Tell me I’m not the only one. It happens every time I plan an event. Picture this … you’ve done weeks of prep work, everything is set up, you and the hosts are waiting. It’s 30 minutes before start time. Right now it’s empty. There’s that brief moment where you wonder how it’s all going to go off. And then this happens:
The crowds stream in! The place is packed! You breathe a sigh of relief, giddy and high on the energy that’s around you. This was the scene, and what my emotions were doing, at the first annual StreetsFest, held at Streets of St Charles in July 2014.
After a successful 5k/10k run in March called the Honduran Street Party Run, the owners of the property wanted to build on that excitement and create more opportunities for the community to interact and gather at Streets of St. Charles. The Kolbeco team went to work to create the branding and theme for the event, the promotional strategy, and the schedule of vendors and entertainment that would be on site to bring StreetsFest to life. The result was a crowd of hundreds of people on the streets, packed bars and restaurants, and a good time had by all.
Here’s what we learned from StreetsFest:
- Create something unique, but simple. How were we going to compete with other fairs and festivals, and make the experience something you couldn’t get everywhere? We thought about what we had to work with at Streets of St. Charles, and realized that because all of the streets in the property are named after some of the most famous ones in the country (Beale, Lombard, etc.), we had a celebration of streets right under our noses. What makes them great is not the structure or organization, it’s the organic feel you get when you’re there. Think of the pop-up musicians and entertainment you see on Beale in Memphis or Broadway in Nashville. That’s what we created for StreetsFest.
- You can never have too many vendors, too much entertainment, or too much for people to do. We were working with about one city block when we closed down Beale at Streets of St. Charles for StreetsFest. In that block, we packed in a radio station remote, scattered four musicians up and down the block, and had roving street performers like jugglers, unicyclists, fire breathers, sword swallowers and more. Add in tents for food sampling, games, and a photo booth, and you’ve got something for people to do at every turn. Oh, and it always helps to throw in some cute, adoptable dogs from a shelter like Five Acres.
- Partner with the right radio and TV stations. We carefully selected our broadcast partners because we believe in building partnerships – not just buying ad space. When you have that relationship, and stations that believe in what you’re trying to do, wanting you to be successful, it pays off in so many ways and can even add to the experience. Your partners will give you great exposure, and you can still seek out more opportunities through traditional PR, like this spot by KTVI’s Kim Hudson the day before the event.
- Look for every opportunity to promote. In our case, the event date of July 10 was just a few days after the community’s Independence Day parade and festivities. We leverage this. We built a float, entered the parade, and hired a street team who we outfitted in StreetsFest branded shirts. That team worked hard, handing out flyers, engaging the crowd, talking with them about the event, the development itself, and the tenants there.
- Get local leaders on board. Leadership in St. Charles is excited and supportive of Streets of St. Charles. The development itself has brought new things and revived energy. The City and other community leaders were instrumental in helping to promote the event and showed up in support.
- Hire a professional photographer. I know. Everyone can snap a picture with their iPhones, right? I guess so, but no one can capture the energy and personality of an event like a professional photographer. You’ll want great pictures to showcase the great event you had, and use them for promotional purposes next time.
Stay tuned for our next event on October 18th at Streets of St Charles, and perhaps more lessons from the Streets.