Takeaways for Planning Successful Seasonal Events
Staging a seasonal event takes time, planning, and a budget. Here are some tips to consider when looking to extend the season:
Tailor special events to your park’s theme and environment
Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure’s “Fantasy February” is a natural for an attraction based on a period of time when almost-mythical creatures in size and design roamed the Earth. The event features magical activities, team quests (broken down into teams of mermaids, trolls, dragons, or fairies), and fantasy fun. In addition, flower festivals that celebrate native blooms, such as cherry blossom season in Japan, can use a park’s existing trees to their advantage, proving to be a smart strategy.
Tap into holiday nostalgia
Think about how your attraction can offer events that enhance the traditions and holidays already meaningful to guests. Making events out of Halloween and Christmas, for example, woke up what were previously offseason times in the industry.
“When we launched ‘Howl-O-Scream’ 21 years ago at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, we were unaware of both the extreme growth of the Halloween season and how invested our guests would become,” recalls Matthew Edwards, entertainment leader of events and festivals at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia. “For others in the industry looking to extend their season, listen to your guests. Listening to the ones who continue to visit will allow you to create staple experiences that give your park success for years to come.”
Staffing for special events
One established method is to book staff through talent agencies, which takes much of the work of recruiting and vetting off the hands of internal human resources departments.
Attractions can also opt to use the newer “on demand” staffing platforms like GigSmart. As with any other new tool, give these platforms a test drive first before using them for a major initiative.
Add full-time staff
More parks are retaining a larger year-round staff, even those attractions that aren’t open all year. At Busch Gardens Williamsburg, this allows for extra time to plan events and train staff.
“Our entertainment team is constantly preparing for the variety of events that occur at the park each year. Even though Busch Gardens Williamsburg is open seasonally, our in-park teams work all year long to plan, implement, and strike each experience,” notes Edwards.
Using a website, social media platforms, and public relations outreach to advertise an attraction’s interest in retaining special event or on-demand workers can help attract those who prefer seasonal or part-time work.
“We recruit early for seasonal and events staff, and training is a big part of the induction process. We also invest heavily into staff development throughout the year,” shares Adam Goymour, park manager and company director at Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure.
Refresh staple events
One way to take some of the risk out of a new event is to test elements of it at existing events. Not ready to throw a stand-alone flower festival, but wonder how guests might respond? Consider creating a “season in bloom” section during the summer season or at Halloween.
Of course, yearly events should always offer something new. At Busch Gardens Williamsburg, for example, the park’s annual “Christmas Town” mixes it up with different specialty shows, while visits with Santa and rides on favorite roller coasters, as weather permits, are familiar features.
“Park guests are excited to return each year and discover both new components and returning elements,” says Edwards.
And just in case … consider insurance coverage
Should a special event have to be called off or postponed, cancellation coverage can reduce at least some of the losses.