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The Making of a Festival

I have been attending music festivals for well, let's just say many years. And more recently I have worked as a volunteer for most of the festivals I have attended. With that, I have learned to appreciate all that goes in to putting on such an event. Plus, the more engrossed I become in the music industry, the more I understand what is involved in the making of a festival.

Last year I had the privilege of helping out at the very first Revelation Generation held in Frenchtown, NJ. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical about how the event would be run. After all, it was the first year, and I have heard a few horror stories of flopped festivals. It seems new festivals are popping up each year. Many people seem to think they can find a field, invite some bands, and put up some tents for merchandise and host a festival.

But is it that easy?

Robert and Kim Grom, Revelation Generation hosts, began working on the 2006 event as soon as the festival ended last year. I chatted with Robert the next morning, and even after a few hours of sleep, he was speculating about having a band like Relient K play at the next event. I knew within minutes that this couple, with a heart to reach a hurting generation of teens in the metro New York City and metro Philadelphia area had done their homework before planning the 2005 event that had just finished.

So what does it take to hold a festival? Read on. Perhaps we can learn together.

Amidst making the final plans for the September 2, 2006 gathering, I recently asked Robert Grom a few questions about the making of a festival. Lesson one: Start early. It takes many months to plan and coordinate all aspects of the day - music, food, activities, staff, vendors, etc. (Note for those people who asked me why Creation East could not be simply moved to another date.) Lesson two: There is a chance that it will not be a profitable experience.

Wait? What? Yes, if you are thinking, "Wow, these festival promoters must be rolling in the dough. I want to have my own festival."  Think again. It is not that easy! There are a lot of costs related to holding a music festival. Here's an idea. Donate the profits! Correlating to one of their missions for Revelation Generation, the Grom's have decided to donate any profits toward an organization that focuses on anti drug awareness. I think this may be a huge key to the continued success of this event.

Ok, are we ready for Lesson three? Add variety. The Grom's assessed from last year that more activities may bring out more people. This year a worship tent has been added, as well as a Children's tent to help encourage families to attend. And a second stage was added. And of course a skate park, a volleyball tournament and inflatable games are good suggestions these days to get more people interested in making the trek to a festival.

Lesson 3.1. Add variety in the music lineup, too. And a bonus, add bands with mainstream appeal. Check out the lineup for Rev Gen and you will see that they have this lesson down pat. I second the motion! I am all for having artists that have gone beyond the CCM scene. The variety of music should appeal to more people, as well as draw a wider audience that with an opportunity to hear the truth.

Lesson four. How does one determine what artists to invite? Well, it helps that the Grom's have four teens that have input in the decisions. Prayer and market research helps. (I would add a visit to such sites as this one might help to know what fans are reading about!) Here we come back to Lessons one and two. Remember, it takes a lot of time and negotiation and money to make it happen.

Lesson 4.1. Not all bands should be the top bands. Too many headliners will increase your cost.

Hmmm... This sounds like work?

So do you still want to host a festival? I haven't even begun to talk about vendors, sound, lighting, stage managers, promotion and media, tickets, staff, volunteers, venue (in this case, the Grom's own the farm where the festival is held), food, first aid, security, tents, parking, scheduling, artist hospitality...

Well, least but not least, Lesson five. No wait, maybe this should be Lesson one! Determine a purpose for the festival. Robert Grom told me, "I would say that as long as Revelation Generation is fulfilling its mission which is to glorify Jesus and spread the gospel message, then we will expect it to continue to take place. That will be a matter of seeing the fruit that comes out of it over the next few years."

It is my opinion that this festival will see many more years to come. And I feel privileged to be a part of it. You may not be able to make it to Revelation Generation, but I would strongly suggest y'all consider working as a volunteer at the next festival you attend. The blessings are countless.

Oh and maybe someday I'll devote a blog to the subject of volunteering at a festival!