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Advice request: organizing a folk fest

SouthernCelt 17 Oct 07 - 01:27 PM
PoppaGator 17 Oct 07 - 01:45 PM
GUEST,mg 17 Oct 07 - 02:24 PM
Melissa 17 Oct 07 - 03:41 PM
Melissa 17 Oct 07 - 03:54 PM
open mike 17 Oct 07 - 04:02 PM
open mike 17 Oct 07 - 04:08 PM
SouthernCelt 17 Oct 07 - 07:39 PM
Sandra in Sydney 17 Oct 07 - 07:58 PM
GUEST,pattyClink 17 Oct 07 - 08:41 PM
mg 18 Oct 07 - 12:04 AM
mg 18 Oct 07 - 12:05 AM
SouthernCelt 18 Oct 07 - 12:45 PM
Richard Bridge 18 Oct 07 - 03:54 PM
SouthernCelt 20 Oct 07 - 12:33 PM
DeeRod 20 Oct 07 - 02:03 PM
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Subject: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 01:27 PM

I've been asked to make a suggestion for (and probably carry through on) an "entertainment" event to be held in association with a week-long Bicentennial Celebration of my hometown and county in southwest Mississippi. Right now the celebration is scheduled for the last week of April in 2009.

Do any of the wiser, more experienced types on here have advice on how best to go about organizing and carrying off a folk festival?

Our county was settled in the 20 or so years after the Revolution by Scottish and Irish immigrants/descendents and by a few Tories from the eastern colonial area that decided their loyalty to the crown made them outcasts after independence was won.

To give you an idea of the nature of settlers of the area (so you can understand what type of folk music was likely to their liking), one of my great great grandfathers was Scottish and was one of four brothers who had spent the Revolution in the capacity of personal bodyguards to Francis Marion in South Carolina. (Marion may be better known to some of you as the "Swamp Fox" who primarily fought in a guerilla role in the Revolution and who was the model for Mel Gibson's character in "The Patriot".)

Since most of the limited venues with space enough for a potentially large gathering will be occupied or otherwise in use during most of the main celebration week, I was considering organizing a folk festival for the weekend prior to the main events at a recreational area on the edge of town.

While I have great basic ideas, I have never organized anything of this nature before and I'm looking for sage advice on do's and don'ts, and a check list of critical aspects that need to be taken into account.

Anybody want to make a suggestion or twenty?

Thanks,

SC


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: PoppaGator
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 01:45 PM

Maybe contact the organizers of other festivals in the region, such as the Jackson, Mississippi Celtic Fest held about a month ago:

http://www.celticfestms.org/

or Danny O'Flaherty's Celtic Nations event in Lake Charles, displaced from New Orleans since Katrina (and held just this past weekend):

http://www.celticnations.org/festival/


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 02:24 PM

I certainly would not limit it to the Scots etc. and include certainly African American contributions, Creole (in Missippi??) and Native American and any other groups..I have heard Filiponos settled at least in the New Orleans area after debarking from ships...but it sounds like a wonderful project. mg


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: Melissa
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 03:41 PM

One thing I've noticed with a lot of organizers is that in trying to keep Control, they turn away honest offers of help. I suggest mildly accepting all offers of help as soon as they start coming in. That gives you time to figure out exactly what your volunteers are able/willing to do before the time comes for delegating big tasks.
1. Accept help, and try to insure that IF you're the one responsible for the event, you're the one in charge. Control is important--being a Control Freak is not.

I've noticed at different festivals/events, sometimes the crowd seems 'lost' simply because they aren't sure exactly how the thing works and/or what they're supposed to be doing. If you go to a variety of places and pay attention to the crowd, you'll have a good chance of seeing things to make your event run more smoothly. If you line things up to be clear for the crowd, you eliminate vagueness for them and they can simply hang out and have a good time. By the time the festival rolls around, it's nicest if the organizer has everything arranged so s/he can mill around and take compliments instead of running around setting things up and looking flazzled.
2. Crowd has an essential role at a festival. Their job is to enjoy themselves.

Your 'entertainment' folks will be happier when they arrive on site if you (or trusted delegate) are prompt in answering questions and letting them know as soon as possible when they'll be on and how to get there. Your consideration will be repaid by their willingness to be flexible. Participants will give you a lot of information in the questions they ask. You will be able to plan your way around things you forgot to think of simply by paying attention to the questions..silly-seeming ones too.
3. Take care of your performers. Consideration and things like having plenty of water available for them will give them confidence in you--and cut down on them surprising you with second-guessing or egofluffing.

People will want your entertainment to be a success and you'll probably get offers of help from folks who really aren't sure they're useful. I suggest using them. You've got plenty of time to delegate some small tasks (it's insulting to waste volunteer time by asking people to do useless tasks for the sake of letting them 'do something') like comparing prices on stuff or finding coolers that can be borrowed for the day. If you bring out someone's Useful streak, you earn their loyalty/admiration and will be able to count on them next time you're asked to set something up. The flakes will simply flake out on you. Nice when they do that before you've relied on them to carry out a big task.
3. You are the leader. Make sure your helpers know you're paying attention and that you appreciate their help. They'll get more useful when they realize you're glad to have them and that gives you a strong handful who will work toward keeping grinching at a low level.

4. Have fun. If you're enjoying yourself, the message you're sending is that All is Well. Your attitude affects the whole thing and when you're having fun (assuming you got the work done) everybody else will have more fun.

5. Share the glory if the event is a success--Accept the responsibility (blame) if it's not. It'll be awhile before your town has another 200th birthday, but there's always the option of other reasons to celebrate and you're likely to get to Organize again if you're honorable in dealing with everybody you come in contact with.

That's my 20ish suggestions. My experience is mostly with Historical, Girl Scouts and School Days so my input might not be overly useful to you--but it's a start.
I'm looking forward to reading the other responses you get..always handy to broaden my horizons!

M
(sorry if this posted twice..)


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: Melissa
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 03:54 PM

if you want some time-appropriate 1809 music, a RevWar group in your area could probably suggest some good options.


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: open mike
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 04:02 PM

Some ideas from my years of putting together concerts and festivals:

Get sponsorships from local businesses or corporations
usually in exchange for advertising they will help with expenses.

Pay the musicians and assure that they will be able to travel
to your event. Provide them food and drink .

Offer free entrance into the event to folk who are willing to volunteer (take tickets, provide information, other staff positions)

Is this event one that people will pay to attend, or is the city or
county footing the bill so it can be free to all ?

identify different people (staff, musicians, audience, vendors, etc)
by colored wrist bands. that way those with access into different areas will be easily known. (some may have multiple wrist bands)

if people are bringing their own chairs for seating, you may want to
determine a height requirement so tall chairs do not block the view.
(short chairs in front, tall in back)

Determine whether you will be doing recording..audio or video of the performers, and plan permission forms to allow this if so.

You may make contact with your local Public Access Television station
or college training facility where video production classes occur
to see about arranging to invite a portable/mobile production team
to create archival footage of your event, with possible broadcast on public access television or Public T.V. (P.B.S.) station.

Make contact with the local historical society to document the authenticity of your program and or performers if historical accuracy is part of your goal.

check out this festival...a very successful and long running event
www.strawberrymusic.com the Strawberry festival happens twice each
year and they have learned how to produce and present this event.

have fun!


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: open mike
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 04:08 PM

Make contact with (and make contracts with) a well-recommended sound re-inforcement engineer (and lighting if this is to be a night time event.) Bands are much more willing to play if they know they do not have to haul all their own amps, speakers, etc.

some festivals actually arrange to have radio station broadcast their
event so people can listen even if they cannot attend.

some have their own on-site radio broadcast just with-in the confines of the grounds where the event happens...this is probably more for events that happen in rural or remote places where there is a camp ground for
attendees, so they can hear what is going on on the main stage from a distance.

i may think of more....let us know what you learn along the way!


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 07:39 PM

Here are a few details I didn't include originally that bear on some of the suggestions provided thus far. Thanks for those already sent.

1. I'm technically representing the local historical and genealogical society so consideration of the historical aspects of the music are a given and I'm expecting help from others in the society with that.

2. No ethnic group or nationality will be excluded; however, the main event planners have already begun planning specific events during the week of celebration for most groups/cultures except (and I'm mystified over this) the Scots/Irish (or Celtic to use a more common term) culture.

3. We've already begun trying to get educational tv interest as well as interest from a couple of the better known history/culture broadcast specialists known on local tv.

4. I've been trying to get interest from the main planning committee for a special effort in getting video and audio professional recording service invovlement so that a post-event video and music album could be considered to help defray costs not covered by the local govt. appropriation and sponsor funds.

5. I fully expect that arrangements will be made for live radio broadcasting of event programs that are suitable for such. In fact, there may be several stations interested in doing something of that nature,including some from Lousiana (the county borders the state line with LA).

6. I would like to be able to have this set up as an event that could become an annual feature if it's successful. There are a lot of locals that are musically inclined which should support such an event; however, many of them equate folk music to bluegrass and Southern gospel music, both of which are more recent genres at least in the performance techniques and many of the songs. Although I'd not advocate banning more recent musical genres, I would want the festival to promote older music and new music about older times.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Keep the suggestions coming


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 07:58 PM

a few points from a recent festival.

Lots of signs & make sure everyone in a position of apparent authority (gatekeepers/ticket sellers/wandering security folks/committee members/volunteers) know how to find out what is happening.

A washed out venue did not have a re-direction sign, nearest gatekeeper didn't know said venue was washed out, ticket sellers didn't know either, several performers didn't get to the replacement venue ... but an organiser had written the new venue on a small blackboard near the ticket sellers!


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: GUEST,pattyClink
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 08:41 PM

Hello SC, did you ever make it to CelticFest and/or the recent Louisiana festivals? Make copious notes about what pleased and/or annoyed you if you did, it might help you avoid some problems. And for heaven's sake, go to the Highland Games in Jackson, LA in November, they'll have music stages and you'll learn a lot and can make a few contacts.

Highland Games

Is this in Natchez, Woodville, Liberty, Port Gibson?

Regarding performers, how much do you have to tie down to the exact time period of the founding? So many groups which play at re-enactments are Civil War time period. If that's close enough and you can use some of them, do look into booking "Unreconstructed" out of Alabama, they would add a lot of atmosphere and knowledge. They don't do a lot of 'civil war songs' at all, just a nice variety of instrumental and vocals from way back when and where. Whatever you do, don't dawdle on bookings, a lot of these groups have festival bookings lined up for at least a year in advance, and nice spring weekends get locked up in a hurry by other festivals.

Jim Flanagan is a short drive away in Hattiesburg, do get in touch with him, he has a big Irish & British Isles repertoire which includes a lot of genuinely old stuff, and could probably put together a good set of material which would be suitable for your period, but again book ahead.

If you want to get farther back in history and you start right now, you might be able to get a colonial balladeer or two to come down from Williamsburg Virginia, at least everything they sing would predate your timeframe and therefore be stuff that could have been sung around that time. If you have some humanities grant money involved in this bicentennial, have the grantwriter get in touch with the Colonial Williamsburg people and maybe together they could find some travel funds to make it happen.


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: mg
Date: 18 Oct 07 - 12:04 AM

oh gosh we forgot the bathrooms...there is probably nothing more important. They probably should be manned/womaned by volunteers right there...who can call for plumbing help, make sure supplies are sufficient,and do minor cleanup. Major cleaning should be arranged for the professional staff to be paid overtime or whatever it takes to clean it thoroughly every few hours. If you have to use Porta Potties, heaven forbid, make sure they are clean and replaced nightly or however they do it.

Lots of water around. Shade provided via awnings etc. mg


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: mg
Date: 18 Oct 07 - 12:05 AM

I guess I am not overly surprised that the Scots etc. are not stepping forward. Are they still around in great number? Could they have left, intermarried, whatever? One doesn't think in terms of Scots settlements in Missisippi but it sounds like there are...mg


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 18 Oct 07 - 12:45 PM

pattyClink asked: "Is this in Natchez, Woodville, Liberty, Port Gibson?"

The town is Liberty, but the whole county, Amite, is involved since both town and county have the same official charter years (1809).

Didn't make any of the fests this year...too many other things happening local or with the historical society back home on the weekends. I've been to quite a few such fests before over the years and have noted for my own use some aspects of their operation that seemed advisable or worked well for attendees.

Thanks for the suggestion but, yes, I'm very familiar with Flanagan and have already added his name to one of my other planning lists.

mg wrote: "I guess I am not overly surprised that the Scots etc. are not stepping forward. Are they still around in great number? Could they have left, intermarried, whatever? One doesn't think in terms of Scots settlements in Missisippi but it sounds like there are...mg

There are plenty of Scots and Irish left around the county. Probably half the surnames connect back to one or both origins. There are a lot of "Mc's" and "O's" around not to mention those surnames like mine, Anderson, that can have roots it either culture plus English and Scandinavian cultures (mine's traceable to Scotland). A lot of people there like the Celtic music but many don't have clue how directly it connects to their background. Also a lot of them like to hear about their history when it's presented to them by someone else but don't have the interest to research any of it for themselves. Consequently, they're not well-informed on their roots.

SC


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Oct 07 - 03:54 PM

Weather Insurance.


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 20 Oct 07 - 12:33 PM

BUMP...to bring up for weekend visitors

SC


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Subject: RE: Advice request: organizing a folk fest
From: DeeRod
Date: 20 Oct 07 - 02:03 PM

I'll give you a human resource in New Orleans (though he's busy fighting the govt over house damage from Katrina).

KC King, (yes, ex of Nancy) member of the Boarding Party, founder of Ship's Company Chanty & maritime reenactment group is former director of Washington Folk Festival; good organizer and promoter. Can't give you contact info off the top of my head.

Story: When KC was chmn. of festival & I was on staff, we got fairly tipsy at the conclusion. Then we had a free ride on the carousel and I said to KC, "Remember how Gene Autry would put his hands on the horse's ass and leap into the saddle? He didn't sit for a week.


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