Though COVID-19 restrictions are being loosened in many places, there are still many local regulations in place that are important for creators to follow. That means festival creators, in particular, have had to rethink how they plan and execute events that are traditionally aimed towards large groups of people.
We’re curating a series spotlighting creators who have skillfully organized safe and fun events that are great examples for any festival planner who’s feeling uninspired. Look out for more posts about different festivals, so you can get some ideas — no matter what kind of event you’re planning.
In this blog, we’re profiling the Hops & Blues Festival, a beer festival that celebrates blues music hosted by The Glass Jug Beer Lab. See how they pulled it off and how you can plan your successful own food and drink festival.
Planning a unique festival
The Hops & Blues Festival is a special kind of craft beer festival that solely focuses on hoppy beers and blues artists local to Durham, North Carolina. “We only work with the best, most popular, hoppy beer brewers in the Southeast,” say the creators at Hops & Blues. “For music, we select artists who are local, have a following, and bring a fun stylistic diversity within the blues genre.”
Overcoming COVID-19 related issues
Due to COVID-19 restrictions the original Hops & Blues Festival had to be rescheduled, but the creators pointed out that rescheduling was preferable to canceling. The nature of the event also needed to evolve in order to allow attendees to enjoy their beers safely. “They cannot walk around and drink while talking and mingling,” say the creators. “People have to be seated and separated from other groups to drink.”
Their solution was to order more furniture to provide a space for everyone, and the number of attendees was reduced from 400 to 150. Renting more furniture meant reallocating budget from other places, so Hops & Blues had to cut their music budget in half and book different artists.
On the positive side, fewer tickets to sell meant that the Hops & Blues creators spent far less time on marketing, and the event was attractive because of its exclusivity. “Tickets were immediately sold out due to the capacity restrictions.” They found that by remaining flexible and creative, they were able to meet the challenge of planning an event during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How a festival impacts business
According to the creators of the Hops & Blues Festival, planning a festival requires “a lot more work and coordination” than other types of events. It involves working with a number of different stakeholders. Trying to find a date that works for all vendors and all attendees can be challenging, but there are many benefits that come with pulling off a successful beer festival. The Hops & Blues Festival “helps to showcase [The Glass Jug Beer Lab venue], increases our cred with beer and music geeks, and generally elevates our brand.”
While organizing a festival may require a lot of work at the outset, it can be a great return on investment for the long haul. Larger events like Hops & Blues attract attendees from out of town and are a great opportunity to introduce the brand, and other partner brands, to new customers. The creators of Hopes & Blues have learned that when you work with multiple organizations to plan a festival, you gain access to the audiences of all of your partners, and vice versa.
Take the plunge and plan your own festival
Just like the creators of Hops & Blues, you can plan an engaging — and safe — festival. Be sure to curate what you’re offering at a festival event, so your attendees feel like they’re getting the most out of their experience. Consider doing something unique like planning a German beer festival, focusing on a specific type of beer like the Hops & Blues festival does, or combining a beer festival with another aspect, like a beer and bacon festival.
Check out your local county’s restrictions and parameters for events. You can manage crowd density by offering tickets for different time slots, transitioning to a fully virtual event, or hybridizing your event. A hybrid format allows you to expand your audience geographically and also cater to attendees who aren’t comfortable attending in-person events yet.
If you’re planning an annual event, you can build a loyal following and revenue stream that both grow over time. Repeat attendees inviting their friends can help you expand the event and your overall brand awareness, without the additional marketing costs of gaining new attendees.
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