Feature Article - January 2006
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Festival Fundamentals

Six habits of highly effective special events

By Stacy St. Clair

Make their mouths water

Ice cream, hot dogs and elephant ears. Traditional festival menus rarely change. While many patrons take comfort in these summer staples, successful organizers aren't afraid to shake up the food offerings. They look for vendors that sell unique, if not always diet-friendly, items.

Chase Root Beer, for example, made headlines in the Chicago area several summers ago when it began offering deep-fried Snickers and Milky Way bars at summer festivals. The decadent treat may look like a corndog, but it's really a candy bar dipped in sweet funnel cake batter. It's then topped with powdered sugar or ice cream.

The company, which is based in Elmhurst, Ill., does more than just sell festival food. It makes the process seems like an event. They offer a special kids' booth designed to attract young patrons. With a bubble machine and a magic fountain, the stand entertains children as they order smaller size portions of chicken nuggets, lemonade, popcorn and mini hot dogs.

It also has helped lure patrons with gimmicks such as the world's largest root beer barrel and lemonade sold out of a gigantic orange. If that isn't enough to catch their fancy, the popular Midwestern vendor also offers a taffy apple assembly line, which allows festival goers to chose from a table full of toppings.

"The public wants something different and exciting," says Dick Chase, company president.