Feature Article - September 2015
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All's Fair

The Latest Trends in Family-Friendly Community & Concert Events

By Rick Dandes

From multi-day outdoor music concerts to craft festivals and family-friendly street fairs, the best planned events reflect the pulse of a community, creating celebrations of scale, depth and gravity. They also can provide extraordinary opportunities for local musicians, artists and craftsmen to connect with their audiences.

"In my opinion, a successful festival is one that makes memories," said Cody Sorensen, owner of a Salt Lake City-based company that serves the region with amusements such as a climbing tree and bungee jump. "The most successful events are always the ones that leave an impression and keep people coming back year after year. These memories can come from good food, big entertainment, classy shows or a number of other ways. Mostly, it is about standing out. Festivals should expect the vendors to make a good impression and work together to make the event a success. Vendors expect the festivals to advertise hard and bring in a big crowd."

Whether it's a community street fair or concert, bringing in new, signature attractions is a great way to make your event stand out, Sorensen continued. Exciting attractions add firepower to your marketing campaigns by attracting TV media coverage and encouraging related social media activity, Sorensen added.

An event, large or small, is also great opportunity for your sponsoring partners to display their colors to a crowd, added Pierre Luc Rompré, commercial director for a designer and manufacturer of mobile hydraulic stages based in Quebec, Canada. "Making the most of promotion space on a stage at a festival is a must," particularly in these economic times when staging a community event or fair can cost a promoter or municipality thousands of dollars.

Trends in Attractions

Festival planners can find incredible success when you can engage with the attendees. If you put forth the extra effort to make sure everyone is having fun, it always comes back to you in a big way. Then, you have a good day and the crowd has a good day. It does not cost you anything extra to operate with a smile.

Adventure activities are very popular these days at street festivals, particularly those centered on three different categories: climbing, zip line and freefall.

Over the years, zip lines have evolved from a system for moving supplies to a form of "green" recreation found around the world. A zip line is a headline-worthy attraction that draws in the crowds and media. For those who are unfamiliar with the activity, Bill Carlson, director of Channel Sales for a Boulder, Colo.-based company that brings new adventure recreation equipment to the climbing, zip line, adventure and amusement industries, explained that a zip line is an aerial trekking course. Safely clipped in harnesses, participants glide from one platform to another.

Technology has allowed for some creativity in how zip lines operate. High-speed zip lines, defined as any line with an arrival over 25 miles per hour, can now offer riders a fast and thrilling ride that was previously only available at remote mountain or jungle locations. You can find a mobile zip line that can be set up in an area of 20 feet by 200 feet within about 30 minutes. Riders are safely secured by harnesses before taking off from the 28-foot-tall tower. "But make sure your zip line vendor is adequately insured, properly trained and has a clean safety record to avoid making the wrong kind of headline," Carlson said.

High-speed zip lines require an automatic braking system, emergency arrest device and an engineered landing area. Carlson's company offers a self-regulating magnetic braking system that brakes zip line participants comfortably and reliably, and brakes effectively at high velocities.

Use What You Have

You probably already have a platform in place if you operate an aerial park, resort or family entertainment center, Carlson said. Many facilities treat these platforms as single-use structures with a limited purpose. Each structure is used for one specific activity, whether that's climbing, jumping, zipping or as a transition from one activity to another.

While these platforms no doubt serve an important purpose in your operation, they don't actively work to increase revenue, maximize throughput or satisfy your customers.

Carlson explained that building platforms for individual activities is time-consuming, expensive and hurts the overall ROI of your facility. Quickly turn existing platforms and towers into yet another revenue opportunity with minimal investment and a quick return on your investment.

Rock climbing is a physically and mentally challenging activity that can easily be added to your existing tower. Climbing can be a challenging and fun way to get participants up to the top of a high structure, and is particularly useful if you'd like to create a way for your customers to easily return to the top of your tower to repeat activities such as zip lining or free falling.