Feature Article - November 2021
Find a printable version here

Getting Back Together

Events Get Back on Track, With Safety Front & Center

By Deborah Vence

Santa Clarita, California

In Santa Clarita, Calif., located north of Los Angeles, events are moving ahead as planned.

"The city has a communications team that the events team works with to develop all the marketing plans for events. Over the last year the majority of our marketing has moved to more of the digital platform to continue to reach a large audience that might not be going out in the public as much. Throughout 2020 and 2021 we have seen an increase with our online marketing programs. Events continue to be well attended, fun and successful," said David Knutson, events administrator for the city of Santa Clarita.

In July and August, Santa Clarita produced its annual Concerts in the Park series, a free, eight-week-long series of outdoor concerts.

"When staff began to plan, there [were] several restrictions to live events happening in Los Angeles County and the state of California. However, approximately three weeks prior to the series kicking off, all restrictions were lifted by the county and state," Knutson said. "This allowed us to remove all protocols that had been planned. While our typical crowds are somewhere between 8,000 [and] 9,000 weekly, we did see a decrease in attendance to around 4,500 to 6,000 each week. Overall, we never received any complaints or concerns from the citizens."

For future events scheduled in Santa Clarita, "The city is moving forward with all events as business as usual, as there are currently no protocols in place that affect any city events. We are always constantly looking for updates from the county or state," he said. "Right now, the only event protocol is for mega events with over 10,000 people."

Lake Forest Parks and Recreation

In Lake Forest, Ill., the city successfully carried out its scheduled events this summer, including Fourth of July festivities as well as a music festival in August.

"Our first course of action is to make sure that we are in accordance with all Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Centers for Disease Control guidance when it comes to hosting festivals during the pandemic. This summer we operated in Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan, which removed occupancy requirements for this grouping. For ticketed events, such as the Fourth of July Festival and Fireworks and our Lake Forest Music Fest, we focused on the ease of online ticket purchasing," said John Eldridge, CPRP, recreation program manager of early childhood education, cultural arts and special events, Lake Forest Parks and Recreation Department.

"Attendees could not only purchase an entry ticket, but also VIP passes, family passes and parking passes all online. This drastically reduced the number of day-of-ticket sales, lines and handling of cash. Events were held outdoors and allowed for necessary social distancing," he said.

The Fourth of July Festival and Fireworks, as always, was "held outdoors at the largest park, square-footage-wise, in Lake Forest," he said. "Our site map was developed in order to maximize lawn space so that attendees could spread out their picnic areas. … Much of our online sales were encouraged to be done online before the day of the event. This cut down on the lines, day of. We also have multiple ticket lines which allowed for groups to spread out."

For the Lake Forest Music Fest, it was "Much of the same from our Fourth of July," Eldridge said. "We utilized two parking lots to provide more space. We had two stages so that attendees could spread out. We offered all-access passes to reduce the need for standing in lines to buy additional tickets."

As the weather gradually gets colder in Illinois, Eldridge noted that going forward there might be a need to move more popular events, such as Halloween and Christmas, indoors.

"However, our first goal is to be outside if and when able," he said. "Registration is required for all events, even when there is no fee to attend. This will allow us to keep track of the number of attendees. Masks will be required regardless of vaccination status when indoors.

"We also have various contingency plans in the event that restrictions tighten up and we need to switch to having more strict occupancy levels or move things to a contactless event," he added. "In all cases, we will always lean on IDPH and CDC guidance."