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Topic: A few questions to those with experience....
Message: Posted by: Magic_Steve (Sep 12, 2007 05:48PM)
Hey all...

I got a few questions for you guys that work the fair market, and was wondering if you all could help me out a bit??

Anyhow, I've heard that sometimes working fairs, you find yourself without an audience more often than not. Is this true when doing walkaround? If so, what do YOU do??

Also, with me being so young, I hvae a ssmall problem with establishing some credibility. As in the restaurant, people know I'm suppoes to be there. How do I let people know I'm being hired for their entertainment, and am not just some hack off the streets?? I think this would make a huge difference in the amount of rejections I get IMO.

Man, the gig is on Saturday. I can't beleive I've waited this long to ask these questions.

Thanks in advance! :)
Message: Posted by: sb (Sep 12, 2007 06:08PM)
When I do fairs, I usually treat it like a resturant. I kind of hang out in a certain area, usually a place where people are sitting aroung - like where people eat, or where they watch music etc..(but I don't do close up when there is a band or another performer is on stage - I go find a new area)

I then approach groups at tables, just like I would in a resturant.

When I do start talking with a table, I do make some comment about me being hired to be there.

You'll do fine....

Message: Posted by: Julian Franklin (Sep 12, 2007 07:04PM)
"Hi, my name is _______ and I'm part of the entertainment tonight. The management has hired me to perform some strolling close up magic. For example, ....."
Message: Posted by: MattWayne (Sep 12, 2007 07:15PM)

My recommendation to you would be to; try and get a copy of the Kirk Charles: Guide to Restaurant Magic. It's out of print, but check E-Bay- or ask around here on the Café. Perhaps someone would want to sell you one. Also, since you're in Waldorf- give Denny a call, at the Denny & Lee Magic Studio.

I'm not too knowledgeable about the fair circuit. However, any restuarant questions feel free to PM me. I worked full time in restaurants for four years; can probably fill you in on any questions you may have. Don't worry about your age either. I'm not sure how old you are- but when I started full time with hotel chains; I was only 14. It's all in how you present yourself. Needless to say- the management thought I was 18 the entire time...

Treat this upcoming gig; as any other. Do the stuff you already do. PLEASE-be more professional than other 'performers' out there- don't throw in new material that you think will make the event better. That's probably the best advice I can give you. Being a former Denny & Lee employee- I would get calls from magicians all over the world. Many of them had a gig in a few days- and wanted to order something that they could do in an 'instant.' Very bad thing to do!! I'm sure you weren't planning that, but just a heads up...

hope some of this helps;

Matt Tomasko
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 12, 2007 07:37PM)

I work festivals and fairs as my primrary market now for the past years. My wife and I work every weekend from april till the end of October doing mainly festival and fair events. I started a thread all on fairs and festivals where we talked about this exact topic and I will try and find the thread link to post it here for your reading. my pleasure to do so. I hope it will be of help to you my friend.


That is the link that goes directly to the festival and fair thread. I hope it is of help to you. let me know if I can help you out further as it would be my pleasure.

Message: Posted by: just_larry (Sep 12, 2007 07:37PM)
I just worked a fair that the "childrens" theater didn't have any signage, and was soo far away from the bulk of the fair NOBODY CAME IN!
It was not fun.
I also did street performing and on the rainy days I would do close up indoors.

My first question is what are you doing close up magic, stage stuff,what?

The easiest way to get an audience is ... confidence!

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 12, 2007 07:48PM)
Let me answer some direct questions for you Steve in regards to working strolling at festivals. Now as to strolling magic for fairs and festivals here are some pointers to keep in mind at all times:

- You will want to make sure they give you a parking pass and main gate access passes. This way you can park as close to your performance area as possible and it allows you into the fair at an early time for your set up. It also means less you have to walk to get things you may need. All fairs can supply you with this if you ask for it up front.

- Get there early and get set up and walk the grounds. This ia a key for you to get familiar with the area and to find spots you think may be most ideal for your performances. It is a way for you to properly get the lay of the land.

- When you get there always meet up first with your contact person. Shake hands and just let them know you are there and rready and luisten to any further instructions they may give you. I usually ask them if there are certain areas of the fair they may want me to work most and see what they have to say. This way you are acting as a solutions provider for them and they will appreciate you aksing them.

- Another golden tip or secret I do is this. This will make you look very good in the eyes of the fair. When you get there ask the contact if there is a listing of the events and happenings that day. When you get it, tell him that you wanted this list so that you can act as a roving MC at each of your strolling shows. You tell him that after each mini-show, you will let the audiences know about other things going on that day that they may want to check out. Fairs LOVE when I do this as it adds value.

- Now something that you may encounter that you must be aware of is vendors getting angry with you. It sounds silly but it happens and there are ways around this. What tends to happen is that you are doing a show, people are coming to watch and you are creating a crowd (which is what you are supposed to do). However, in the eyes of the vendors, you may be blocking their booth, or taking customers away from them. Just be aware of this. Here is the way I handle this problem.

- When I am walking the grounds as I get there to just check out the lay of the land, I greet and meet with as many vendors as possible. I just introduce myself as the strolling entertainer, show interest in their wares and wish them best if success and hope to be able to see them later in the day.

Now when I go and find a spot to perform my stolling gig. I make sure I am in a spot that is I draw a crowd I am not blocking a vendor. So look for these areas as you walk around and keep that in mind. Now before you set up and begin, go and talk to the nearest vendors to you. Greet them and tell them that you are the stolling magician that the fair has hired to perform magical entertainment. Ask them that you will be drawing a crowd and want to know if it is ok with them that you mention theitr booth and produst in your show and tell folks to visit their booths at the end of your show. trust me on this. This is a HUGE tip and it works.

They will never say no. They will always be so happy about you working with them and they will appreciate it greatly. Now you have them on your side and you only need to mention them in your show and tell folks to visit the vendors after your show is over. I do this all the time and not only do the vendors love it, they often times give me free stuff as well. It helps prevent any problems from happening between you and the vendors.

- keep your stuff easy to carry, mobile and easy reset. The fairs are very large and you will want to be ready to move at a moments notice. Keep your shows simple and sweet and engage the entire audience. I would do a set no longer then 15 minutes tops pending on the crowd you have watching you.

As far as getting a crowd there are some tips with this as well. At a festival there is a lot of noise and distractions. What I do is try and find an area I can perform in that is not blocking a vendor booth but allows me to attract a crowd without causing traffic problems.

When I find a spot I like to do a manipulative type of visual act. the idea is to just start performing silently some very visual magic and make eye contatc as people go by. I guarentee they will stop to watch. It is curiousity that gets tothem. all you need is a few people to watch and then go right into your strolling set. Once you have that small crowd the crowd will grow. In festival strolling, nothing builds a crowd like a crowd.

Another tip I can give you is to start off your strolling by looking for the festival eating areas. Any place where there are tables for people to sit and eat. This is an idea situation. they are eating and sitting down and you can provide a bit of visual magic for the folks as they eat. They only have to sit and watch.

I have more but I will post these for now. I hope this is of help to you.

Message: Posted by: Jim Snack (Sep 12, 2007 08:12PM)
Kyle has just about covered it all!

One other idea. If you are scheduled to do a show at a particular time, in a particular location, a family tent, for example, you may find that only a few people are in the tent when it is show time. Then the crowd builds throughout your show.

I learned a trick from a ventriloquist working the Saratoga County Fair in upstate New York one year. About 15 -20 minutes before his show he would go out and do a "ballyhoo" to draw a crowd. He would just start talking on a microphone with people, greeting people as they came in, asking where they were from, doing little bits and telling a few jokes. As long as he was talking, people would stop to see what was going on. When it was time to start his show 15 minutes later, the tent was nearly full and it was a better show.

I started doing a ballyhoo also. Usually there were a just few children eagerly waiting for the show to begin, sitting right in the first row. I would offer to teach them a trick while they were waiting, teaching them the jumping rubber band. Then I would offer to teach them a rope trick, and after handing out a few pieces of rope, I would teach them an easy one handed knot.

By this time, more people would stop by to see what was going on. I would get a few kids on stage to learn the rope trick, then switch to teaching them a harder one handed knot, and start using a microphone. It would turn into a contest with five or six children on stage. I'd turn on some ragtime music and we were off and running. I promised a prize to the first one to get the knot. The crowd would build and build watching the kids try to snap a knot in their ropes. Eventually one would get it and I would award a prize. Then I would give each of the kids a prize just for participating and start my show.

It worked well for building a crowd before my show began and after that, I always did a ballyhoo at a fair before my show. Whenever the fair manager stopped by, I had a full tent. That looks good! Try a ballyhoo, you'll like it.

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 12, 2007 08:16PM)
Thank you Jim. You are a good friend and I appreciate your kind words. I also have learned the art of the ballyhoo. It really does work and it works wonders but you have to not be afraid to take action and give it a try.

Message: Posted by: MattWayne (Sep 12, 2007 08:18PM)
Both Jim and Kyle are great sources for you to look into, Steve! Speaking of Kyle-- what's the latest and greatest dude!!? It's been a few months:0) Hope all is well!!

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 12, 2007 08:21PM)
Thanks Matt,

Just been so busy with writing my weekly column for Alan Watson;s e-zine and the monthly column for smoke and mirrors. Our magic continues to go very well with mainly festival and fair work. In fact we will be down in Wilmington,. DE this Saturday if you have nothing to do and feel like coming down. I will be doing a stage show and strolling magic as well.

Thanks for thekind words. It is appreciated. Performing at so many festivals and fairs over the years, it is just nice to be able to share information with others in hope it may help them out as well.

Message: Posted by: Magic_Steve (Sep 12, 2007 09:56PM)

Thanks for the great info. Also, many thanks to Jim and everyone else that has replied. ;)

I'm just going to be doing strolling, but he's already told me the 2 places he wants me to work. So, I'll get there about an hour early and just get a feel for everything. I'm going to give him a call tomarrow and ask about that parking pass...now I just hope my dad will let me borrow his new truck. LOL!

Thanks everyone!
Message: Posted by: JackScratch (Sep 13, 2007 08:47AM)
I didn't see this, and I believe it is important. Anything you think your audience needs to know, should be scripted. Anything your audience is likely to ask should be scripted for use, should the question arise.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 13, 2007 05:26PM)
Steve here is the best thing you can do.

Go to howtobookfestivals.com and get a copy of this book by Keith Stickley.

This is as straight talk about fairs and festivals as you will find anywhere and well worth the price of the book. You will not only answer this question but many many more.

As a matter of fact I recomend this book to anyone interested in this market. From local festivals to big time fairs, it will help you get started.
Message: Posted by: Magical Dimensions (Sep 13, 2007 06:36PM)
I have never worked a restaurant gig, but have done walk around at clubs. Clubs where the music is pumping and the beer is flowing. I always wear something that stands out from the customers so that I am visible. Next I have found that a name badge works wonders!

I just print them up on my computer and stick them in a name badge holder. It can read something like. "House Magician" and then your name. I just walk up to people and smile as I point to my name badge, if the music is to loud for them to hear me. People see that you are dress differently from the others and that you have a name badge on. You must be the entertainment!
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Sep 13, 2007 06:50PM)
On 2007-09-12 20:48, magic4u02 wrote:
- Another golden tip or secret I do is this. This will make you look very good in the eyes of the fair. When you get there ask the contact if there is a listing of the events and happenings that day. When you get it, tell him that you wanted this list so that you can act as a roving MC at each of your strolling shows. You tell him that after each mini-show, you will let the audiences know about other things going on that day that they may want to check out. Fairs LOVE when I do this as it adds value...

...talk to the nearest vendors to you. Greet them and tell them that you are the stolling magician that the fair has hired to perform magical entertainment. Ask them that you will be drawing a crowd and want to know if it is ok with them that you mention theitr booth and produst in your show and tell folks to visit their booths at the end of your show. trust me on this. This is a HUGE tip and it works.


I've seen a magician at work employing each of these tactics. Went over very well- for the magician, with other fair participants, and audience members- win, win, win.

The ballyhoo, as well. Highly recommended.
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 13, 2007 10:25PM)
Thanks guys for the kind words. It is greatly appreciated.

Steve: Please let me know how it goes for you and also if you have any questions at all that I can answer for you before your event date. I have done so much strolling for festivals and fair events and would be happy to help out a fellow magician. My pleasure.

Message: Posted by: Magic_Steve (Sep 15, 2007 12:11PM)
Thanks for all the replies guys! I really appreciate it!

I'm leaving for the gig in a couple hours...getting nervous, but that's a good thing. Will let you know how it went later tonight when it's over with (that'll be a good feeling! LOL!).

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 15, 2007 07:49PM)

I just got back from a festival stage show and strolling gig myself. Went great, got on TV and the client liked what we did. So, I am a happy camper. I hope everything went well for you. I look forward to hearing from you and learning about your experiences.

Message: Posted by: Magic_Steve (Sep 15, 2007 08:52PM)
Too excited to type, but I kicked ass tonight. That place was rockin, no lie. And seriously...it was crazy how quickly the crowds built too...like what started off with a family of 5 grew to like a crowd of 20 in no time...WOW!

Learned a lot, and spongebaslls+wind don't go together LOL! And decks don't last more than 30 minutes or so in that kind of environemtn, so yea. But I had fun, got paid, and can't wait to go back next year. :)

Thank you very much to evernyone that replied and helped me out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 16, 2007 09:40AM)
Hey Steve,

It is great to know you did so well. I knew that you would. I hope that some of my advice you found out was not only true but may have helped you a great deal while at the fair. Let me know how that went. I would be curious to know what you applied that you learned here that worked for you. That way everyone can learn from your experience as well.

It is also good to know that you are taking mental notes of what works and what does not while at the event. That is critical as working outdoors at festivals you start to really realize that you have to adapt a lot all the time to the changing conditions of both weather and crowd control. It seems like you had a great first outing.

Also, I am glad you found out one thing that I said to be dead truwe. Nothing builds a crowd like a crowd. =) If you cvan stop 5 people just out of curiosity, others will come over naturally to just find out what is going on. I use that all the time. In fact I had a large strolling gig yesterday for a large fair and I got such a huge crowd 9using some of my crowd management techniques) that I also got on TV as well. They will be ruinning my 5 minute spot all weel several times a day. not bad for just knowing how to gain a crowd to watch what I do. =)

I really am glad that it went so well for you. Let us know what you applied and used and how things worked or did not work.

Message: Posted by: kosmoshiva (Sep 20, 2007 12:14PM)
A related comment - has anyone else noticed how there seems to be traditional areas for a successful 'pitch'? There are just some places that work well, be it a geographic quirk, the way the traffic flows through an area, etc, and there are other areas that are just plain duds, no matter what you do. Like the store in your neighbourhood that's always changing hands every few months as if there's some bad mojo connected to the joint ...
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 20, 2007 12:36PM)
I do agree with you but I think you may be referring more to busking then working strolling at a fair o9r a festival style market. However, even at a festival or fair, you will find this same situation happens from time to time. You start to see trends as to what locations at the festival are sure winners and which areas to stay away from. You really start to learn through the act of doing. For example I stay away from the rides or midways cause the noice is just too much and the crowds and traffic to closed in for me to really work it well. However, performing in an area where people sit to eat is a perfect location as it gives you an audience eager to watch as they enjoy their food and it is usually more of an open area.

Message: Posted by: keithmagic (Sep 21, 2007 12:53AM)
Over the years, I have learned that LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION can be CRUCIAL to the success of a fair or festival event.

I went into a lot of detail on this in my festival book, but basically, the most succesful one man shows at a festival should be presented much in the same manner as a street/circle show.

I'm not sure I agree totally about wanting to be near food areas. It can be difficult to compete with carny food! Walk around it maybe an OK area, just don't be surprised if you get people with a lot of gooey sticky cotton candy and elephant ear grease fingers all over your cards or sponge balls!

And thanks Danny for the kind words about my book, The Festival Entertainer. I really put years of experience, blood, sweat, and tears into it, and I am glad it has helped people get in the biz.

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 21, 2007 10:32AM)

great information my friend. Thanks for chiming in here. What I meant by the food area was more for stroling performances or for situations where you can perform as they watch you. Kind of a nice way to warm up and get your pacing right. You always have an audience eager to watch as they sit and east. For myself, when I am strolling around, I can often start in this area and just warm up with some visual magic that the audience can watch from their seats.

If I want to start to draw a crowd and to really treat it more like a street or bucking style show, then I will move away from the food areas for sure. I do not need greesy chicken fingers or fries on my stuff when I am going into my interactive routine. When I do this, I move to a different location.

As you stated it is indeed all about location at a festival or fair. You also have to be very aware of where you are setting up to perform your show. You need to have enbough area to be able to draw a crowd (half circle) while not interfering with any vendors (people paying to have a booth spot) or without blocking the traffic flow that needs to occur.

A good rule of thumb is to get there early and just walk the grounds before you begin. Look at the areas you feel will work out best for you. It is also a nice rule of thumb to talk directly with your client. They may have some great areas they might like you to concentrate on and give you some ideas that may help. It also shows your willingness to be a solutions provider for the client.

One point I can not stress enough is making sure you are aware of the paying vendors that are around or near you. These people are paying a fee to be at the fair or festival and their primary goal is to make money. You can easily offend and get them really upset with you if they feel you are blocking their booth, preventing traffic from getting to their booth or taking away people from them. In most cases they will not care if you are hired by the fair to even be there.

With this in mind I always make it a point that if I am setting up near a vendor, I personally go over and talk with them and introduce myself. I let them know who I am and what I do and show interest in them as well. respect to get respect back. I then will often times mention the vendors a lot during my show. This not only gets the vendors appreciating what I am doing, but it helps me directly as well.

In many cases, just from the act of doing this, I have not only had vendors thank me personally, but I usually get free stuff all day. Nothing quite like getting free drinks, free food just for being a nice guy and for keeping the vendors in mind.

Something to think about at any rate.

Thanks keith for chiming in here. Always great information and advice. =)

Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 23, 2007 08:53AM)
See Kyle sometimes people miss the point. When you DRAW A CROWD you are helping the venders who have paid. You may anger those not around you but the guy near you in general is 100% happy with you being around.

He gets people who are waiting in his line, happy to see the show. He gets people who have seen the show stopping at his booth. This never is a problem I have had venders set up near me on purpose. Care must be taken but think it all the way through is my point. Like you said, it is mutually benificial.

Carnies know what they are doing. These guys are pretty good at it.

As Keith says he does a lot of detail about it in the book. The right location means the right crowd in the right mood and that makes the shows go better and people are happier and guess who is booked next year at the same fair?
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 23, 2007 02:06PM)
Thanks Danny. It is nice to know folks like you and Keith know exactly what I am talking about here. =)It is indeed a mutually beneficial situation if you handle it the right way and are aware of vendors as you are strolling.

To many magicians do not think of the vendors when strolling or doing their shows at festivals, and that can lead to some bad situations. Just be aware that the vendors are paying for their spot so you need to be aare of this as you locate a spot.