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Bill Nuvo
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I recently performed the same show to a lot of the same people in two different festivals/events. And I got two totally different reactions.

Event 1

It was a festival on a street. Lots of vendors and what-not. I was on the children's stage. Now everything I am going to mention, really wasn't the fault of the festival committee as they had to move things last moment but...

About 60 feet away from the stage was a restaurant that had live bands playing in it's parking lot. I had a petting Zoo to my right (not that big of a problem) and to my left two inflatables (that were originally across the street but had to be moved). They had loud generators and for some reason the placed them almost out in front of the inflatables. Quickly I suggested them placing them behind and they did, muffling a lot of the sound. One of the inflatables was a mechanical bull. Very popular. It was litterally next to the stage (about 10 feet away). Well between me and the other groups, we had trouble competing with all of this, not to mention...well mention the guy with the megaphone blast behind the stage calling people to come to the dunk tank. I found during my show, everytime someone got thrown off the bull, everybody's head turned and looked. I tried to make light of it at times, saying something like "wow, and that was most amazing vanish I ever did!" or something similar to get their attention again. It was awful. I lost a lot of the audience because there was too many distractions, and even with my sound system,it was hard to hear. I had a hard time getting any participation or response from the crowd.

Event two.

Same show, different venue. Only one stage. Was held at a park. Still lots of distractions but these were away from the stage (the furthest away was the booth where children could try out musical instruments). There were races, other booths and activities. No inflatables or anything near the stage. Totally different outcome. I had easily half the attendees watching my show and actively participating.

As a festival producer myself, I understand how hard it is to put together a great event. But I feel that some festivals, just don't understand the needs of the entertainment, or how to arrange the festival in order to make it work. I think all festivals/fairs, etc, should have a performer on the committee to help iron out these issues before they happen. I have recieved great comments from performers I have hired for the festival that I help produce. The too find that festivals that have entertainers on the committee seem to have better events and more accommodating venues for performers.
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Two points of view:

(1) Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you. Especially outdoors.

(2) Maybe the planners are savvy enough to think about coordinating the placement of attractions, and mayube they need help [but are you in a position to affect their decision?] If these guys were carnival lot managers, the outfit would go out of business in a week. And of course, maybe they plan as far as siting the food and the "main stage" appropriately, but they never quite think down as far in the details as "where is this magician gonna go?"

As I advise in my almost-finished DVD on picnics and other long appearances (did I really sneak a plug in? Well, it's not ready to sell yet.): "As soon as you arrive at the location, scope out where you’d like to locate your table. The factors you outlined in the contract are a good start in determining where the best location is. Outdoors, the overriding concern is good shade and good clean level ground. After that, you need to think about being away from most of the noise, being close but not TOO close to the other kiddie attractions, and ideally having something at your back. As your career goes on, you’ll learn about the layout and conditions you can expect at many of the most popular picnic spots in your area. But at the outset, you may find the actual conditions to be very different from the ones described to you in the planning process. You’re bound to have some surprises - other parties immediately adjacent (you don’t want to get stuck entertaining two parties for one paycheck), or perhaps the only shade is right next to the DJ’s very biggest speaker, or any of a variety of things you need to consider when locating your operation. Those first few moments are the most important to gaining conditions appropriate to doing a good job. Scan the area quickly and decide where you want to locate. Then put on your very best happy and cooperative face, and find the ONE person you’ve been told will coordinate things, your boss for the day. Get in the first word, while appearing to be a very cooperative fellow: “It looks like over there would be a good place to set up, where the kids and I can make some noise away from the grownups, would that work out for you?” You almost never get any opposition if it appears to come from your judgment born of long experience. If the spot where they want me is really unsuitable, like the ground is muddy or there’s no shade at all or it’s right in the aisle of a restaurant where people are walking through all the time, I put on my most diplomatic smile and tell them what I need, we need to be over there, or we need to be in another room from all the parents who want to watch the football game, or whatever. Usually I get what I need, and if I don’t, I just have to mark it up to “extraordinary customer service.”"

I know that paragraph is pitched at beginners, and if you're out at festivals doing what you described, you're a long way from a beginner - but I thought I'd throw those ideas in just in case they're helpful.
Bill Nuvo
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Thanks Ross. Although I learned what you have said from performing at birthdays, it is still great for those who don't know yet.

In hindsight, the only other option for event 1 I could have done was ask the festival to do a street show at an intersection down the street. But then we would run into the problem of people showing at the stage waiting to see the show and unless they had a person there directing the crowd down...away from the children's area....well maybe not the best idea. The one problem too was that my show involves keyboards and other instruments as well, so it is not easily moved. But I still could've done a show without them. Oh well.

Like you said, you can't always win with outdoors.

As a side note, some of the people from event 1 who went to event 2 even made comments about the difference about the show. I took it upon myself to explain why (without any bashing) and educate them and they fully agreed.
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