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!
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 13, 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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 café, 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! Sale
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
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.