Dave Huffman

E006 - Follow The Parade

Dave Huffman joined Plantastic Events podcast on January 27th, 2018. He’ll talk about how he organizes large festivals and parades!

Hot topics for episode 006:

  1. Important things to budget when hosting large parades and festivals
  2. How to build a super team/committee to organize all events
  3. Identify best ways to set up an event with appropriate routes and times
  4. How to control traffic and collaborate with local police stations for security

Dave Huffman is the president of Peachtree Corners Festival organizing committee. He has an electrical engineering background but since his retirement, he spends most of his time volunteering with Peachtree Corners Festival and assisting with refugee relocation.

Produced by Stoogeapp.com.
Host: Nausheen Punjani.
Guest: Dave Huffman.
Music: Justin Mahar.
Support: Aly Hussaini from Stooge and Prototype Prime.

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Podcast Transcript

Transcript by Nausheen Punjani

Nausheen: you are listening to Plantastic Events podcast episode number ten
Nausheen: hey everyone welcome to Plantastic Events I'm your host Nausheen Punjani, this is a weekly podcast dedicated to help you plan your events with ease be sure to subscribe at stoogeapp.com and stay up-to-date. That's stoogeapp.com plus you'll receive tons of resources, freebies, guides and show notes. Thank you for joining and now let's get into the show.
hey everyone I'm your host Nausheen Punjani and today we have a special guest Dave Huffman he's the president of Peachtree Corners festival organizing committee he is also he has also a background in electrical engineering but since his retirement he spends most of his time volunteering with Peachtree Corners festival and he also assists a lot in the community with refugee relocation I believe I'm Dave your whole family has a background with Georgia Tech 
1:27 Dave: right so it's actually pretty impressive like wife and son that's right my wife and I are both graduates of Georgia Tech that's where we met we're both electrical engineers and we have one son who's now in his third year at Georgia Tech as a nuclear engineering major so one more year to go 
1:40 Nausheen: that is awesome do you usually root for Georgia Tech
1:43 Dave: oh yes, we do which is can be a difficult thing at times but we go to the football games and the men's basketball and the women's basketball are our son plays in the marching band there during football season and during this the spirit band during basketball so that kind of makes the game even if tech loses it kind of makes it for a nice experience anyway awesome
2:01 Nausheen: so today oh that's listening today just to let you know he's going to share some tips and tricks on all of the things that relate to festivals or events related to Peachtree Corners festival on Peachtree Corners also there right around the corner there right here with us just wanted to let you know that but I also want to let you know he has been an inspiration he has worked not only in the community but he has pretty much done his entire retirement focusing on giving back in the community which I believe is a beautiful so thank you so much for giving back to the community my first question to you is how are you doing today 
2:38 Dave: oh, I'm fine like I mentioned a little earlier we had our first festival meeting of the year this morning so the committee got together it's only one of them announced it's a hundred and thirty three days away so that to me sounds like a short period of time but we haven't experienced committee as we'll talk about later and so I'm confident we'll have a good show
3:02 Nausheen: I'm definitely looking forward to it um can I ask what inspired you to start volunteering with Peachtree Corners well 
3:09 Dave: that's kind of funny like you mentioned I retired a little over seven years ago after a long career as an electrical engineer and I knew I wanted to do volunteer things I didn't want to just sit around the house so I started volunteering with our local school the middle school which I still do so I'm in my eighth year of working in the media center there but after a couple years a lady good friend of mine who lives down the street Debbie Mason who had been one of the founders of the piece of corners festival asked me if I would help her put out signs to advertise the festival of yard signs so I said sure I can put out yard signs so I put out twenty thirty yard signs around and some big signs to advertise the festival and that got me sort of inside look at what goes into organizing a festival like this and I got interested in it and it just happened that the next year the woman who had been the president of the festival committee had another grandchild and she was gonna have to be sort of a stay-at-home grandmother and so they asked me could would I be the president and so I sort of went from the mailroom to presidency there in one year within one year but I asked at the time I said well is the arts and crafts person coming back yes is the entertainment person coming back yes is the food person yes so the whole committee was coming back so I figured well I can I can share the meetings I can be that kind of thing so this will be my sixth year with the festival of my fifth year as president and that's a summer festival and then last year we took over the city parade that happens around the holidays in November okay and so we've done that for two years so now we have two events
5:06 Nausheen: that’s very impressive and thank you for sharing your background as well is it important to have a committee in charge I'm sure you already shared a little bit about this in charge of the event and if so how do you break up the responsibilities I'm sure you have like a super team you know that gets involved and I'm just labeling a super team but you know I want your thoughts on that
5:28 Dave: yeah it you definitely have to break it up and arc our core committee consists probably of maybe eight or nine people it's not a whole lot of people and a lot of people are surprised to see that this three-day festival that runs about $100,000 to put on is largely the work of a pretty small group of people but it splits up nicely as far as committee responsibilities go so I have there's one person who specializes in all the entertainment so everything that goes onstage she books those acts and coordinates that we have one another person who handles arts and crafts vendors a third person handles all the food vendors we have a car show a classic car show and that's put on by a gentleman who that's his business is putting on classic car shows so we he's part of our team we have another person on the committee who's responsible for our children's area so all the amusement rides that we bring in for children and that's one person and then there's our sponsorship but the most I'll say the most important person that's where our money comes from its free festival there that we don't sell tickets to anything so all of our funding comes from local sponsors businesses and individuals who give us money so we have now two people who help solicit those sponsorships but so that's the team most of those people I'd say six or seven out of the eight or nine have been with it since the beginning so this is our eighth year so they've been doing it since day one and so they know what they're doing I  mentioned we met for the first time today January it's five months out we used to meet in November mm-hmm but it was obvious people knew what they were doing exactly what's happening it I don't want to say it's on autopilot because as I told them today I don't ever want it to be stale yeah for them I want I want to try new things every year just a little bit we keep what works and work on improving it every year and that kind of helps them kind of keep their interest in it I think that's important from a committee standpoint
7:48 Nausheen: seen that in you too just knowing you for this short time – I've seen that in your personality that you like to see things if all over time you don't want to just kind of right be stuck with the same routine
7:59 Dave: and is mailing in I mean you know it and in festival attendees hmm don't want to come to the same event every year after year they want to see new vendors they want to see new music so yes a big example of that is our Friday night concert okay so when the festival started it was a two-day event Saturday and Sunday and that's when we had all our food vendors and craft vendors and this will be our fourth year of offering a free concert to the community on the Friday evening before so we sort of have I call it a kick-off concert and we started our first year we didn't know if anybody would show up and we had banks and Shane a local group and very good local group that's been here in Atlanta for over 40 years and we had 1200 people which we were very pleased with the next year we had a Eagles tribute band and we had 2,000 attendees at the show I was thinking we were getting maxed out and then last year we had a journey tribute band and we had 4,000 folks there and we coming up in the near future we'll announce who this year's it's secret right now it's in the works but so that's something we added and that has really sparked attendance in the festival too because people come Friday night and we tell them hey be sure and come back Saturday and Sunday 
9:29 Nausheen: and all of this is free for attendees huh
9:33 Dave: it's all free yeah yes pay obviously pay for food and whatever you get at the vendors but it's free parking and free admission there's no decent 
9:41 Nausheen: with the team of eight to nine people that's impressive
9:49 Dave: now we do during the festival we'll get a bunch of volunteers so we do and I have someone on the committee who specializes in volunteering our volunteers and she also is responsible for our Facebook and that type of thing and we'll use probably about a hundred volunteers during the festival too to help us get water to vendors and kind of keep the show going
10:11 Nausheen: I love the festival we attended it the last one and it was incredible
10:16 we try to make it a good experience for everybody we try to make it a really good experience for our vendors so we will bend over backwards to keep vendors happy we see
10:31 Nausheen: it seemed very familial like almost like a family like environment to where everyone seemed to you know help you out or if you're struggling because I was like where do I go where do I part where do you work how do we move they were helping you through every step of the way even like just your general public they would help you or guide you or even talk to you I like that I appreciated that well we
10:51 Dave: because we're a small group we do try to keep it like a family we have the gentleman jerry golden who runs our staging and logistics and sound and all that has been with us for a number of years Jerry's just fantastic he's awesome we of course his part is a huge part of the festival and but Jerry attends our meetings and we he's part of our group the same thing with our security people that we use Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department for our security and we meet with them and as early as April and go through the plans with and most of the guys who and ladies who come during the festival have been with it longer than I have so they know the festival they know what things are going on and they're the Sheriff's Department's just been absolutely incredible to work with yeah you know you don't want to you don't want it to be just a corporate
11:44 Nausheen: no business the standard things no you don't want that at all what about when you're setting up like event times or roots how do you plan for that I know you talked a little bit about working with the Sheriff's Department but do you have to control for traffic or close off streets how does that work
12:01 Dave: yeah obviously we have to get permission from Department of Transportation and from the city whoever owns the street we have to get permission well in advance to be able to shut it down probably the biggest thing there is communicating to people who use that road or ever it might be communicate to them ahead of time so that they'll have some notice that this is going to be closed our festival to this point has been held in an office park near here and that's relatively easy to shut off for a weekend cuz it's in an office park a lot of the businesses are closed on the Saturday and Sunday so there's not a lot of through traffic our parade starting last year we had kind of in the middle of town here so we were closing off a section of a pretty busy road on a Saturday morning yeah so that did require some pretty close coordination with the Sheriff's Department and we had electronic billboards out for a week ahead of time we had signage along the route saying that it's closed from ten o'clock till one o'clock and of course you still get people who don't pay attention to that that's something you just have to deal with so it's mainly you know get make sure you get the word out as much as you can and we put it out on Facebook we put it out on next door which is a local kind of a sort of a local blog type thing where people put nextdoor.com sort of people it's a good thing for fun and lost dogs and furniture and stuff but know that for local announcements and so we'll put it out on there as well but yeah it's a next year we are looking at some new locations and that's going to bring a whole new raft of logistical challenges in that regard so but that will keep us on our toes so it won't be staying guarantee 
14:02 Nausheen: and you have like a super team that's just that knows their ins and outs they are great to work with and I think when I was when I when we attended the event it seemed very well managed you know how you were controlling the parade or the floats and where the public would stand and like kids were ready you know for candies and all kinds of things it was all prepared very nicely there was a route in process there were staff members to guide you through out the way which was also very helpful you know first
14:29 Dave: yeah a lot of that was the other folks on the committee had experience with the with previous iterations of the parade and Jerry Golden productions had worked they worked parades all over the area it was just my second parade so I was learning some of the some of the do's  and don'ts of parade management thing about the parade is it's all for ours is all over in an hour and a half so it's a months of preparation and then bang it's all over in a very short time so you don't have a lot of time to fix things if something's not working right you just sort of have to go with it
15:09 Nausheen: and you know it's also nice because I think when we had an opportunity to meet Jerry – he seemed like he'd be a perfect fit you know Jerry and his wife Nancy direct sorry Nancy directs our parade participants and does great job and they're very friendly the perfect type of environment you could see it friendly people where you know
15:33 Dave: there's enough you run across enough difficult people in life you don't need to work with difficult people especially in a volunteer type thing add more difficulties to it
15:45 Nausheen: so how long have you worked with golden projections if you don't mind me asking
15:47 Dave: I think they started in tooth they started the your eyes maybe the year before I started so the is probably their seventh year original the first couple of years as I understand it was before my time but the festival organizers did all hand handled all that stuff and it just about killed them from the sound of it I mean and I could imagine I could not imagine me handling getting wastebaskets and staged and speakers and audio-visual and ramps and everything they do so golden Productions takes over a lot of that work and we don't have to worry about that it's Jerry always tells me he says you know we want to make the festival fun for you and they do that you'd like to do it all without landing
16:48 Nausheen: but how do you deal with like parking especially when you have to deal with outside parking I know you mentioned you actually provide for free parking but when you're working with let's say the businesses that are in that area do you have to work with them or how does that happen
16:57 Dave: yeah well for the festival in our current location like I said it in an office park in there is a large 600 slot parking lot right adjacent to where the festival is held the building that's there is occupied by Comcast and Comcast allows us to use their parking lot we reserved a certain number of spots for them for their employees that might be working on Saturday or Sunday and the rest is available so that's a great thing about that location the parade is present a different problem because it's as I said kind of right more in the middle of town we end at the forum shopping center which is a shopping center yeah very busy on Saturdays during the parade and so there we have to really be careful how we write route the parade in there that's true we work with some of the local businesses along the route to get their permission to use their parking lot ahead of time and we give them a little plug you know as an in-kind sponsor for letting us use their parking lot and then we have a lot of dedicated signage to direct people to those parking places it's one of the things is that I've told y'all I hope with the stooge app with being able to go to the mobile phone with the directions on there if we can direct people to our parking areas that will save me a lot of a lot of phone calls that I get about how do you get to at the parking 
18:21 Nausheen: so for all you listeners that would help you out to
18:25 Dave: hopefully yeah we're looking forward to integrating the stooge app into our operations ongoing now
18:35 Nausheen: and we're excited to work with such an awesome team I think just having a wonderful community or just like Peachtree Corners in general is amazing and to have to have the opportunity to work with someone like you means a lot to us you know we want to be able to like you said work with good people well
18:50 Dave: as I told the group today as we've made the decision that to go with the stooge app the city of Peachtree Corners has made technology and innovation a high priority right where we're sitting now is an example of that here in this technology incubator the new city hall that was just dedicated last week yes state-of-the-art technology place there's displays everywhere they're things come out of the ceiling things come out of the floor it's incredible so I said the Peachtree Corners festival as one of the main events that the city of Peachtree Corners is involved with every year should also be on the leading edge of technology when it comes to putting on the festival so that's that was a big factor in us making the decision to step out and go with y'all
19:47 Nausheen: yeah and you're absolutely right I mean if it's a priority it should be a priority for everything right which is nice to see that and just nice to see that it's being incorporated throughout not only in the for the events but also for like our business offices or anywhere else that's definitely good to hear
20:07 Dave: mm-hmm
20:07 Nausheen: what would you say are the key things that you would have to budget for I know a lot of things come from your sponsors but what are what are the key things that you four as a festival you have to make sure to budget for
20:18 Dave: our biggest expenses the logistical piece the staging is a big piece because we are in an office part so we have to bring in a staged golden productions brings in a mobile stage it gets set up it's 20 feet by 24 it's a large stage but in that gets set up that that takes a while to get you know crew to get it set up and audio-visual so entertainment is kind of a significant factor we have live music throughout the festival so we could some festivals will go with recorded music you know off and on or they'll they might have little dancers or something you know do something yeah we have groups playing the whole time Saturday Friday night Saturday and Sunday and we do pay those groups so that's a that's a factor the security is a few thousand dollars and our kids area we probably spend you know maybe eight thousand nine thousand dollars bringing in a some rides we have a zip line I did it the first year that's pretty fun it's first time when they were going it was a little nerve-racking but when you're standing up there but it was really fun once I did it what's what made me get up there and do it is we did have the chick-fil-a cows chick-fil-a sends their cow team over to walk around the festival and they kind of play it get and you're for last when you have this zipline for the first time they decided they want to go ride the zip so they when you see a person in a cows cow coming down the zipline  hemselves figure if they can do it you know I can do it they write all our rides so if you come to the  festival on Sunday you can see the cows riding carnival rides I think people come simply for that too did you go to our website you might be able to see a video of that
22:27 Nausheen: If I find this I'll post it if I find it I
22:39 Dave: We will definitely have video and there's probably video of me not as impressive so like I said before is I think it's about probably about a ninety eighty to ninety thousand dollar weekend the Friday night thing the concert there was probably about a fifteen twenty thousand dollar event so and we do that like said for free that's our kind of one of our gifts to the community I might mention speaking against a community what we do with the proceeds of the festival we kind of have three reasons for being and that's first obviously to put on a good festival an entertaining event for our community and then with any funds that are leftover and usually we'll have some not a lot but we'll have some we invest that in local educational schools so we make donations to the high schools in the0020 middle schools elementary schools in the area and we save up our money over several years and we'll make a donation for a beautification of the area so we've done some media and landscaping out here on the main highway 141 just last week at the City Hall dedication that I mentioned we were the ones who funded there perfect flag plaza which is out in front of that building so we do that's our way of investing back in the community besides just putting on show so about maybe about an eighty or ninety thousand dollar event every year and like I say that's all funded by corporate sponsors primarily we have about last year we had ninety four different sponsors which for a relatively small community like piece recorders is not small but it's pretty that's a that's a big number
24:37 Nausheen: you mentioned that you have live music for all of the days right do you where do you I guess how do you usually in the folks that have the life you say who do you usually is it like local groups or is it like 
24:49 Dave :a lot of it is local groups the Friday night may or may not be a local group Saturday and Sundays several of them are local they might but they might come from neighboring states we try to get a mix so there's a lot of there's folk groups there's classic rock you know cover bands we've had some hip-hop groups that were an acapella hick a hip-hop group it was just incredible so we try to put a mix on and like I say we have a lady who Bobby Marshall he's been doing the entertainment I think since the festival started and she screens and she previews all the groups nobody gets on that stage without body that's good that is good make sure it's right make sure it's good and so we do have a number of  groups that want to you know get the exposure and they'll email us and or go online
26:02 Nausheen: I know you mentioned that in hundred and you said 33 days there's an upcoming event 
26:04 Dave: that's what she said yes  June 8th June 8th 9th and 10th is this year's fest we're we've always been the second weekend in June ok so it's warm it's warm that that that that date was picked yeah and sometimes it's warm to the point of you know being uncomfortable and so we think well could we move it to some other point in the calendar but the problem is if you move it earlier in say in May you have graduations you have Mother's Day you have these type things if you move into the fall September October then we're going up against  a lot of other festivals so we're weave last year we had great weather you know it was about 80 degrees and we had about 12,000 folks there which was the most we've had and you know so we just keep our fingers crossed fortunately we don't have we have not had to deal with rain situations
obviously, we're that would be a problem but we're rain or shine okay that's actually pretty good to hear but even rain or shine and that still continues tell the vendors that yes and like I say we fortunately we haven't had a problem
27:20 Nausheen: do you have anything else that you would like to share with our listeners like any other upcoming events or just any other news that you want to share
27:30 Dave: well I think as far as that we go for the folks in Peachtree Corners if anybody's listening there besides the festival and the parade and the parade this year will be after Thanksgiving we've had it the week before Thanksgiving we just decided this morning we're gonna go with the first Saturday in December so December first we were having trouble getting school groups because here the schools get out the whole week of Thanksgiving and so people were gone on both weekends so we're gonna move into the fir into December with our parade next year I think once the town center gets online we will probably sponsor some more concerts through the year okay to look forward to right now we're just trying to get June 8th 9th and 10th
28:16 Nausheen: and if you want to see cows ziplining make sure to be there
28:17 Dave: chick-fil-a stores aren't open on Sunday the cows do work on Sundays
28:27 Nausheen: that’s entertaining they're ziplining they're fine
28:28 Dave: yeah, they'll dance with you too so come in front of stage so you can dance with them as well
28:31 Nausheen: and do you have any resources you can share with our members or our listeners out there any
28:43 Dave: we belong to the southeast festival Association and we belong probably the thing I get the most benefit out of is festivals.net which is a website for festivals in general and we get a lot of our vendors and I can tell that they've found us through festivals.net I'd even know that exist said I think I think it's only like you know maybe a hundred dollars a year or something to join that so if you're a festival person that it's well worth the money I think
29:10 Nausheen: okay I'll definitely add that for all listeners for all our listeners that are listening up there on our resources page as well aside from that I just wanted to say it has been an absolute pleasure working with you and also just having this opportunity to interview you are I'm sure you're very busy but I just wanted to let you know it has been an honor for me for me to even have that chance and to learn from how you handle this and what you do in your retirement - I want to be able to do that so there's definitely that I know
29:44 Dave: I tell people you know if these people that say I don't want to retire because I'll be bored they're just not trying hard enough
29:51 Nausheen: I love that I'm gonna quote that um thank you so much for joining our podcast and thank you all listeners too
30:01 Nausheen: although the event industry includes a lot of stressful work and late meetings or late events just remember that every event you helped to bring to life creates memories of a lifetime for many people out there. Did you love this episode of Plantastic Events, we’d love for you to subscribe rate and leave a review on iTunes each week we'll give a shout out to the reviewer of the week also don't forget we have resources available at stoogeapp.com. thank you for listening and I hope you'll join us next time. Goodbye
30:39 Nausheen: produced by stooge app music by Justin Mahar