24 Hours Before the Festival: The Event Planner’s Role
Alyssa Perna has over a decade of event operations experience for leading multinational business-to-business conferences, festivals and trade shows, press conferences, large-scale fundraisers, complex social events, and more. She is the founder of Experience Events, the Managing Director of Ingenuity Cleveland, and the lead instructor (and tutor!) for QC’s Corporate Event Planning Course. This is Part 3 of the Festival Planning series documenting Alyssa’s experience planning IngenuityFest!
IngenuityFest 2019 has concluded, and all I can say is…wow, what a whirlwind!
The week before the festival was crazy. The insane hours of work and exhaustion turned into adrenaline that enabled staff to get through the long days. The festival planning experience was chaotic, but it was so much fun.
There was a laundry list of things that needed to get done 24 hours before the event. With all-hands-on-deck and a team of driven staff, volunteers, and contractors, we pulled it all together and had a successful festival weekend.
All photo credits belong to Dina Hoyenck, Daniel James, Lisa Curll, and Kevin Jackson.
Final Festival Grounds Set-up: The Night Before
Thursday night was hectic. Some of our signs arrived late, so we spent a lot of time hanging up the remaining signage throughout the festival footprint. We then marked all vendors, food trucks, and exhibitor spaces so it was easy for them to navigate the grounds once they arrived on site.
Receiving and managing deliveries
With most of our deliveries arriving on Thursday, we needed an organized and well-timed schedule for the day to run smoothly.
First, we had a portable toilet delivery. It was followed by a large beverage delivery from Coca-Cola. Then, 10×10 pop-up tents were built to eventually become bars, entry gates, merchandise tents, medical tents, vendor tents, etc. With the tents came loads of tables and chairs.
We delegated a different staff member to lead and coordinate each delivery. We didn’t want one person being pulled into too many directions on this important set-up day.
Artists, volunteers, and vendors
Large-scale stages, lighting, and sound were set up outside and inside, bringing exhibits and the overall event atmosphere to life.
Each of the artists, vendors, and exhibitors set up their own spaces. The artists staged and set up lighting in their areas.
We had a volunteer lead training session to equip the “leading” volunteers any tools they would need during the festival. Cleaning staff swept up the concrete floors of the old warehouse, and volunteers scoured the outdoor footprint to clean up weeds and garbage.
Our sustainability partner was also on site. They set up the garbage, compost, and recycling bins. And the VIP room was cleaned up and organized for a large Friday food delivery.
Feeding your staff & odd jobs
We did our best to solicit food donations from local restaurants to feed our staff, volunteers, artists, musicians, and vendors throughout the weekend. But we didn’t have enough to give everyone a good experience and to sustain their hunger. So I paid a trip to Restaurant Depot, a store where restaurants shop for bulk food supply. I purchased a ton of food for the VIP room (for festival contributors) so everyone could eat when they weren’t busy.
You’ll find that some odd jobs always happen last-minute. As the festival’s Managing Director, I had to call a few places. Checking up with the liquor order ahead of the Friday morning delivery was on my list.
Meanwhile, the Artistic Director was still meeting with the Fire Marshall and various permitting departments to make sure we were ready to open the festival on Friday.
The Festival’s Opening Night: The Morning Of
Friday morning included a few very important pickup and deliveries. We picked up all of the alcoholic beverages to be sold at the festival. And even more signage was delivered that had to be placed before the festival began.
From there, we had to ensure guests who navigate the grounds once it got dark. We lit all of the signage with small lights so they would be visible at night.
Vendor and exhibitor load-in
Most of our vendors and exhibitors loaded in on Friday morning. There were key staff members leading each effort. For example, one staff member was in charge of loading in all vendors who sold goods, like jewelry, t-shirts or candles. Another staff member loaded in all food trucks, getting them access to electricity and water as needed.
We answered questions from both our participants as well as the public.
Beyond this, here’s a short checklist of what some of the festival staff needed to accomplish before the event started:
- Hang “Reserved for Accessible Parking” signs in the parking lot
- Place Ingenuity signs on street corners and near the parking lot
- Complete vendor, bar, and gate setups, ensuring each table had cash-boxes and extension cords in place to power their stations
- Set up merchandise tents with merch from t-shirts, to festival maps, posters, reusable water bottles, and more
- Fill up multi-gallon water totes for water stations
- Set up garbage sorting station including placement, lights, signs, cans, and liners
- Move remaining vehicles out of the outdoor festival space
- Print and distribute the final guest list
- Distribute iPads (to sell tickets) and radios (so staff, security, volunteers, etc. could communicate)
- Move food for VIP room from storage to VIP space; stage food for the evening
The Best Part About This Festival Planning Experience
My favorite part about the festival experience was the unbreakable bond I formed with staff, vendors, contractors, volunteers, board members, and beyond. I met with so many friends, old and new. While I only went home to shower and sleep (less than the recommended 8 hours), the festival weekend flew by and was truly a dream. Watching the joy people experienced wandering the beautiful dreamscape fantasy our Artistic Director, Ingeneers and volunteers dreamt up was so rewarding.
I haven’t had this much fun planning an event in a while, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
What’s your number 1 planning tip for aspiring festival planners? Let us know!