Everyone knows that events attract visitors to rural communities. But one or two annual events on an otherwise empty calendar isn’t giving visitors a complete picture of everything that is happening in a small town.
In rural communities, the town’s calendar, if there is one, can be a mammoth task to create and maintain. With a little work up front to educate, create buy-in and delegate responsibility, a priceless community resource can be easily developed and kept up to date.
The web is rife with great ideas for displaying events with clickable links, pop up descriptions and more. The problem is that even if a destination gets a grant to install one of these cool features to their web site, it doesn’t solve the problem of WHO WILL ADD THE EVENTS ONCE THE GRANT MONEY IS GONE!
Here are a few ideas to consider for your area.
CONSOLIDATE ALL YOUR “INSIDER EVENTS” AND ANNUAL EVENTS ONTO ONE COMMUNITY CALENDAR
Besides two or three big annual events that are publicized for visitors, rural communities have dozens of smaller events that are put on for locals. These fundraiser dinners for schools and service organizations, sports games, annual picnics, school and local arts and theater events, guest waiter fundraisers and more are great activities to invite visitors to as well.
I love Becky McCray’s idea posted this July on her blog, Small Biz Survival, to call these events “Insider Events”.
They’re usually announced on service club events calendars, school sports calendars, business events calendars and parks and rec calendars or just posted on bulletin boards around town .
What visitor is going to have the patience to wade through all of that?!?
Instead, all these events should be included on ONE regional events calendar along with the visitor-oriented annual events .
It satisfies the desire of small town visitors to have a more authentic experience. AND it means that there is only ONE local, community events calendar.
So, whose in charge of getting those events listed in ONE PLACE?
Usually the chamber of commerce or a community organization is the entity that has a website where the calendar can and should be located. The best solution is to set up a Google Calendar on that web site, because a Google Calendar can be easily updated by multiple people.
Then, a person associated with the chamber of commerce or other community-wide group needs to assemble a small team of volunteers to sell the idea and train calendar update volunteers.
MAKING A CONSOLIDATED REGIONAL CALENDAR WORK
Create a “How To,” instruction sheet to teach local clubs, service organizations, school groups, arts organizations and businesses how to add their events to the community Google online calendar.
If it’s interesting to a local it will probably interest a visitor, so make broad guidelines for what is considered an “Insider Event.” I just read about one town that publicizes its small claims court dates – people love the “people’s court” idea according to them.
The Events Calendar Committee must get the name of a key person in each group sponsoring events and give them a person-to-person lesson. It’s vital to do this. It takes time upfront, but will save time in the long run as every group builds the habit of listing their events.
This teaching moment is also important because many of the key volunteers running our small towns are not tech savvy. They have the time, but may not feel competent enough on the computer to take on a job they are otherwise well qualified to handle.
Create an email list of all the trained events calendar people, and send out monthly reminders to add their events. This is a vital step. When our regional visitors bureau was downsized, and those regular email reminders stopped going out, the calendar program quickly suffered.
Your community calendar will begin to fill with activities that make your town a going place to visit, and no one person will be spending hours every month rooting out events ideas and posting.