Delaware’s destinations learn to step up their festival efforts

May 15, 2014

Delaware’s tourism destinations can raise their visibility, increase their revenue and foster community pride by producing more of the festivals that are so appealing to the leisure traveler, a panel of experts told tourism industry insiders at a seminar May 7.

The techniques of staging a successful festival are within the reach of groups large and small, all across the state, veteran event organizers told the audience at the Delaware Tourism Office-produced event in downtown Dover. Collaboration with other interested groups is key, and reaching out to more-experienced organizers can alleviate missteps, participants were told. Above all, festival safety is paramount.

With the help of social media and other user-friendly, low-cost marketing tools, organizers can boost attendance year after year, speakers said.

“It’s important to always be thinking of ways to set your festival apart, to make it rise above the ordinary,” said Linda Parkowski, DTO director. “Firefly is a great example of that - this year, attendance will likely hit 80,000, and that’s due in large part to constant enhancements.”

Above all, speakers said, remember that festivals are primarily about the guests. Strive continually to please the guests, to accommodate their concerns, and they will return.

“It’s crucial to keep an unwavering focus on innovation and constantly improving the event,” said speaker Greg Bostrom, director of Red Frog Events, which organizes Delaware’s successful Firefly Music Festival. “Organizers need to take every opportunity to create unforgettable individual experiences and regularly enliven the mix. That turns attendees into fans, and keeps people eager to come back and bring friends.”

Events give communities an opportunity to leverage the skills of multiple groups - businesses, community leaders, municipalities, artists and nonprofits - and give them a platform for coming together, said speaker Ted Baroody, a professional event organizer and president of Virginia-based Festevents.

Because events in different states are not typically in competition with one another for attendees, organizers based outside of Delaware are usually willing to share advice with newcomers, Baroody added.

“By taking time to learn and listen, first-time organizers can avoid pitfalls by reaching out to a more experienced colleague,” Baroody said.

Part of the Delaware Tourism Office’s Talking Tourism seminar series, Wednesday’s event also featured a panel of local organizers: Barry Schlecker, owner of Barry’s Events (Brandywine Festival of the Arts); Cindy Small, director of Kent County Tourism (Dover Days); and Carol Everhart, president/CEO of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce (Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddler’s Festival).

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