How To Ensure Your Fall Festival Goes Smoothly – 12 Important Tips!
Having just helped plan the first ever fall festival for our local town, it was an incredible learning experience!
While we consider it to be a pretty good success for what we managed to accomplish, it could’ve been handled a lot better.
So, are you planning your own fall or harvest festival of your own? If so, learn from our mistakes, and follow these tips to ensure that your fall festival goes smoothly.
This article will be broken down into three sections – things to do before your fall festival, during it, and after it’s been completed. That way, you can ensure you don’t run into issues at any point throughout the experience!
Before The Festival
Let’s first look at some of the things you should think about long before the day of your fall festival actually arrives.
If you are part of a planning committee, you may wish to review these as a group and share ideas as you go through them.
1. Start Planning And Preparing Early
This is particularly important if you’re planning your first ever fall festival, as was the case with us.
Plain and simple – we did not give ourselves enough time to get this thing together. While our meetings were productive, ideas kept getting changed, projects ended up getting started over from scratch, and overall we just didn’t have enough time to make the event as grand as we had hoped.
Depending on the productivity and meeting frequency of your team, the amount of extra time you should budget for will vary.
Because our committee met only once per week, we really could’ve benefited from even an additional two weeks to get things done.
If time is short, ensure that you have a person that can follow up with key people to ensure projects are being completed, and deadlines are being met.
2. Consider A Theme
Does your fall festival have a theme? If not, perhaps you should consider one!
Having a cohesive theme makes it easier to brainstorm ideas that fit for that theme, and can also help differentiate the fall festivals that you throw each year. So, it’s particularly beneficial if you plan on making this an annual event.
Many fall festivals also coincide with Halloween or other holidays, making this a good opportunity for children and families to dress up in similar costumes.
For our harvest festival this year, the theme we chose was ‘Wizard of Oz.’ Everything from our fliers to the activities were themed this way, and it made for a magical time for all!
3. Secure The Location Early On
One of the first things that you should do when you begin planning your fall festival, is to secure the location you intend to use for the event.
Location can make a huge difference in how your harvest festival turns out.
For example, if you end up having to use a location that’s far out of the way, you not only add additional resistance that compels less people to show up, but you also benefit less from people driving by and seeing it on their own.
Those who weren’t aware of your fall festival before or are simply traveling through town for the first time can become additional attendees if they happen to stumble onto your festival!
Of course, your location may also dictate what type of events you can have at your festival as well.
For example, we wanted to have a corn maze, but the plot of land we were going to use for it was already being used for something else on the same day – though it would have been available if we had asked sooner!
Determining your location early on also gives you more time to search for alternatives if your city doesn’t approve it.
4. Have Contingency Plans In Case People Don’t Show Up
Even with good intentions, people may not show up.
Plans change, life gets in the way, and some of the people that you may have assigned for specific roles may end up backing out.
This is normal, and should be planned for.
If possible, try to ensure that the festival can still go on if one person falls ill, or otherwise isn’t able to make it.
If there are critical files or contacts needed for the festival to move forward, ensure that backup copies are made and can be utilized in the event that somebody backs down.
5. Plan A Good Number Of Activities + Vendors
This one is important!
Just like people on your committee may need to back out, there may be issues that prevent certain vendors (or volunteers helping with activities) from showing up as well.
When people show up at your fall festival or drive past it on the street, you unfortunately only have one chance to make a first impression. Not only that, but the impression people get of your festival this year, may also help them decide whether or not it’s worth coming to next year as well.
It’s better to be over-ambitious and plan for too many people, than to have a festival that is bare and empty.
At our own festival, vendors and volunteers began leaving very early in the day – this led to it looking quite bare towards the second half, which was disappointing to many of the families that showed up.
6. Develop A Marketing Plan
Ultimately, all your hard work doesn’t help much, if nobody shows up to enjoy it!
Just like any business or event, a good festival needs a good marketing plan. And the higher your ambitions and the larger your festival, the more you should spend to market it.
More people showing up is good for everyone. It’s good for the vendors, who will make more money. It’s good for the festival’s image, and makes it seem more popular and exciting.
Even queues forming for activities can be beneficial, as it slows down the pace of the festival, and keeps people staying there for longer periods of time, as they wait to enjoy everything you planned out for them.
Thankfully, marketing a harvest or fall festival doesn’t have to be expensive.
First things first, have a flier designed that indicates all of the fun activities that your fall festival will include, along with its date and location. Place these fliers up around town, and within stores that people are likely to see this in. This will only take a few hours of your time.
Secondly, running a small Facebook Ads campaign will allow you to specifically target people in your town, for an incredibly cheap price. You can even run separate ads targeting parents with children that highlight all of the kid-friendly activities that your festival will contain.
These ads will not only be far cheaper, but also far more effective than newspaper or local TV ads.
During The Festival
Next, let’s look at some things that you should mindful of the day of the festival.
Planning is important, but execution is key! Follow these tips to ensure the actual day itself goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Show Up Early
Assume that people will start showing up for the festival before your advertised time.
This means that depending on its size, you may wish to start setting up very early in the morning, or even the day before if you have a secure place to set things up.
Keep Murphy’s law in mind – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. From equipment being left behind by mistake to tech issues with your music player, things rarely go as smoothly as planned.
Giving yourself extra time to work with will allow you to fix these issues calmly, without freaking out.
2. Have Advertised Events At Specific Times Throughout The Day
One of the biggest issues with our first harvest festival was that we didn’t have a schedule for activities.
This meant two things:
- People didn’t know when the activities were happening, what activities were available, or if they had already missed them.
- People felt like they had done everything in under an hour, and didn’t have a reason to stick around.
If you plan specific activities throughout the day, you give people a reason to stick around longer. This may also help provide an idea on when surges of people are likely to arrive.
Just make sure you have places for people to sit down and relax, and that all basic needs like food, drinks and bathrooms are taken care of!
Note: Knowing that more people are going to show up will encourage the vendors to stay longer, too.
3. Keep Things Moving Quickly
Finally, during the day of the festival you should ensure that all activities are going by quickly.
It is better to have the festival last a shorter period of time and constantly provide novel experiences to attendees, then to have it drag out and people leave out of boredom.
This will help you next year, as well – people will leave with a better impression if they didn’t get to everything they want, than if they got bored and left early.
Thus, a greater desire to come back (and show up earlier) next year!
(We love trips to Disneyland for example, but even we would want to go home after being stuck at ‘The Happiest Place On Earth’ for an entire month!)
After The Festival
Finally, let’s look over some things to keep in mind after the festival has ended.
1. Wait To Close Until After Advertised Times
This was another big issue that we experienced with our harvest festival.
Vendors started packing up early, and some left several hours before the advertised ending time.
Despite that, new people continued showing up towards the later hours of the festival. When they got there, the entire thing already looked like it was over, which was disappointing to both the kids and their parents alike.
As mentioned earlier, you only have one chance to give a first impression. I hate to say it, but the people that saw our harvest festival in that state are likely not to bother showing up next year – especially if they took the time to travel from neighboring towns.
(Thankfully, there was a trunk-or-treat happening shortly after, so it wasn’t an entire waste for them.)
2. Have Certain People Committed To Cleaning Up
Obviously, vendors using specific spaces for profit should be responsible for their own areas.
However, it’s best to be clear before the festival ends who is responsible for cleaning up everything else – and you should book more people for the job than you feel is necessary.
It is far too easy for one or two people to end up doing far more than their fair share of work, which may cause resentment and discourage them for volunteering for future fall festivals.
By clearing this all up in advance, you ensure that everyone involved can transition to cleaning up quickly, and get home at a reasonable time.
3. Assemble All Pictures, Video And Footage Acquired
Lastly, gather up all of the photo and video footage that your committee managed to acquire, paying particularl attention to any highlights.
These should be posted on any community pages that the citizens of your town follow shortly after the event, highlighting how fun and enjoyable the festival was!
If you’d like, you can also hire someone to make a highlight reel video to emotionally captivate the viewers.
Next year around this time, you can use it as a marketing tool to help promote the next fall festival!
Want Fliers Made?
If you’re currently planning your fall festival, one of the most important things you’ll want to create is your fliers.
These not only help promote your event, but help build hype and word-of-mouth regarding your festival.
Here are some of the example fliers we made for our first festival, before we ultimately decided on a theme:
If you want us to design yours, please get in touch with us through our contact page here! We’d be happy to design a flier according to your theme and requirements, and would love to work with you to make your fall festival a success!
Fall festivals are a wonderful opportunity to bring your community together, and provide a wonderful tradition for families to look forward to each year.
Of course, with a bit of planning, you can ensure that it’s not only more enjoyable for the attendees, but for the vendors and staff too.
I hope that this article has given you some ideas to work with. If you have any questions that you’d like to ask, please ask them via the comment form below and we’d be happy to help out.
Here’s hoping your festival is a success!
– James and Amara McAllister