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Bob Altman Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

Festival Planning for Dunces
By Bob Altman, 2008


What's that? You say you want to put on a three-day festival? I mean, how much work could it be?

You get a hall, hire some teachers, and a few musical groups, line up some groups to perform at the dance concert, do a little advertising, and you're done.


The first thing you need to deal with is the hall. A year in advance. Oh, and by the way, this year they want to charge you big bucks because you don't qualify as a school organization. So you look for another venue. There actually are a couple of good options, but they aren't available in the month you want to hold the festival. And you can't move the festival date too much without conflicting with other festivals.

Okay, time for plan B: beg, cajole, and otherwise petition the folks at the school to give your wonderful community-based 501(c)(3) charity an affordable rate, but rules are rules, and you don't qualify . . . unless you can get another school or a city parks and recreation department to sponsor you. Yeah, that's the ticket. It tuns out your affiliation with the city parks and recreation department gets you a great rate on the hall. Whew, that was close. (Really close . . . it's getting on toward the date of the festival.)

Okay, now you need to get teachers. A few years ago a couple of teachers agreed to team up to teach at that festival and everyone loved them. Of course, it helps that they like working with each other.

Now for the musical groups. Time for some serious negotiating. Not with the musical groups, but amongst the members of the organizing committee. Some want more bands. Some want fewer. Some want hot Balkan bands. Some want more well-rounded international folk bands. In the end, you get three great local bands.

Meanwhile, someone has spent several months trying to contact performing groups for the dance concert. A couple of the groups are easy, always ready with exciting material. A couple more are reasonably easy, they have great shows. But you want to do something a little bit different this year. So you try to line up a Hip-Hop performing group you saw at a local Boys and Girls Club. (Good luck getting them to return your calls and emails.) And out of the blue, you get an email from some guy in Malawi, East Africa, who says that his performing troupe wants to come perform at your festival.

Well (you're thinking), that was pretty easy. A little white knuckle drama getting the hall, knock some heads together to agree on bands, find someone to deal with the concert . . . now you can just sit back an wait for the festival to just happen.

Yeah, right!

Now someone needs to deal with coordinating with vendors. Someone needs to do publicity. Someone needs to print and distribute flyers. Someone needs handle all of the pre-registrations. Someone has to line up door sitters. Don't forget that you need to collect and account for money at the door! Did I mention setting up the hall, decorating, setting up the sound system, rounding up tables for vendors?

Oh, yeah . . .

You gotta deal with munchies for the afterparties. It also would be nice to feed the volunteers that are spending their afternoon and evening setting up the hall. Gotta line up someone to run the music during the teaching sessions. Oh, speaking of teaching sessions, better find accommodations and transportation for the teachers.

Well, speaking of accommodations, some dancers are coming from afar and they'll want someplace to stay after the afterparty. So, better make some discount arrangements at a nearby motel.

A million and one little things, but someone has to do them all. Fortunately, you have a crack team who thrive on pressure (and potluck board meetings).

Yeah, this thing's gonna come together and happen after all. I'll see you at the festival!

Used with permission of the author.