Need help planning a festival? If you are in Carbon County, you might want to contact Eileen East from Jim Thorpe.
East is completing a series of Harrisburg workshops in festival planning and operations hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Tourism, the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, and Temple University.
While organizing last year's Carbon County Art Odyssey, East submitted a grant proposal to the Lehigh Valley Arts Council. The grant proposal was, in turn, submitted to the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts for funding.
"In March I received an email," East explained. "I was asked to submit a proposal to go to a training that the State was giving for people who conducted festivals."
"The initial email required experience with a festival that ran at least two years." East said. "As the Art Odyssey had only run one year, I ignored it."
She later reconsidered, submitted a proposal, and was accepted. "I was chosen with only one year of experience although two years were required," East noted. "I can only guess that I was the only person from Carbon County that had recently applied to the State for a grant for a festival."
East joined a group numbering 15 people from all over Pennsylvania. She learned that they were the fifth group to participate in this festival training program. The previous four programs were targeted at large festivals. This program was specifically aimed at smaller festivals.
"On the first day, we covered creating and sticking to a budget," East said. "On the second day, we talked about how to attract permanent corporate sponsors."
The third day attacked the broad subject of planning for disasters. "It covered all the way from when the weather turns horrible, having your volunteers or performers not show up, to your equipment failing."
The program discussed a disaster know in the trade as "hijacking." "One woman had someone come in dressed in a festival costume," East explained. "They passed out literature inviting people to a party and they took the audience away.
"I had my email response hijacked by someone advertising," she continued. "I must have gotten 80 million Viagra responses instead of people asking for information.
"In another incident, the logo from one festival was duplicated and used to set up a rival festival," East added. "We had lots of those concerns."
While running the Art Odyssey, East learned a lot. "I made a lot of mistakes. I wasn't prepared for the emergencies and disasters. I didn't understand what my responsibilities to our sponsors and to the grants were.
"From the workshop, I learned how to approach sponsors, what to say," she said. "When I worked with Ski Blue Mountain as a sponsor, I didn't understand what they needed, and I was not able to produce. They thought we were proposing a craft show. We were an art show.
"That was a disconnect. A private sponsor wants commercial benefit. You have show that you can provide it."
"I didn't understand that you have to plan for disasters. I had several huge disasters." The Art Odyssey fell into near chaos when a volunteer art organization pulled out at the last moment and the weekend was hit with torrential rains. "I had no alternative plans," she said.
The final training of the program will include a behind-the-scene visit to a Gettysburg festival.
"Then, we will discuss what will come next – the disappearing funding for tourism and festivals," she said.
"Ed Rendell and Keith McCall had a huge initiative to increase tourism and funding for tourism and creating a bed tax to provide funding for tourism," East said. "Both are leaving." She felt that with the lingering economic recovery, the budget woes, and the perceived lack of support for tourism among the candidates running to replace them, the future looms darkly for tourism funding.
East believes that with the near-term future of tourism and arts funding shrinking, the State thought that this program might be its last chance to help the local festivals to help themselves by placing a festival resource person in each community.
East plans to continue her training into the summer. At that time, she hopes to be able to share what she learned with people planning to run festivals in Carbon County.
For information, contact Eileen East at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or: (570) 325-0216.