Watchin the Skies

So with the 5 day forecast out today, ticket sales for the festival started to pick up. I had already been consulting Accuweather, Weather Underground and Weather Channel websites for the last couple days to see what the festival weather would be like.

Because it rained rather extensively last year, we really need good weather this year to maintain people’s faith in the event. Even if it does rain and the rain insurance helps defray the losses, if the weather is lovely next year and no one buys tickets because they have been disappointed two years in a row, there is nothing to help stave off losses. So far Thursday through Saturday looks beautiful. Sunday looks a little iffy so we are praying the weather system doesn’t speed up any.

Because Appel Farm’s residential arts and music summer camp starts 2 weeks after the festival ends, we will be rushing to clean up the grounds on Sunday. It won’t be too productive if it does rain or have thunderstorms that day. Though the worst thing to have happen is to have a rainy festival day and then a rainy clean up day. It sort of adds insult to injury. You are miserable the day of the event and then miserable cleaning it all up.

I am rather proud of the festival coordinator this year. Not only has she been good about planning the event, she has started dreaming about the festival and waking up in the middle of the night to make notes to remember things. I would be worried if this wasn’t happening to her. It would be a sign she didn’t really “get” the scope of what she was about to create.

In years past I would actually wake up in the middle of the night and call my office voice mail with notes for the next day. Unfortunately, since I didn’t have to actually get up and turn the light on, I would be in a half daze while I dictated notes over the phone and consequently had to replay the messages the next day to figure out what the heck I was mumbling.

Most of today was spent handling rather boring, picayune but necessary details of the festival. I stuffed all sorts of support information into volunteer packets so they would know how to do their jobs better. I moved tents and other equipment to staging areas so that the Saturday morning set up crew will have a straightforward job.

Tomorrow is the big shopping day. While we have someone to cater the volunteer and performer meals, there are quite a number of items that performers request that it would cost too much to have the caterer provide. Tomorrow we will be running to a food warehouse and grocery store to pick up cases of water, soda, beer, milk, breakfast foods, cookies, etc, etc, etc.

We actually had the road manager of one of our performers call today because she was concerned about how closely we were paying attention to the hospitality rider she provided. This is a valid concern because often festivals skimp on such details and treat the performers rather poorly. While we don’t go overboard to ingratiate ourselves to performers, we do pay attention to detail. We have actually had bands announce from the stage that they just had the best meal they had ever eaten at a festival.

We make sure we take care of performers because we are a small festival and there isn’t the prestige associated with playing here as there might be at other festivals where artists will put up with the poor treatment just for the exposure. Taking care of the performers helps us attract bigger and better artists in subsequent years because word gets around that we offer a good experience and people are more apt to say yes.

In any case, we had the woman who heads up the hospitality area call the road manager to discuss any concerns she might have. When our coordinator said she had received the hospitality rider two weeks ago and had been supplied with the shopping list I am going to use tomorrow and that the list specifically noted which items were for the artist’s personal use, the road manager was apparently really relieved.

To some degree it is puzzling to me that performers have such negative experiences in their travels. The type of treatment we offer is not difficult to implement. If it wasn’t for the praise we receive, I would generally assume we are sort of bumbling along at about average. I guess it is a matter of being in the habit of being attentive that makes it so easy to offer good service.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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