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Backstage Hospitality for a Fair, Festival or Event
by Tara Byrd, Portfest, Newport, Arkansas

When you mention this part of any festival, the first thought to most people is, "Wow, I want to work in that area!! You get to meet all the stars and only have to work a couple of days-put me on that committee!!" The first part of that statement MIGHT be true, and the second part is never true!

Having chaired this committee at our local festival for over 20 years, this section is hopefully going to help explain some of the issues involved and how to deal with most of them.

From the very beginning, my approach to this committee was that it would be run professionally (meaning we would NOT act like groupies, etc.), but we would always enjoy what we were doing. I have stressed this to any new members; therefore, we now have a very good reputation in the entertainment area of the business.

The first important step is to try to get a diverse group of people who are energetic, sociable, and extremely dependable. The core of my committee has been together for most of the 20 years, and of course, that makes it much easier. One of the committee loves to cook and the rest of us do the other work. (If you are having a certain entertainer and you have someone who just LOVES that person, it is always fun to let one or two of those people help each year, as long as they abide by the rules and don't act like groupies. They also need to understand that they may not even see the star, and if that happens, the work must go on.)

Our festival is located about three miles from town in a state park by a river and is a beautiful location. However, we do have some serious issues about accommodations and availability for food, etc. There is only one road leading to the park, and on festival days, traffi c is extremely heavy. Therefore, we have to get everything to our location before the festival begins and have it worked out now into a pretty good system. You will need to examine your facilities and plan accordingly, i.e. are you close to restaurants, motels, etc., or what accommodations will have to be made.

After the directors, leaders, or whoever is in charge of deciding on the entertainment have made their decisions, contracts will be signed with each entertainer or group. Once all the appropriate people sign the contracts, everyone will get a copy explaining each area and what is needed. The part that we need is called the Hospitality Rider (or sometimes Catering).

Sometimes when you first see this rider you are a little overwhelmed and think, "We can't do all of that." Don't panic-the important thing to remember is that almost all of the riders are written for concerts that are held in a large indoor arena, so you might see things like "four private dressing rooms with full mirrors, two outside telephone lines, private baths," etc., etc.

Those kinds of issues usually don't apply to most festivals and can be discussed with the Road Manager. You will just need to tell them what is available and work with them. I am listing one of the riders we received this year as an example:
BUYER agrees to provide the following for the artist and band 30 minutes
prior to the schedule load-in.
One (1) hot coffee setup with cups, sugar, fresh half & half, stirrers
Three (3) cases of Mountain Valley type bottled water (NO Dassani/Aquafina)
Twelve (12) 20 oz. Gatorade
One (1) deli/cheese Tray w/condiments to feed 10 adults
Three (3) Lean Cuisine type frozen meals (chicken & vegetable w/pasta)
One (1) gallon fresh squeezed orange juice
One (1) 12 pack each Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke
One (1) 6 pack Mountain Dew
Fresh whole fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, etc.)
One (1) jar Planters type sunfl ower seed kernels
One (1) box Nature Valley type granola bars (peanut butter)
Chips and salsa (Frito's), bean dip (Ruffl es), French Onion dip
One (1) loaf wheat bread
One (1) small jar crunchy peanut butter
One (1) Small jar squeezable Smucker's grape jelly
Large Solo cups, napkins, plastic ware
One case (24) Budweiser
One case (24) Miller Light
One case (24) Sam Adam's
One (1) large bottle Grey Goose vodka
Two (2) bottles Pinot Grigio type wine
Two (2) 20 lbs. bags of ice
Ten (10) large bath towels
Six (6) travel size bars of soap

One (1) hot coffee setup with cups, sugar, fresh half & half, stirrers
Two (2) cases of Mountain Valley type bottled water (NO Dassani/Aquafina)
One (1) 6 pack each Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke
Six (6) large bath towels
Three (3) travel size bars of soap

Hot, healthy, (low-fat) meals for twelve (12) persons will be provided for ARTIST'S band and crew immediately following sound check or at a time agreed to upon advancement of the date with Tour Manager.

Also included two (2) hot side items and (1) cold side item, one (1) gallon of 2% milk and one (1) gallon of skim milk, soft drinks and bottled water. If dinner is not to be provided, a buy-out at $15.00 per person shall be substituted and to be paid to Tour Manager at time of load-in.

Ice: 1 bag (20 lbs)
Pizza: Three (3) large pizzas (types to be discussed day of show)

Once you have received all of the riders-usually a couple of months before the festival, someone has to be designated to purchase the items on the rider for each entertainer. I usually do that here and start about three weeks before the festival. Our festival is the week after Memorial Day, so I try to buy as much as I can that weekend to save money on drinks, etc.

Because of the location of our festival, the committee begins its work on Wednesday before the concerts on Friday and Saturday. The crew that brings in the stage, sound, and lights begins the process of putting up the stage on Wednesday so we start feeding them and the other workers that day.

We usually feed about 50 people two meals on Wednesday, Thursday, and again on Sunday when it is all being dismantled. On Friday and Saturday, we usually feed from 100-125. Some of these meals are donated by local restaurants, i.e. Hardees, McDonalds, Subway, and sometimes parts of meals are donated, such as meat from one place, slaw from another, chips from another, etc. In return, all of these donations are listed on the sponsor boards in the hospitality area. Other meals are cooked at home or at the park by our "resident cook" and her helpers.

For the past three years at our festival, Pepsi has had an exclusive on the sale of drinks-and part of that agreement includes their furnishing drinks and cups for the hospitality area. That has helped us a great deal on our budget. This is a committee where you usually don't have an opportunity to leave your area much once the entertainers and the buses with all the equipment start arriving. It is pretty hectic all day, but lots of fun, too.

As I mentioned above, we work fi ve days because we have to be there for the "putting up and taking down." That's why a lot of people don't want this committee when they fi nd out it's not just the days when "the stars come out." I don't let people choose to work just the "fun" days-it's all or nothing!! (HA!)

Hopefully this will give you a little insight into the world of hospitality. It takes a lot of time, is physically tiring and always a lot of fun. All of the examples and suggestions would, of course, need to be adapted to your specific festival - some areas will be more diffi cult than others, and each year gets easier (if you have a good committee).

Planning a Successful Event,
Table of Contents

1. Planning
2. Organizing
3. Fundraising
4. Corporate Sponsorship
5. Promotion
6. Buying Media
7. Setting the Image of the Event
8. Operating
9. Buying Music Acts
10. Grounds Attractions
11. Sound, Lighting & Staging
12. Sample Artist Contract and Rider
13. From the Entertainers View
14. Backstage Hospitality
15. Talent Contests
16. Queen Contests
17. Parades
18. Horse Events
19. Rodeo's and Horse Events
20. Farm Youth Program
21. Choosing a Carnival
22. Concessions
23. Legalities and Risk Management
24. Event Insurance
25. Royalties
26. Location/Physical Facilities
27. Grounds and Facilities
28. Office and Staffing
29. Tractor Pulls
30. Estimating Crowd Attendance
31. Festival Evaluation
32. Event Impact Studies
33. Conclusion, Final Word

12 Ways to Kill an Event

Bibliography: Sources and Contributors