see where this is going don’t you? Contacting and booking live bands can be an interesting task. Be ready to deal with “booking date confusion”. This means talking to a lot of voice mails, not getting fast call returns, making more than your fair share of phone calls, becoming a pest to the band managers, pulling teeth to get valuable information such as technical riders for your tech crews, and more! (Remember, the more popular the band, the busier they are. This is a good thing for the bands! However, it can become frustrating to those trying to coordinate an event. Don’t let it get to you, just be persistent. Chances are, the band would really love to play at your festival!
Let’s talk about audio. Festival sound can be fun, yet challenging. It is live sound, but is very different from Sunday mornings. The audio system needs to be weather proof, and capable of producing thick, quality sound that will carry long distances. Look into setting up delays. You will probably want to rent such a system. Don’t forget the grounding rod! Live bands pose the need for a monitor console as well as front-of-house.
The list of people needed in order for a festival audio system and stage to operate comfortably consists of:
o a front-of-house operator,
o a front-of-house secondary (or A2),
o a monitor engineer,
o a stage manager,
o 2 technicians for the stage area, and
o 3-5 deck hands
Here’s an idea: walkie-talkies! You will need a minimum of four; one for the production manager, one for front-of-house, one for the monitor engineer, and one for the stage manager. If lighting comes into play, you will need one for the lighting director. Clear Com headsets are also a great thing to have for closed communication between front-of-house and the monitor engineer.
All cables should be labeled. You can use numbers and/or letters. Once a cable is labeled, inserted into a channel, traced, and working, leave it there. Extra cable length on the stage should be gaff-taped down, with the “business” ends coiled and kept in place when not in use.
Your stage manager can help keep tabs on the bands and gather information to help sound people make quick plots of each performing band. These plots create efficient and easy stage changes for the techies and deck hands. Normally the last band to perform is the “mainliner” (the most popular band). Set your stage for this band first. This assures that you are certain to have the correct sound for the band that will bring in the biggest crowd.
National acts are a different ballgame from local acts. Security will be an issue. Make sure you have plenty of authorities on hand when a national act is about to appear. Crowds will rush the stage, as well as try to get backstage. National acts are not always in the mood to deal with the minutest of audio and/or stage problems, so be prepared to work under extreme pressure in some cases. Don’t become mesmerized by being in the presence of a well-known performer. Consider it an honor. Most are very nice and have a great attitude toward the crew. Remember that on the inside, they are people just like you.
Never slack on the job you do for local talent compared to the job you do for a well-known performer. Always work as if it were Jesus on that stage!
Next up: lighting. If the festival is going to go into the dark hours, you will have to have lighting, not only for the stage, but also out in the festival “yard” itself. Lighting draws even more power than audio, so be prepared for the possibility of renting a generator the size of a bus!
Stage lighting creativity is limited only by your lighting designer’s imagination – and the available electrical power. PAR fixtures, moveable fixtures, and strobes all create great nighttime effects on your stage.
Special effects such as smoke and haze are virtually useless outdoors due to breezes. If you are licensed and have checked into the laws, pyrotechnics make great nighttime displays. Confetti is fun, but it is a mess to clean up! If you are going to use confetti, why not try the “fuzz ball” trick? Most people will pick these up off of the ground for souvenirs.
Advertising can play a big part in the success of your turnout. Radios, newspapers, flyers, posters, and bulletins are all effective ways to gain attention. You may want to check with a local radio station; they might be willing to do a live broadcast for a few hours from the festival. Radio stations can also be approached as a main sponsor for your festival. Local personalities can draw a bigger crowd. They are also able to provide the DJ for promos and contests between the bands’ performances.
Last, but not least, a cleanup committee should be drafted; we mean developed! You will want to have several people in place to help with cleanup after the festival. If your festival took place at the church, your maintenance man cannot do it alone! Be sure and get volunteers committed long before the event. If your festival took place at someone’s private farm or ranch, you will want to provide them with a cleanup crew. Never “trash & dash!” If you held your festival at an off-site venue, such as a park, make sure you inquire about cleanup. You may have to pay a fee for city or county workers to come and clean the park.