A Shoulder Season Event Small Town Businesses Can Easily Spearhead

by Joanne Steele on September 14, 2009

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Have an end of the season block party!

barbecueThis easy to implement event is a great way to get your regional customers back into town for one last fling of the summer, and to entertain the locals, your financial mainstay during the off-season. Here’s how to get it done.

1. Talk to the other businesses on your block and get buy-in for a weekend afternoon party. EVERYONE needs to agree to be open extra hours if your times go past regular closing hours. This is the point – to increase business!

2. Set the date and time. Make it soon before the weather gets iffy. Set the time for mid through late afternoon – something like 3pm to 6 or 7pm. Don’t set the time for more than 3 to 4 hours. You want for everyone to show up and leave at about the same time to increase the party feel of the event.

3. Talk to the chamber of commerce and let them know what you are planning. Get their help in talking to your town government about closing down the street for the party. bellydancer

4. Make a list of local musicians and ask them if they’d like to “play for change” at your event. Make a schedule giving everyone who wants to perform enough time for one set. At our latest block party in Dunsmuir we had belly dancers and a harpist as well as local bands.

5. If one of your partner businesses is a restaurant, turn food planning over to them. An outdoor barbecue is a great alternative, but leave it to the expert to plan this. They can and should charge a reasonable price for the food.

6. Set up an area for kid’s games and activities and put one of the businesses in charge of this. Or bring in one of your family resource centers, schools or preschools to help. It can be as simple as setting out some sidewalk chalk. people

7. Line up some tables and chairs. You need some places for people to sit down to eat, but mix this one up. Make the party BYOC (bring your own chair). Set out a stack of picnic blankets. Borrow some straw bales from your local feed and supply. It’s a small town block party for heaven sakes!

8. Market, market, market. Don’t pay for this! Do it organically using every free resource you have.

• Get your chamber of commerce to get an email blast out to all local businesses.

• Send an email out to your customer email list (don’t have one yet, check out “A Guest Book…” to see how to start one right now.)

• Poster everywhere in town including all the RV parks, motels, churches and service club lodges.

• Get public service announcements out on all regional radio stations.

• Put announcements in all regional newspaper calendars of events.

• Get your local newspaper to do a human interest story about your “end of the season celebration”.

• Get word of mouth going through all your local performing musicians.

8. Preparing for weather. Short of renting an expensive tent, there’s no good way to prepare for weather. If your businesses are big enough, you can move some of the activities indoors, but if weather is bad, people are probably not going to show anyway. That is the risk. Take good care of everyone who does show up so they have great things to say about you and your partner businesses. Realize that if you’ve done a really good job of marketing this thing, showcasing your sponsoring businesses names, YOUR EVENT IS A MARKETING SUCCESS EVEN IF NOBODY SHOWS.

Any event is a big deal to put on, but the informal, organic nature of a block party gives you a little more room to do things inexpensively, with the feel of a backyard barbecue among friends rather than an official town event.

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