Unlike other types of venues, fair or festival entertainment settings are much more complex. Staging a concert for fairs or festivals means creating an entertainment venue almost from scratch for these annual events. Many take place outside. If you are lucky, the concert is staged in a rodeo arena. Others take place on city streets, fairgrounds or in open fields.
Depending on the specific fair or festival’s entertainment requirements, organizers need to set up the basic infrastructure for the event. That includes a secure place for the audience either seated, standing or both. They also will need security, ticket taking, fencing, restrooms, food, drinks, electricity, lighting, parking, etc.
That’s before you even get to what is required by those that perform at these fair or festival entertainment events. Performers will require local transportation; catering, security for them and their equipment; a suitable and safe stage; a green room; stage lighting; and sound amplification equipment. Sound and lighting require a separate electrical source for each so as not to cause interference with each other. The bigger the entertainer, the more complex are their needs that have been spelled out in the riders provided with their contract to perform.
With that background, let’s look at what it takes to put on the concert portion of the event. I will use last Weekend’s Matagorda County Fair as an example. Matagorda County Fair is a long-time client of TSE Entertainment for booking their fairs and festival entertainment events.
One of the reasons TSE Entertainment has so many long-standing clients is that we do more than the typical booking agency. We do our best to make sure that the performance goes off smoothly and our client and audience is satisfied with the experience. That’s why TSE had staff on site the day before the actual concert. That’s because there are more pieces to this type of concert.
Preparation for a Fair or Festival Entertainment Event
Matagorda County Fair Concert Example: Getting the infrastructure for these events in place take a lot of time and effort by those dedicated volunteers and staff of the Matagorda County Fair & Rodeo Association. The Concert preparation starts the day before, after the rodeo arena has been set up for the event.
Day One: On Friday, TMS Staging rolled in from Waco, Texas at 8 am with the SL260 stage to be set up in the Matagorda County Rodeo Arena. This is a well-used, very safe and popular portable covered stage. After the stage was set up, Backstage Sounds and Lights from Bryan/College Station, Texas arrived around noon. Their 3-man crew, supplemented with 4 loaders provided by the Fair, took until 8:30 to get the sound and lights set up and tested.
Not only do they have the sound and light equipment that needed to be set up, the systems had to be connected to the two 100 Kw auxiliary generators to power all the equipment, one for lights the other for the sound equipment. These are some of the parts to the many, many parts to the puzzle to putting a fair or festival entertainment concert all together.
Day two/Show Day: TSE on-site logistics staff member meets the sound and light company at 8 am to make sure all is prepared and ready for the acts coming in. Parker McCollum and his band had played the previous night in Terrell, Texas which is east of Dallas and 5 and half hours from the fair concert in Bay City, Texas. They pulled in with their bus and trailer in tow at 930 am. Most of the musicians, including Parker, were asleep on the bus but their tour manager and sound tech were up and ready to hit it. The fair had 4 loaders there ready to assist and the band trailer was unloaded and all set up for a sound check by 1130 am. Amazingly they had their sound check completed by noon.
At 11 am Tracy Byrd’s tour bus pulls in with a light crew of only 6 people. Tracy, his fiddle player and one of his guitar players were in Arlington, Texas. They had an acoustic show at the Arlington Music Hall at 2 pm that afternoon. Meanwhile, in Bay City, Texas Tracy’s tour Manager plus his production engineer, along with his crew and the 4 loaders furnished set up his equipment. By 1:30 his equipment was in place and the sound check was completed.
Everything moved like clockwork. After Tracy did his acoustic show in Arlington, Texas he and his two accompanying musicians were quickly shuttled to the Arlington Airport. There they boarded a charted plane to fly them to the local Bay City airport. They were ‘’wheels up’’ and airborne by 4:30 pm and on the ground in Bay City by 5:45 pm where TSE had a driver waiting on them.
Meanwhile during all this preparation, band members had to be fed and shuttled to and from their rooms at the local Comfort Inn Suites. During this time all of Parker’s group and Tracy’s group also had to order their dinner from a local Chili’s restaurant by 3:30 pm. Their food order is all delivered to their busses by 5 pm. This was all coordinated thru the TSE on-site team with TSE members wearing all sorts of hats and doing whatever is necessary to get the job done.
Doors Open – Doors opened to the arena at 6:30 pm. Tracy Byrd, Co-Headlining, was scheduled on first at 8 pm and playing until 930 pm. Before the show though, there was a scheduled ‘’Meet and Greet’’ for 30 of the Fair people. This was held near the ‘’green room’’ (the areas where artist eat, hang out, etc. before going on stage). Thirty or so folks all got to meet and have their pictures taken with Tracy. This same event was done with Parker McCollum at 9 pm. TSE staff makes sure this all goes smoothly and everyone leaves with a smile.
After Tracy ends his show at 9:30, there is a 30-minute break so all of Tracy’s gear can be removed and Parker’s can be put in place. Parker’s show started at 10 pm and finished at 1130 pm. Both acts were fantastic and the sound, lighting and technical people, etc. were on top of their game.
TSE’s own Helen Elshick emcee’ d the event and did a great job! She is a former Radio DJ and is a total professional and like all of us at TSE…. Is totally consumed with music.
The concert ended at 1130 pm but it was around 4 or 5 a.m. before all the equipment was packed up and everyone back on the highway headed to the next gig. God Speed to all the Music Road Warriors out there. Like we say, THE MUSIC BIZ AIN’T FOR SISSIES!