Fall Festival 2017 was the fourth Festival in the new format and benefited from lessons learned, but suffered from lessons forgotten. Following the hugely successful Festival in Asheville, there were several questions that loomed:
- Would people be drawn to Raleigh? While it was central and convenient, does it have the cache of Asheville, Savannah or Charleston?
- Would the new Youth Quartet Contest and Mixed Quartet Contests be supported and favorably received? Or have we saturated the Festival with enough events?
- Would we strike the right balance of show/contest variety and show length? Lighting and sound versus cost? Venue size and location?
Here is what our survey said. Respondent comments are included where they are particularly representative or informative.
Would people be drawn to Raleigh? Yes and no. Perhaps the most obvious metric is registrations. Preregistrations number 259 including roughly 20 at the door. That compared with 186 preregistrations and 51 at the door budgeted and 367 preregistrations for Asheville and 40 at the door. While registrations were better than forecast, they were significantly less than 2016.* In the survey, 66% said Raleigh was a good choice, 5% said it could have been better and 29% responded we should rethink the ‘destination location’. One comment was “Though Raleigh the capitol city, I don’t generally think of it as a “destination” city for our festivals, though I suppose there are enough things to do/see to make it OK.”
Another area of impact was the reduced showing for the Collegiate Challenge. Last year four schools attended: Georgia Southern, Clemson, Methodist University and Catawba County. This year, because of a scheduling conflict, only one.
While there was a strong showing of central Piedmont chapters, notably Central Carolina (25), Fayetteville (15), Greensboro (10), Pinehurst (10), Winston-Salem (16) and RTP (28), these were largely day-trippers and did not stay in the hotel. That combined with the non-attending chapters and schools left a deficit of 60 room-nights which resulted in a $7,300 ‘attrition’ payment to the Marriott for rooms blocked but not used.
Despite the offer of a Thursday Jamboree show, museum tours, trolley pub and Capitol tours, there were few takers.** Not sure why, but -postulate it was the demographics of the attendees. Most of the registrants and guests were from chapters close to Raleigh, so the offerings were something they perceived they could do at any time. Those that did participate were 100% satisfied; said one “the
Capitol tour was excellent”. The Jamboree tested “they will come for a premier sound venue [the Fletcher Opera Theater]”. They didn’t. Loss for this production was $4,200.
Would the new Youth Quartet Contest and Mixed Quartet Contests be supported and favorably received? Yes and no again. Perhaps because these were both new initiatives, there were few contestants. The audience reaction, however, was favorable and supportive. To the statement “I think this was a great addition to Fall Festival”, 97% agreed and over 80% said they would attend again as either a separate event on Saturday or as part of the District Quartet Contest. One responder commented “These types of contests seem to fit well with the Festival concept, though the participation right now is very low”.
Two other new initiatives were the General Session Saturday morning and the Mass Sing that noon. To the statement “We should do a Mass Sing at the next Festival”, only 6% disagreed. However, 40% felt that the location could have been better because of small audience and competing piped in music. As for the General Session, 100% attending said they were satisfied, but that was only 1/3 of the responders.
Would we strike the right balance of show/contest variety and show length? This was a resounding yes. Virtually everyone was satisfied with the variety and length of the show. The three-song set for the contest continues to be a winner. As for sound, 97% were satisfied and lighting got an 84% approval. As for the venue for the contest and show, one responder said “Space was crowded but seemed to fit the attendance, barely.” Another responder summed it up ”This was the best show we have had–maybe due to the diversity as well as the Choruses getting better and better”.
Another home run was the coaching and classes. Fully 100% were satisfied with coaching opportunities on Saturday, as well as the course offerings. Comments: “I felt Mark Stock and Nick DeLorenzo did a FINE job of organizing the sessions and making sure all who wanted to be coached got the chance to be” and “worth the time and experience. The coach allowed for a different prospective than that of our director.”
The Banquet and President’s Circle Dinner, however, got mixed results. Generally, the quality of the food and value of the experience was appreciated. Satisfied with the Dinner were 91% of attending responders, but 2/3 of responders did not attend. One comment was “This is a terrific component to include the women and have some good social time with others… it so much more pleasant than trying to dine out in a strange city.” But clearly price point was affecting most. “I do agree with group dinner; although I did not attend this time, because $40 was pricey for chicken dinner.” The result was attendance for both the Presidents Circle Dinner (40 actual, 100 budgeted) and the Banquet (88 actual, 265 budgeted) was well under target. While the cost of meals were covered, the reduced catering performance did not qualify for reduced convention center rentals, adding $2,262 to the Convention Center cost.
- Location, location, location. The farther from active local chapters, the more confident in filling hotel rooms.
- Price point. Registrations were perceived at the top end of pricing, but justifiable. Meals, however, were not. $30 is net max for a plated dinner for most. Hotel Rooms at $139++ will be supported, but not if hotel is within driving distance of home.
- Leverage your costs. If two top choruses could not financially pull of a show in their own back yard, then mounting a show in a new market (read Columbia) is unrealistic. Chapter Building effort their should ride the sunk cost of the Festival contest and show venue and focus on attracting outside sales to the Festival Contest and Show.
Fall Festivals Future? Our survey agreed by 92% that “I like the festival concept, it is a winner” and 93% “Would attend another festival concept event.” But greater care will need to be paid to the business plan to incorporate the lessons learned to keep Festivals sustainable.
Director of Festivals
* Who stayed away? Asheville had only 7 attendees, half of whom were Supersonic, present to give away the Quartet Champion trophy. Charlotte, although awarded a special coaching and performance slot, declined, and only 10 members attended, 3 of whom were in Technically Sound, the Quartet Champions. Despite proximity, many coastal chapters were under represented. Beaufort SC (1), Brunswick County (2), Jacksonville (3), New Bern (3). Wilmington alone had a good showing of ten.
**Jamboree had 99 tickets sold; of those 10 were District members, versus 75 budgeted. Break even was 300 tickets. The Capitol Tour had 4, the Museum of History 1 and the Trolley Pub and IMAX were cancelled for insufficient sign-ups to cover the cost.