Party Ideas

The Basics of Planning a Festival

By Matt Holland

A festival can be a great way to celebrate diversity, build community, and make lasting memories. The process of planning a festival can be challenging, but the benefits and shared joy are well worth it! With creative festival ideas and good planning, you can make an event that is fun, unique, and deeply meaningful. Read on to discover how to plan a festival that sparks joy and creates unforgettable memories for your attendees.

Festival Ideas

The first step to planning a festival is to decide on a concept and what kind of attendee experience you want to provide. From music to food to cultural traditions, there are so many reasons to celebrate and have fun together. Consider the following festival ideas to jumpstart your brainstorming session! 

🎨 Arts and Crafts Festivals: Enjoy artistry and craftsmanship by showcasing a wide range of handmade goods, artwork, and products. Include a variety of musicians for a cornucopia of creativity!

🌍 Cultural Festivals: Honor the heritage, traditions, and diversity from around the world. Think of cultural festivals like Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, St. Patrick’s Day, and Diwali for inspiration.

🎬 Film Festivals: Showcase a selection of films, typically from various genres, countries, and filmmakers. Additionally, you can include panel discussions, Q&A sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities.

🍕 Food and Drink Festivals: Celebrate culinary delights and libations with a festival dedicated to food or drinks. Attendees can indulge in various offerings from local vendors, chefs, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and artisanal producers.

🎵 Music Festivals: Experience a multitude of musical performances. Focus on local musicians to build community. Or make it themed around a genre like blues, jazz, or classic rock to sell tickets to a specific audience.

🍁 Seasonal Festivals: These festivals mark specific times of the year, often tied to natural cycles or cultural traditions. Think of traditional fall festival ideas like Oktoberfest and harvest celebrations or summertime carnivals.

🧘‍♀️ Wellness and Spiritual Festivals: These events typically offer a variety of activities and experiences aimed at nurturing the mind, body, and spirit. Consider providing activities like yoga and meditation as well as wellness markets and workshops.

📃 Pro tip: A planning checklist, like this one by Sign Up Genius, will ensure you cover every detail.

Music for Your Festival

Whether or not you’re planning a music festival, you should include live music to create a fun atmosphere, as well as excite and entertain your guests. Plan to include a diverse mix of musicians throughout your festival to reach a range of ages and preferences.

Energize the crowd

For a festival full of energy and excitement, you will want to include bands who match the vibe and play songs that people know. Consider a tribute band of a famous group, a cover band that plays a wide range of popular tunes, or a big band with a vocalist that will have the attendees on their feet dancing and singing along.

Create a relaxed vibe

For arts festivals or laid-back holiday events, you want a relaxed environment that matches the artistic and thoughtful surroundings. Acoustic performances are the best for creating a low-key atmosphere, but many types of musicians can fit the bill. Consider hiring singing guitarists, acoustic duos, or talented singing pianists to achieve that relaxing vibe.

Consider cultural performers

Honor tradition and heritage when planning for cultural festivals as well as wellness and spiritual events. For example, you may want to hire a zydeco band to celebrate Mardi Gras, a polka band for Oktoberfest, or a sitar player to play at a festival that focuses on yoga and meditation. By including culturally appropriate music, you’ll create an authentic multicultural experience.

Beyond the Music

In addition to musicians, festivals can benefit from a range of entertainers to create a dynamic and engaging environment. When promoted correctly, great entertainment will also increase ticket sales. There are many options to consider, from hilarious comedians to street performers and artists who can create unique mementos for your guests.

Change it up with comedians and speakers

When planning a festival, remember that musicians are certainly not the only entertainers who can rock the stage. Invite stand-up comedians, inspirational speakers, or an entertaining emcee to take the stage. They can provide laughter and avoid redundancy, offering a lighthearted or interactive experience for festival-goers.

Increase the fun with street performers

Entertain festival goers as they walk around, view art and vendors, and enjoy food and beverages. Strolling performers can create a unique experience and a fun environment wherever the guests happen to go. Book fun magicians, towering stilt walkers, talented jugglers, and more to roam the festival and engage with attendees.

Create an opportunity for a keepsake

Hire service providers that will create unique keepsakes for attendees to take home. Artists like caricaturists can create custom portraits, and airbrush artists can make colorful custom gear. Or, book a photo booth to encourage guests to capture the fun event with a professional photo. Not only are these festival ideas entertaining for guests, but they’ll also have a souvenir to remember the event.

Festival Entertainment Ideas for Kids

Ensure everyone will have a blast at the event by including children’s party entertainment and games. You’ll create a great experience for kids, as well as their families, by providing opportunities for all ages to get in on the action. From petting zoos to face painters and DIY games, there are many options for kids to enjoy.

Make it exotic

Set up a petting zoo with friendly farm animals such as goats, sheep, rabbits, and chickens. Organize animal encounters with exotic creatures like reptiles, birds of prey, or small mammals for a hands-on learning experience. You can even add pony rides as an extra animal attraction!

Engage with interactive entertainers

Invite interactive entertainers to provide face painting and balloon twisting. Or book princesses and mascots of their favorite fictional characters. By doing so, you will create a magical environment for the kids attending your festival.

Gamify the festival

Use your volunteers or staff to run carnival-style games to provide more entertainment at a lower cost. Go with classics like bags and ring toss, or get creative based on seasonal concepts or materials you can gather. Don’t forget to give out tickets and provide prizes for the winners!

🤹 You may also like: Children’s Entertainment for Any Budget in 2024

Planning a Festival on a Budget

Festivals can become expensive, depending on your goal. Whether you want to raise money for a cause, bring the community together, or simply provide entertainment, your budget will differ. However, regardless of purpose or event, you’ll want to find ways to save money while throwing a successful festival.

👩‍💻 Promote your festival digitally

Offline marketing, such as flyers and posters, can become expensive. Instead, consider focusing only on social media and digital marketing to promote your event. Advertise through social media channels to spread the news about the festival and where to purchase tickets. Work with local businesses, artists, and radio stations to promote your event on their social media to reach your target audience. 

😁 Recruit volunteers to help

Recruiting enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers for your festival is crucial for its success. To make your volunteer service effective, it is important to clearly define roles and time commitments, provide incentives, and streamline the signup process.

Provide options of work based on skill and interest, and vary the schedules to guarantee a larger number of volunteers. Give out free shirts, free food, and entry to the festival to all those who volunteer to encourage involvement. Utilize a tool like Sign Up Genius to track your volunteers. 

🍕 Keep the food simple

Unless you’re planning a festival dedicated to specific food and drinks, keep your options simple. Plan only to offer smaller menus to keep the crowd moving through the lines and reduce stress for food vendors. Food trucks are excellent for festivals due to their flexibility to go anywhere and their typically smaller yet delicious menu offerings.

Planning a festival is a labor of love that involves a lot of work, passion, and creative vision. With careful planning and execution, festivals can unite communities, ignite imaginations, and create unforgettable experiences for all who attend. 🙌

Want to book something awesome for your festival? Find the best performers, musicians, and service providers on GigSalad.

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