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June 2012
Finding the right venue for your event can be the biggest part of the battle. This month's article from Larry Ward will take a look at what you need to look for in finding the perfect venue.

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FNO Newsletter Editor

Event Location & Physical Facilities
by Larry Ward

Lumped together in this chapter are many other matters that must be attended to make your festival a success. A few words about the site: it must be large enough to accommodate the crowd, but not so big that there are vast distances between the various areas of activity. City parks are commonly used as are county fairgrounds. Some groups have even had success with downtown areas, particularly around squares.

Location is another consideration when it comes to site selection. Not only should events take place fairly near their prospective attendees, these events need to be easy to get to. Areas along the route with potential bottlenecks - narrow roads, one-lane bridges, and the like - should be avoided. Likewise, property subject to fl ooding is not the best choice for an event. And, of course, there's no getting around the fact that event-goers arrive in vehicles, which somehow must be parked. If 10,000 people show up and they average three to a car, then a little over 3,000 vehicles must be parked. It's no wonder the sole responsibility of some event workers is arranging for parking. Among other things, their plans should include handicapper spaces.

Once the site is chosen, sketch it out on a big sheet of paper. Draw property to scale, if possible, and include roads, trees, sidewalks, drainage, fire hydrants, power lines, and any other important characteristics. When the "base map" is completed, identify tentative locations for restrooms, a fi rst-aid station, concession stands, exhibit and entertainment areas, and whatever other features the festival will include. There are several rules to remember:

  • Locate restrooms so that they are convenient for the crowd, not just where they can be conveniently set up. Keep the restrooms in clusters. It's confusing if the men's facility is at one end of the festival and the women's is at the other. Make sure they are clearly marked "Men" or "Women." It has been recommended to have more restrooms designated for women than men.
  • Remember electrical needs when pinpointing stage locations and arts and crafts areas.
  • Establish some distances between entertainment and exhibits. Otherwise, an artist may be unable to explain his or her techniques because of loud music.
  • Provide benches and even picnic tables in some shady spots for those visitors who may need to sit and rest a while.
  • Consider visitors with special needs. How accessible is your festival to people with physical handicaps? Just as important as structural features is your attitude in dealing with handicapped visitors? Be sure to accommodate them.
  • Consider establishing an information booth. It's a great place to answer questions, distribute programs, and handle lost-and-found items.
  • Put some serious thought into the physical arrangement of booths, stands and stages. Traffi c - human traffi c - must somehow fl ow between these attractions. Minimize points of resistance.
  • Finally, after everything is placed on the map, take the plan out to the actual site. Visualize what is going to go where. Be certain that the property can accommodate each item that has been mapped.
  • Cleanliness is a must and cannot be stressed enough. Provide an adequate number of trash containers, conveniently and appropriately placed, and be sure to monitor and empty the containers on a regular basis.

Lost People?

Know that few things are more terrifying for a child than being lost in a crowd; some festival organizers have devised a way to quickly reunite families. It's the "Lost People Tree" - a small tree decked out with clear Christmas tree type lighting - where counselors are stationed. Children who have become separated from their parents are taken here and so are adults who have lost their children. It's a great success.

This article was originally written for Larry Ward's Fair, Festival & Event Promotion Handbook.

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