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ALL OPINIONS ALL THE TIME
The Opinionated Seamstress On Writing Event Notices
[09/13/2006] [Liana]

Having attended and merchanted at historical reenactment events, fannish cenventions, and LARP-ish events for a number of years, I've read a quite a few event ads, flyers, web sites, and other promotional materials. As time has gone on, I've developed an opinion on what information should go into an event notice to make it useful.

There are several scales of both events and event notices. A small one-day event with limited activities will require less description than a busy multi-day event. Similarly, early notices may be limited to a few lines. Expanding that, a notice for a newsletter may be a quarter- or half-page in size, a flyer may be a full page, and a web site can be as large as necessary. Therefore, I've tried to break my list of items to include into several categories.

I've started with the bare minimums – the information that you would put in a four- to six-line blurb, and that you should include in every notice about the event. After that, I've gone on to list expanded information for any type of event, and then those applying specifically events that feature camping. Finally, various “gravy” items that you could include in a multi-page flyer or event website.

When publishing schedules, it is normal to refer to them as “preliminary” early-on. But, at some point, probably a week or two before the event, it comes time to make decisions and delete that “preliminary” label. “But,” you counter, “the format of my activity will depend on how many people sign up on Saturday!” No problem – just say so: “The Moose Pit Tourney will be either double-elimination or triple-tine branching format, depending on the number of fighters.” And then give the guidelines for your unusual local format.

Finally, make sure you thoroughly check your grammar and spelling! (my cue to really blow it somewhere . . . ) Don't trust built-in spelling and grammar-checkers on word processors. Use your own eyeballs and education, and then have someone else check it over – even if, like me, you're the local Grammar, Spelling, and Apostrophe Fascist.

The Bare Minimums:

  • Sponsoring/Hosting group name, and the name of the event
  • Date(s) & Time the site opens/event begins
  • Mundane Name and address of the site
  • Site fee
  • Who to contact or where to go for further details. Please include a phone number or mailing address for those with limited computer access.

Fleshing out the Bare Bones:

  • Expanded contact information
  • Planned activities
  • Is there a feast? Details? Will any other food/meals be available for purchase?
  • In addition to the time the site opens to the general populace, the time it opens to those helping with setup, merchants, etc.
  • What time the event ends/site closes, or must be cleared by
  • Handicap accessibility
  • Alcohol policy
  • Directions from 2-3 major routes/directions
  • Will there be merchants? Who should a prospective merchant contact?
  • Rules on/regarding minors
  • Pet Policy

For multi-day camping events in particular:

  • Is pre-registration available for camp sites?
  • Nearby restaurants and/or motels
  • Availability of potable water on site
  • Availability of showers
  • Availability of, ahem, modern facilities vs. porta-potties
  • Policy on fires - ground and/or charcoal grills. Are tiki torches permitted?
  • Is electricity available anywhere?
  • Sizes of camp sites, if specified/limited
  • Camping fee – even if it is included in the site fee, be clear that it is.
  • Can attendees drive to their campsites for setup and teardown, or does stuff need to be hauled to/from a parking area?
  • Is there a quiet area for families and/or us Olde Phartes that need X hours of sleep before midnight?
  • Is the site (camping area in particular) wooded? Open? Mix?
  • How far to the nearest grocery store?

Optional important site/event particulars:
Some events have unusual rules, or site conditions that non-local attendees should probably be told about ahead of time. These may include:

  • Unusual site conditions – fire ants, poison pumpernickel plants, aggressive raccoons, etc.
  • Extra-hard or extra-soft ground
  • Rules for camping site “land grabs”
  • Unusual weather that may be expected or occuring

Really Expanded Information:
These are the things you might put in a multi-page flyer, on a web page, etc. Some won't apply to all events, of course. Some of these you may want to include even in your shorter notices.

  • Map of the site vicinity – so people can see the main road(s) leading to the site, etc.
  • A link to Mapquest or your favorite mapping website
  • Map of the site itself – useful for both outdoor sites, and indoor sites, especially if they use multiple rooms
  • Full feast menu
  • Detailed schedule
  • List of merchants
  • Registration form and any necessary waivers
  • Arts & Sciences judging criteria
  • Tournament/combat game rules or scenario
  • List of volunteers or staff needed
  • Link to and URL of webpage for/about the site (ie: event is at Cervid Park, a link to the park district's web page about the park)
  • Event site contact information (park management, etc.)
  • Special Event details – fundraisers, etc.
  • Typical weather for your event
  • List of VIP attendees
  • Court information
  • Important meetings

An example medium-size notice, starting with the bare minimums:

The Shire of Majestic Moose presents the Third Annual Moose Hunt
Saturday, April 1, 2006, activities beginning at 10 AM, site fee $5.
Cervid Park, 123 Caribou Crossing, Elkville, IL, 54321
For further details, see our website: example.com

Activities at this year's Moose Hunt include a 1-on-1 “Moose Pit” tournament, archery moose hunt (archers and friends vs. foot-sloggers), and an A&S tournament, with special prizes for the best Moose-themed entry.

Site opens at 4pm Friday for staff and setup crew. Troll opens at 5pm Friday and closes at 3 pm Saturday. All attendees must be off-site by noon Sunday, please, or be charged the daily park use fee of $10.

The centerpiece of this year's feast will be spit-roasted venison. Feast is $10/person, limited to 50. Please contact Jane Doe for details, dietary questions, or to volunteer to serve. Saturday lunch will be served by our good neighbors, the Shire of Buffalo Fuzz, buffalo-burgers, hot dogs, chips and soda, ala carte pricing.

Merchants, please contact Jane Doe for merchant space details. We have limited space in the Antler Lodge, and quite a bit of outdoor space. Please pre-register, space fills fast.

The Antler lodge and some campsites are handicap accessible.

Cervid Park is discreetly damp. The Shire of Majestic Moose does not tolerate under-age drinking; underage drinkers and anyone supplying them will be ejected, with no refund of site fee. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian (sorry, site rules!), dogs allowed on leashes. Children or pets running loose will be served as a special bonus remove at feast.

We have 47 20' by 30' flagged campsites available, and two large unstructured field areas for camping. Flagged sites, with water and electricity, are $20/night, as many tents as you can fit with a 3' buffer around the edge of the site. Field camping, no electricity, water taps scattered around the perimeter, is $5/tent for the weekend. Flagged sites will be available on a first-come first-served basis – if you want to be sure of one, please pre-register. No pre-registration required for field camping. RV sites also available, please contact John Buck for details. The merchant area, portions of the flagged camping, and the smaller field camping will be designated “family” camping – quiet hours from 10 pm to 8am. All camping areas are lightly wooded and vehicle accessible. However, vehicle access to all campsites will be limited from 10:30am Saturday until 8:30 am Saturday.

About a mile away from Cervid Park is the Laughing Loon motel (phone number), several restaurants, and the Piggly-Wiggly grocery store.

Showers and other running water amenities are located in both the Antler Lodge, and a second building near the field camping area and battlefield. Park policy allows fires in grills or fire rings only please. No tiki torches. If the current drought continues, additional fire restrictions may be in effect.

Autocrat: John Buck (address, e-mail, phone number)
Feast and Merchant questions: Jane Doe (address, e-mail, phone).
Please send all reservations to:
Shire of Majestic Moose, 567 Femur Lane, Elkville, IL 54321

Directions:
>From the north/Highway 1: Take exit 2, go south on Route 3 for about a quarter mile, Cervid park is on the left. You get the idea, and I'm running out of clever patter . . .

Note: This notice fills one page of 8.5" by 11" paper, when formatted for 0.75 inch margins all around, with the first line in 15-point Arial, and the remainder of the text in 10-point Arial.


Copyright March, 2006, Liana M. Winsauer. Permission granted to copy and distribute, provided content is unaltered and the copyright/attribution remain attached.

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