On Saturday, July 12 we went behind the scenes of the Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis, MN with local ISES members to learn how one of the largest block parties in the Midwest is planned, coordinated and celebrated.
What started in 1995 as a fundraiser for restorations for The Basilica of Saint Mary, a beloved landmark and active Catholic church in downtown Minneapolis, has turned into an annual music festival that welcomes thousands of Minnesotans and dozens of national bands. Commencing its 19th year, the 2-day concert took place on July 12-13, 2013 and featured hit bands Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Matt Nathanson and more throughout three stages set up along the full block radius.
So what does it take to pull off an event that attracts more than 12,000 music lovers annually and raised nearly $4 million cumulatively for renovations? Meghan Gustafson, coordinator for the Basilica Landmark and our guide for the tour, filled us in on the details of planning this historic event.
From concessions to ticketing to cleanup, the Block Party recruits more than 1,600 volunteers and 75 committee members throughout the year to help onsite. Many volunteers return annually, but the Landmark also holds one Volunteer Rally each year to gather new members. Volunteers can also register online. Staffing schedules are mailed to volunteers prior to the event and are fully trained on all activities and guidelines before the event commences.
The non-profit event committee works with a pro bono ad agency to produce the annual marketing campaign, trade advertising and social media efforts. This year’s social media efforts increased the number of followers significantly on the event’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles – the official Facebook group received over 3,000 new likes in July alone! An event app was also developed to keep ticket holders informed of the 2-day lineup, food and drink options, weather reports and a social news feed.
Traditionally the Block Party was insured under The Basilica, but has recently developed a new entity called The Basilica Landmark to manage the resources of the annual event and to separate insurance coverage from the venue.
The event also occurs rain or shine, which prevents the Landmark from having to give refunds for rain outs. Although they do not have coverage for rain damage, a contingency plan is in place and approved by the city for damage to equipment and safety concerns when lightning is visible. According to Gustafson, however, as long as the second set of performances has begun the event can be cancelled due to weather. Although clouds threatened our tour, the weather was beautiful for both days of this year’s event!
The block surrounding The Basilica is closed off from public access with metal barricades about an hour before the ticket windows open each night. However, as public city property, The Basilica remains open to the public during the day. Therefore security personnel are on-hand during the entire setup process and help to guide guests throughout the day, maintain order during the event and secure the property at night.
Beginning the planning stage with entertainment, Gustafson works with a talent booker and local radio sponsor Cities 97 to find talented artists to fill each of the three stages for two days. Though this search begins in October, last minute drawbacks can keep the lineup changing until just weeks before the show!
A number of food vendors are used along the roads to offer food and beverages to hungry concert goers. Kennedy Concessions and Carolina Catering provide many of the staples such as cheese curds, hot dogs and soda, while some food truck operators gather to provide some upscale items from local restaurants. Catering is also provided by Irish Born Hospitality for VIP attendees, sponsors and entertainers.
Beer, wine and liquor are also available onsite thanks to sponsors like Bud Light, Sutter Home Family Vineyards and Prairie Organic Vodka. All bartenders are licensed and paid, which offers a comfort that the staff knows the laws and serving limits in accordance with city ordinances. Beer is also only served in cans, thus eliminating breakage and allows the Landmark to cash in on recycling.
At the end of our tour, we were able to catch sound check for a few of the bands in the Saturday night lineup, making for a great end to a great behind the scenes tour! We learned a lot about the marketing and operations of this great event and gained some insight into what it takes to produce an outdoor event of this magnitude. For fans paying anywhere from $50-$250 for a ticket, the planning committee does a great job of covering all aspects of the event to ensure each guest has a fun experience.
eNews July 2013