How to Host a Successful Holiday Event in 2021
The holiday season is fast approaching, and since pandemic safety measures are still in place at many attractions, event plans are likely to look a bit different this year. But with some planning and creativity, it’s still possible to plan a festive event. Here’s a look at how some event planners and attractions operators are approaching these celebrations.
Many venues are hosting smaller events to allow for social distancing. At the Novium Museum in Chichester, England, United Kingdom, events and museum attendance are generally capped around 50% of the regular capacity, but that may change as the year progresses.
“If things seem like they’re getting much better, then we’ll look at reducing restrictions and upping numbers,” says Portia Tremlett, public program engagement officer at the Novium Museum.
Sparkle Clark, owner of Pink Bliss Events, an event and party planning service based in San Pedro, California, United States, has noticed that many of the attractions she works with have downsized event capacities from 50 people to 25. This can have the advantage of making an event feel more intimate or exclusive. However, it may mean that guests must RSVP or purchase a ticket in advance. Fortunately, after months of closed attractions and reservation requirements, fewer people expect to be able to purchase a walk-up ticket. However, this should still be clearly communicated in marketing materials.
Larger or Outdoor Spaces
Attractions with outdoor spaces have an advantage when it comes to planning events because they can move the festivities outside, depending on the weather. In cooler climates, outdoor heaters can help extend the season for spaces such as patios, terraces, and gardens.
Operators are also capitalizing on any large, open spaces they have for events. The Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta has 95,000 square feet, and much of the space is open over three stories.
“It feels very open,” says CEO Kimberly Beaudin. “There’s plenty of room for social distancing. You’re not on top of anyone.”
The Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame hosts “Gameday Tailgates” on Saturdays in the fall. There are trivia events, as well as DJs, and four games are screened at once. Around Halloween, the family-friendly “Field of Screams” features tackling dummies made to look like ghosts, prizes, and kid-friendly activities. This year, Beaudin anticipates an extra festive “Rivalry Day” on the Saturday after Black Friday since many rival teams didn’t play each other last year. Artifacts from famous football rivalries will be displayed, and guests will be encouraged to wear their team jerseys with pride—even (or especially when) that team competes with a family member’s team. Not only that, but leading up to Christmas, the hall will also be decorated for the venue’s “Deck the Hall” festivities.
As the Novium Museum moves its lecture series from virtual to in-person, its staff is also thinking about the size of each space. For instance, the museum has chosen to host lectures in an old Friary chapel it manages called Guildhall because it’s larger and allows for more space between people. As of mid-September, December events have not yet been announced, but Tremlett says Father Christmas is already booked for some of the festivities. Events leading up to December include a space-themed sleepover, an artist therapy workshop, and an event with a local historian that ties into an exhibit about the cattle market.
Heightened Safety Protocols
Like many venues, the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame is continuing to require staff and visitors to wear masks. Though that rule is relaxed when guests record a game day video, as there is plenty of space to social distance, adds Beaudin. The venue also has sanitizing stations, so guests can sanitize their hands before touching footballs or other surfaces. It also offers branded styluses for guests who don’t want to use their fingers on touch screens.
Communicating guest expectations—such as wearing a mask or limiting the number of people on an elevator—is key. It may also be helpful for guests to know what safety protocols are internally applied, such as upgrading ventilation systems or requiring staff to wear masks. Often, this takes the form of an email sent in advance, but signs throughout the space can help reinforce instructions. These protocols should also be communicated to any event planners working with the venue.
Individually Wrapped Food
For safety purposes, the pandemic has meant fewer buffets and more individually wrapped foods. At most of the venues Clark works with, “everything’s been individually wrapped or put in individual bags for guests.”
The Novium closed its café during the pandemic, so food will be limited at its events. Although, Tremlett points out that the museum has several cafés within walking distance. For the upcoming space-themed sleepover, attendees are asked to have dinner beforehand, but the museum will provide an evening snack and breakfast the next morning.
The Chick-fil-A College Football Hall will hand out prepackaged trick-or-treat bags at its Halloween event and individually wrapped candy canes during “Deck the Hall.”
All of these adjustments allow attractions to still produce memorable events while prioritizing employee and guest safety.