Remember the Fairs that you grumbled about most, where the jostling crowd was shoulder to shoulder, & the air was thick with the tantalising aroma of sizzling steaks & BBQ sausages? The Fetes that pumped you the most by making you stay a little longer and spend a little more than you intended? This is the Carnival Atmosphere you must strive for, and can only be found in a properly organised and planned event.
Atmosphere is essential for the success of any event, so ensure the layout is not too spread, & that the general public are kept circulating around the stalls. Confine your fete to a limited area, though allow enough room for public thoroughfares and queuing on the more popular items such as food.
In terms of location, a flat area such as an oval is preferred, which has access to electricity, and is visible to passing traffic. Each stall/activity should have sufficient space to operate efficiently, but not too far away from each other. The crowds need to be a little squeezed as they browse.
The availability of power is a major determining factor in the layout. Whilst the rides are normally self-sufficient, many of the stalls & food activities will require power, especially those with heating elements such as Fryers & Urns. An electrician will be needed to confirm power supplies, especially in older schools where tripping can be a common and frustrating problem on the day.
Pay attention to the mix of stalls. For example, avoid positioning the BBQ next to the Animal Farm; or the rides next to the stage; or Food/drinks near toilets. Group the activities in particular areas based on themes such as Sideshow Alley with rides, games, & show bags; or by positioning the Cake Stall next to your Cafe or Coffee Shop. Speaking of which, the Cafe or Coffee Shop, unlike your main selling area, can be as spacious and quiet as you like with plenty of seating/tables. You want it to be as relaxed and refreshing as possible so that your customers can get back to some serious shopping when they are done. Where possible its exit should lead straight back into the thick of the sale.
Select a central area for the stage & entertainment, as this is the focal point of the Fair. Ensure there's plenty of clear space for the audiences. Supply shade & seating where possible.
Utilise as many undercover areas around the Fete site as possible, to provide shade from the sun and shelter from rain. This will reduce the number of tents/marquees you will need to hire, erect & dismantle on the day.
All fetes are set out differently, mainly depending on power availability. Remember, power leads can run no more than about 30m, so group all Stalls and Activities requring power, in one section close to the main power supplies - which are normally the school buildings. Fetes held on ovals are typically structured in the following manner:
- Stage to one end of the oval, as far from the rides as possible. This ensures performances are not competing with the music from Sideshow Alley.
- Rides to the opposite end of the oval
- In-house Stalls & Activities which require power (Cookers, Urns etc) to one side of the oval, close to school buildings and power outlets
- Outside-vendors and Stall operators to the opposite side of the oval (providing they have their own power)
- Static Stalls not requiring power, down the centre of the oval (Face Painting, Trash & Treasure, Show Bags, Drink Van etc)
The sun can be particularly hard on perishable goods, and the volunteers that sell them. In winter the sun tends to trek through the northern hemisphere, so avoid facing stalls to the north, otherwise, your Ezi-Ups or Marquees will be of little benefit. In summer, the sun can be very severe in the afternoon, as it sets in the west. Try to avoid facing stalls west from September onwards, especially at Twilight Fairs that run from mid-afternoon into the evening.
Before the Fete, mark out on the grass where each stall is to be set up and number each section, so that they are easily recognisable. Ensure all stallholders and operational personnel have a copy of your Site Plan, with a list of contact numbers for the co-ordinator of each activity. Activity co-ordinators will have their own preferences as to location of their Stall.
Ensure Emergency Vehicular access is available to the general Fete area. Put a copy of your map in the Fete Flyer/Leaflet used for Letterbox drops. The flyers can then be handed out on the day, directing the public to the various areas of entertainment.
An on-site meeting with the Amusement operator is recommended. Issues such as area requirements and access can be confirmed. Rides are normally positioned close together in an arc, facing the rest of the Fete. In this way, power leads can run behind the attractions away from public thoroughfares.
Have an electrician determine the power requirements of each stall & activity, then ensure sufficient power will be available on the day. Normally, a school will have at least one parent who is a licensed electrician, who should be more than happy to assist with the fete. The electrician should oversee the overall power supply and WH&S issues.
When it comes to power, the biggest mistake made at Fetes, is the overloading of school power points and the overloading of portable multi-boards. Normally, the problems are not detected until all appliances are all in operation, which is just after the fete has started. This may take some time to rectify, which is costly, frustrating, and looks unprofessional.
Appliances that heat (urns, cookers, fryers, hot plates, Fairy Floss etc) require the most power; around 10 amps per appliance. Lighting also draws considerable power. When you consider many standard power points are rated at no more than 15 amps, two or more such appliances will soon trip the Circuit. To rectify, the power must be turned back on at the Switch Board, then an alternate source of power for the offending appliances must be found.
NEVER USE MULTIBOARDS AT FETES! The use of Multi-point Power Boards are fine in the household, when multiple low-voltage appliances are in operation; computer, TV, radio, DVD etc. Appliances such as these may only draw 2-3 amps each. On the other hand, Power Boards (normally rated at a maximum of around 10 amps) are of little use at a school fete when the majority of appliances are drawing 10 or more amps each.
By following a few basic Golden Rules relating to power usage, your electrical problems will be minimised:
- NEVER use Power leads longer than 35m
- NEVER use Double adaptors
- NEVER use multi-point residential Power Boards
- NEVER run more than one 'heating' appliance from a single power point
- NEVER run two or more "heating" appliances from double power point
- ALWAYS use heavy-duty power leads for Heating appliances
- ALWAYS have access to, and know how to activate the Main School Power/Switch Boards
- ALWAYS use Gas appliances where possible, and especially when power availability is limited
If these guidelines are not followed, you run the risk of losing power to essential stalls during peak periods. The longer it takes to restore power, the greater the loss in potential sales, and the greater the gain in potential complaints. In addition, the overloading of power leads may result in voltage drop, which has the potential to cause expensive damage to equipment and break-downs on the day. Appliances need 240v to operate properly; any less and they begin to overheat burning out the wiring and circuits. Ensure appliance power requirements do not exceed the outlet's supply by having a qualified Electrician audit your Site Plan.
If you are hiring electrical catering equipment or appliances such as Fryers, Urns and Coffee machines, check the type of electrical plug. Quite often, such equipment will be supplied with a 15 amp plug. 99% of school power outlets have 10 amp sockets, which will not accept a 15 amp plug. Unless you can source a generator with 15 amp sockets, the appliance will be useless!
If there is insufficient power available, you will need a Generator. Small petrol generators donated by parents can be ok in limited applications, though they tend to be noisy and will not last five hours without refuelling. Silenced diesel generators are recommended.
Have your electrician audit all items requiring generator power, and calculate the total number of amps or Watts needed. This information can be passed onto the Hire Company who can determine the size of generator suitable. Most Generators will come with a limited number of standard 240v outlets for you to plug your leads into. They can also supply (at an extra cost) a Distribution Board, which plugs into the Generator and has multiple outlets or power points. Heavy duty power leads should also be available for hire.
Lighting will be required for evening events. The Amusement Operator should provide sufficient lighting for the rides, and general queuing area to the front of the attractions. All other areas including stalls, entertainment etc will require lighting. Large trailerised Flood Lights are available via your local Hire Company. They can be delivered, and are relatively simple to operate.
Every Fete convenor prays for perfect weather on their big day. Unfortunately, with outdoor events planned for most weekends throughout the year, it's inevitable some will be adversely affected by wet weather. If you are unlucky enough to have rain or showers threaten a special event such as a fete or fair, the question will soon be asked - do we proceed or do we postpone?
Fetes build momentum as they progress. A day or two out from the fete, we find the co-ordinators, helpers and children are all "pumped" and ready for action. Should the fete be postponed due to inclement weather, it's extremely hard to re-energize volunteers at a later date. There's also issues with finding an alternate day that suits all interested parties....plus of course, there's the food that's been prepared, money spent on advertising, promotion etc. Do you really want to go through all of this again in a few weeks? From a financial persepctive, postponed fetes never quite recover from their initial set back, and usually see a fall in attendance/turnover.
With these factors in mind, most schools proceed with their events where possible - even if it's at the expense of attractions such as the rides.
Wet weather does not always adversely affect Fete attendance. In fact, there have been many reports of record profits when fetes are held in wet conditions. Scattered showers, or a little light rain here and there doesn't worry most people. When the weather deteriorates to the point where the rain is heavy and continuous, it becomes uncomfortable and Public Liability issues start to arise. Amusement rides can operate during passing showers. Once the rain becomes constant and heavier, the rides will stop until the skies clear a little.