I was recently at a meeting of the Massachusetts Cheese Guild and a young man from western MA (Justin Kruszyna) spoke to us about the Cheshire Cheese Festival, a new event he had organized last summer. It occurred to me that there might be someone reading this blog who would like to do the same thing. (It goes without saying that these festivals are good exposure for local, artisan cheese makers.)
I googled the subject and there isn’t much information about this online. I did find a few recommendations at one website- Local Wine Events.com and I asked Justin about his experiences. (I will be posting an article about his festival soon.)
From what I have gathered, this is a basic timeline for preparation:
1. Attend a similar event in the area and get the phone number of an organizer so you can tap into their expertise.
2. Gather together your team (you can’t do this alone!). Make decisions about how much you will charge sponsors and vendors, what the admission price will be, what activities you would like to plan, what the hours will be, etc.
3. Pick a day that doesn’t coincide with other big events in the area.
4. Choose a tentative location for your festival, bearing in mind that you might change your mind about this after you talk to your local board of health about it.
5. Call your local town hall or licensing board and find out what permits you will need. This will be the least fun, but the most important step in the process. I checked with our local licensing board in Greenfield, Massachusetts and I found the process daunting, to say the least. In our town, you need a permit for the event itself and all the food and liquor vendor needs to have their own permits. A few notes:
Our Board of Health informed me that every vendor would have to get a temporary food permit ($55) before the event (at least 14 days before). The application (5 pages) has an extensive list of requirements. It has to be submitted with a copy of the vendor’s Food Managers Certification and Food Allergy Awareness certificate and if all food is not made on the site of the event, a copy of their license for the establishment where the food is being made must be submitted.
In our town, the temporary food permits are not issued until the day of the event, after the inspector has made sure the vendor is meeting the sanitary standards which include thermometers for the storage containers and a 3 bay sink (may be plastic bins) for washing utensils. There are also separate requirements from the fire department for vendors producing grease laden fumes (ie: anyone cooking a hamburger or frying food).
A Food Protection Manager and Food Allergen Awareness Trained Employee must be on site the day of the event.
Every state has different regulations, so check with your state’s alcohol control board. The list is here – (https://www.ttb.gov/wine/state-ABC.shtml#US). In our state, a special one day permit can be obtained by the “local licensing authorities.”
Serving: Alcohol Policy Information System website has state-by-state laws regarding serving alcohol. For example: in Massachusetts, you can be 18 or older to serve alcohol, but you have to be 21 or older to buy it by Federal law.
Permits: In Greenfield, any alcohol vendor (from a business out of town) would need to obtain their own permit from the Board of License Commissioners. They meet once/month.
5. Secure insurance for the day.
6. Do a scale drawing of the venue space you have chosen and decide the layout of vendors, bathrooms, tables and chairs for attendees, trashcans, etc. Bear in mind that vendor space is going to be a big issue because some spaces will get more traffic than others.
7. If vendors will be arriving the day before the event, plan space in the parking lot for their vehicles and plan to arrange security for their stuff overnight.
8. At this point, you can create a logo and begin to market your festival with a website, Facebook page, brochures, press release for local newspapers, etc. Advertise the need for vendors.
9. Contact potential vendors and assign locations to the ones who decide to come.
10. If it looks like you are going to have a lot of attendees, you may have to arrange for more porta pottys than you had thought.
11. Print t-shirts for the volunteers to wear on the big day.
12. Assemble a team of volunteers for the day itself to empty the trash containers, collect the tickets, pick up litter, etc. If possible, have a meeting before the day of the event to go over everyone’s tasks.
13. Go to the bank and get a lot of $1 and $5 bills and rolls of change.
Conclusion: It seems daunting, but, with time and good planning, anyone can do this.