Making Special Events Go Off Without a Hitch

​From festivals to farmers markets, special events often form a huge part of the public perception of cities and towns. There are as many ways to plan out and manage these productions as there are variations of events themselves, but in most cases, city-sponsored events have the advantage of city resources. Below are a handful of examples from around the state.

Trailblazer Park, Travelers Rest
Boasting a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a connection to the Swamp Rabbit Trail, Trailblazer Park hosts a Music in the Park series and Movies in the Park series, as well as the Fall Bluegrass & Harvest Market. Events make use of the onsite amphitheater and permanent restrooms. Beth Sicignano of Tr Creatives works with the city to make these events possible.

Concert at Trailblazer Park in City of Travlers Rest
Trailblazer Park is home to concerts, movies, festivals and the Travelers Rest Farmers Market.
Photo: City of Travelers Rest.

For concerts, Sicignano said that they stick to fairly local bands and tribute bands, with a vendor hired for sound design and lighting. The movies work in a similar way — the movie screening is licensed, and then a hired company handles the set up and break down of the significantly heavy screen. It also makes the call as to whether or not the screen can withstand wind gusts on a given night.

"We made a decision early on that we didn't have the staff [to manage the event]. I can't drag one of those [screens] around," she said.

City-hosted events in Travelers Rest, as in other places, are integrated into existing city services. Police help with security, public works helps with after-event trash removal. Local restaurants serve as food vendors while the Travelers Rest Artist Alliance handles beverage sales.

Sicignano also handles tracking down event sponsors, which she describes as a great way to build connections between local businesses and event goers.

"Usually in January, I have my sponsorship packet all ready to go," she said. "We have different levels of sponsorships, and we make them pretty affordable."

Icehouse Amphitheater, Lexington
Walker Brewer got his start in event production, he said, when he was a kid, "asking the sound guy at an event what all the buttons on the board did." That interest would lead to audio engineering for concerts and ultimately a career in production management. Then, in 2016, the Town of Lexington fulfilled its vision of opening a 900-seat amphitheater venue in its downtown area, and it hired Brewer as its downtown venue promoter.

Concert at the Icehouse Amphitheater in Lexington
Icehouse Amphitheater takes its name from an ice plant that operated at its site from 1928 – 2012. Photo: Town of Lexington.

The Icehouse Amphitheater books and promotes its own events — things like concerts and movies — but it also rents out the space for private promoters to handle events. Adding together both categories, Brewer said, the venue is averaging a little more than 50 events per year.

He said that event management at the venue has enjoyed the benefits of buy-in from across the Town of Lexington's leadership, working with the Police Department for security as well as Parks and Sanitation for cleanup.

The Icehouse does some ticketed events, with a private company hired for ticket collection and backstage security. Brewer said the venue has recorded two sold-out shows with Edwin McCain, a sold-out show with Sister Hazel, and two sold-out shows with Resurrection, a Journey tribute band.

For cities and towns interested in creating a dedicated event venue space, he advised that they make sure their manager is ready.

"Make sure you have someone who is willing to take on the challenge, who is willing to work with it and make it happen. It doesn't necessarily have to be someone who knows the industry, but it has to be someone who wants to work," he said.

Downtown Orangeburg
Soon, the Downtown Orangeburg Farmers Market will have a purpose-built pavilion as its permanent location. But for the first five years of its existence, the Famers Market has been a street event, like other events staged by the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association that require careful planning and coordination. DORA averages nine to 10 events every year requiring street closures, according Candice Roberson, its executive director. These include street dances, car shows, the Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival, and "A Taste of the Market," a four-course farm-to-table dinner.

Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization's Taste of the Market event
2019 marks the third year of the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization's Taste of the Market event.  Photo: City of Orangeburg.

Describing the process of street closures, Roberson said it begins with permitting. She then coordinates with city administration and department heads, providing a map showing planned barricade locations and discussing where and when the road closures will take place.

"Usually, two days before an event, we're walking the road with the key players, not just the department heads, but the actual supervisors that are going to be out there putting out the barricades," she said.

The process also considers affected business owners. DORA notifies businesses of street events at least 30 days in advance of the dates and times. A street dance that begins at 6 p.m. actually begins with a road closure starting at 3 p.m. to allow for the setup of things like food trucks or light-stringing. DORA also announces street closures on social media, typically with a map showing where the event is happening and where visitors can find parking.