Our Approach? An event. A mega event. Site the event smack-dab in the middle of the century-old downtown square instead of a park. Name the festival for the dirty, dusty, rail-yard. Invent a larger-than-life character to tie in with the railroad theme and build a legend around him (and his dog). Aggressively pursue “I’ve-heard-it-all-before” and “ain’t-interested-till-the-2nd-year” sponsor types. Mix and pour.
Launching a Legend
What do you do if there is no lore? Invent it, of course! The Legend of Railroad Roy and Traxx could be true if it were, but it isn’t — is it? His life spent on the rails, our bigger than life hero called Carrollton home whenever the train stopped there.
It’s the old pig-in-a-poke thing. People won’t buy it if they can’t see it. And they can’t see what hasn’t happened yet… even if you do “the motions!” But $172,000 in sponsorships later, we felt we’d done really well for a first time festival in a recession.
To draw a crowd to a first-year event in a city that doesn’t do events: make ticket prices no-brainer low; offer big name talent folks normally pay $20+ to see; give kids tons of games and rides free all day… add beer… then point!
Some people guess but we ask. We polled potential festival goers on their preferences. BTW — most chose the white shirt, the railroad cap, the wooden whistle, and the plush puppy. So, guess what? We knew just what to order. In addition to online preference polling, at the event we did a text-to-vote battle of the bands contest and simulcast all the performances, the crowd interaction and the plugs for our sponsors on multiple jumbotrons throughout the venue.