You’re in the SCA. You’ve been attending events. And you’re having a great time. But now you’re wondering – how does all of this come together? Would I be able to help out? This article will give you some insight into how events are organized. It might also show you where you can use your own skills and talents to volunteer. Many hands make light work! Treat this as a primer about events that can later be supplemented by materials from your local area.
What kinds of events do groups hold?
There are many different kinds of events that a group can organize. Some will be local events that the group will put on for itself. Some will be official events, and the hosting group will invite people from outside the local area. Kingdoms use different names to describe them, but here are some basic concepts:
- Local: The local group is responsible for all aspects of running the event.
- Regional: The groups in an area may gather together to host an event jointly.
- Kingdom: The Kingdom my designate certain events as ‘Kingdom’ events where the Kingdom helps makes decisions about the event and may share financial responsibility. Typical events include Crown Tourney and Coronation, but there may be others.
- Inter-Kingdom: Events are planned with more than one Kingdom making decisions.
- Known World: These are special events where the Society Seneschal has deemed the event to encompass the whole of the SCA.
- Court: Court held by the Crown or their designates where awards can be granted and other official Kingdom business can take place. These events must be advertised publicly.
- Non-court: Events that are not recognized for planning purposes for the entire Kingdom. They adhere to SCA policies but official Kingdom business can not take place at them.
How do groups decide to hold an event?
First, a group will determine if there is enough interest to hold an event. This is a very important first step! Some events are traditions that are held every year. Some events may be brand new ideas. Either way, the event will need to have popular support from the group in order to find enough volunteers to help make things happen. Usually people will brainstorm for ideas and then share with each other to get the group excited.
Then, depending on the group’s governing procedures and customs, a volunteer will offer to run the event for the group as the event steward, usually in the form of an event bid. A group may place a deadline on when bids can be submitted. The event bid is the official request to hold the event. The more information provided to the people deciding on awarding the bid, the more confident they will be that the submitter can run the event. If there are multiple bids to choose from, it may be decided based on supporting information and budget. The final bid will also turn into a good planning document and a way to keep current with staff and their contact information.
Basic information on an event bid may include:
- Name of branch/modern location
- Event name
- Steward contact information
- Suggested event staff
- Site Information
- Site rules
- Theme or time period
- Preference for site tokens
- Possibility of merchants setting up
- Event schedule
- Feast plan
- Event budget
The event budget can be a very important part of an event bid. Basic information about an event budget may include:
- Break Even (number of people paying site/feast needed to make up for all expenses on the event/feast)
- Anticipated Attendance (Should be comfortably higher than break even)
- Registration fee
- Feast fee
- Equipment rental
- Fees & honoraria
- Expenses continued:
- General supplies
- Children’s activities
- Site charges
- Other expense
How are event bids awarded?
The group’s customs and governing documents will decide how the winning event bid is chosen. For a local group, the Seneschal and Exchequer will be involved and there may be a group Curia or Financial Committee that must be consulted. Landed Nobles will usually have input for their Baronies and their sponsored groups. If it is an event that involves more than one group, then the Kingdom is usually involved. The Crown (King and Queen) and the Coronet/Tanist (Prince and Princess), Kingdom Seneschal, and Kingdom Curia may be part of the decision. If the event is specific for an activity then the corresponding Kingdom officer may be consulted.
What plans are made after an event bid is chosen?
Now that a group has the go-ahead for an event, all of the plans that are in the bid need to be put into action and, anything not already detailed needs to be fleshed out. Most importantly, this all starts as early as possible. The more that gets done in advance, the more smoothly the event runs. A group will start by confirming the date and location followed by finalizing the event staff.
An event should generally not be closer than 150 to 200 miles to another event on the same weekend. By acting quickly to register an event with the Kingdom event calendar it is easier to get the dates wanted. Even a year in advance can be a good idea. There may also be Kingdom laws that govern when an event may be held. Further, the staff may also have to submit required paperwork such as a ‘Calendar Date Request’ form or an ‘Event Steward/Autocrat Warrant’ form depending on the Kingdom. It is also wise to check the modern calendar for holidays or local activities that could affect travel and site or hotel availability.
What makes a good event site?
Groups have many things to consider when deciding to hold an event at a particular location. They need to know what activities they are hoping to hold to see if the site can accommodate everything they want to do.
- Adequate Space: Consider the event activities and if there is space enough to hold all of them with the people anticipated attending the event. Crowded events are not as much fun. Note if there is handicap access.
- Parking: There should be adequate parking available to handle expected attendance. Any limitations should be published in advance.
- Kitchens: Confirm whether adequate kitchen facilities (stove, oven, refrigerator, freezer, sink, running water) are available, or if food must be cooked elsewhere and brought in. Check if there is potable water.
- Sanitary facilities: Determine whether there are enough facilities on site based on expected attendance. If not, rent enough porta potties to make up the difference. Keep them clean and well stocked with toilet paper, soap, illumination, etc.
- Marshal activities: Make sure that an adequate list field is available, and that fighting/archery/rapier/equestrian/etc. is allowed at the site.
- Arts and sciences activities: Make sure space is available for this sort of activity. Shelter from the weather and air conditioning are good, especially for static arts. If classes are planned, then there need to be adequate rooms available.
- Merchants: If the site allows it and has room to spare, then the group will decide whether they want to permit merchants to set up tables (booths, pavilions, etc.) and sell their wares. Depending on the site, merchants may need to be charged for their space and they may be required to charge taxes. Keep in mind that this is generally based on state law and cannot just be ignored by a local group.
- Alcohol: If alcohol consumption is allowed on site, be aware that some sites will require uniformed police officers or bonded security guards.
Once the group has decided on a location, they will want to secure and prepare the site as soon as possible. This can easily be done well before the event date. They need to sign a contract with the site owner, reserving the site for the desired dates and fixing a price for the use of the site. Inspect the site with the site owner.
If necessary, repair, clean up, or otherwise upgrade the site to make it suitable for the event. The host group may need to mow, remove debris, disinfect the kitchen, or perform other tasks. It is a good idea just prior to the event to inspect the site again with the site owner. The group will not want to be held responsible for any pre-existing conditions or damages. Likewise, inspect the site with the owner after the event and make arrangements to repair or clean up if the group hasn’t already done so.
In some cases, the site owner may require the group to have proof of insurance. Insurance guidelines are published in the Society Seneschal’s Handbook. The group can give a copy of the current insurance letter from the SCA to any site owner. If the site requires its name to be listed on the insurance certificate, then the corporate office must be contacted well in advance for instructions. The group will also need to request special insurance if any equestrian activities are held.
Who makes up the event staff?
A number of people are involved in making an event happen. Larger events usually take more people, but the work of the event can be divided up in any number of ways. How these volunteers are chosen depends on how the group works. Sometimes the event steward will appoint the different volunteers. They may also be chosen by the group’s officers or by some other means the group decides.
Here are some common event staff positions:
- Event steward (Autocrat): A Deputy Seneschal appointed to run the event. As a deputy, the steward has the ability to make commitments (such as rentals) for the event. The steward will work to find volunteers for the other staff events and make plans for the event.
- Feast steward (Feastocrat): The main cook for the feast. The feast steward works to have cooking assistants, dishwashers, and servers.
- Head Server: The main server that organizes the food going to the tables.
- Registration Coordinator: In charge of the registration table (also called gate or troll).
- Marshal in Charge: Supervises any combat activities. There may be different marshals in charge for each combat sport (chivalric, rapier, archery, etc.).
- List Coordinator: Manages the order of combat for a marshal activity.
- Prize Coordinator: Collects donations for prizes of different activities.
- Luncheon Steward: Head cook for the mid-day meal served.
- Web Minister: Maintains the event website with current information.
- Setup coordinator: Gathers volunteers and materials to set up the event before it opens to the public. May include decorations and information for guests like maps and class listings.
- Cleanup coordinator: Gathers volunteers to clean up the site and return materials after the event is closed to the public.
- Merchant coordinator: Main point of contact for merchants; assigns where they set up their booths.
- Children’s Activities Coordinator: Sets up activities focused on the youth depending on different age ranges and local expectations.
- Chirurgeon: responsible for any first aid services provided.
- Royal/Nobility Liaison: Main point of contact for any visiting Royalty and Nobility
- Herald-in-Charge: Tasked with finding heralds to make announcements, help with tourneys, work Court, set up consultation tables, and other activities.
- Scribe (Signet): May set up a table for scribal arts or may finish award scrolls needed for the event.
- Arts and Sciences Coordinator: May oversee competitions, displays, or class scheduling.
- Crash-space Coordinator: Tasked with finding local volunteers who have space in their homes to offer to travelers who need a place to stay overnight.
- Newcomer Coordinator: Act as point of contact for newer members to help make sure they have clothing to wear for the event and can show them around different activities or introduce them to people.
Who else might be involved in the event? :
Sometimes there are people who are not actually event staff but they are part of the process for the event. It is important that the event steward know who they are and how to contact them in case there are questions. These people may be decision makers or they may need to receive reports after the event.
Some of the other people may include:
- Kingdom Seneschal
- Kingdom Waiver Deputy
- Kingdom Calendar Deputy
- Kingdom Exchequer
- Kingdom Chronicler
- Kingdom Herald
- Regional Seneschal
- Regional Exchequer
- Local Seneschal
- Local Exchequer
- Local Branch Webminister
- Local Branch Quartermaster
- Media Liaison
- Kingdom Non-Member Surcharge Deputy
How are events advertised?
There are many ways that a group can promote the event that they are holding. Word of mouth is usually the most successful way to get people excited about coming to the event but the group still needs to make detailed information about the event available.
Different advertising options:
- Kingdom Newsletter: These newsletters usually have strict deadlines and publishing guidelines and involve a cost. Confirm early for planning purposes. Most groups advertise their events in the Kingdom Newsletter. Events with a Kingdom Court require printing in the Newsletter. Most groups start advertising their events the month prior to the event and the month the event occurs.
- Kingdom Online Calendar: People often check the Kingdom’s calendar for upcoming events when they are planning their schedules. Getting an event listed early can help increase attendance.
- Local Newsletter: Contact local chroniclers and ask them to publish the ad. This is a free way to get more publicity.
- Webpage: Try and keep published information as current as possible so that people can plan accordingly for your event.
- Electronic Mailing Lists: Send emails to lists that would have an interest in the event. This is a wonderful way to promote interest in the event or to make last minute announcements concerning changes to it. This can included changed feast menu, road construction announcements, and weather updates. (...and sometimes the site just burns down…)
- Fliers: Print and distribute fliers at other group’s events or in conjunction with demos. The group may wish to give some coupons reducing or waiving the site cost for newcomers to encourage them to attend.
People are very eager for information and the sooner something is published, the more likely you are to have good attendance. The Event Steward is in charge of constructing the advertisements but may also delegate.
Information typically included in an event advertisement:
- Event name
- Event days and times
- Local Group Name sponsoring event
- Site name, address, map
- Event steward name and contact information
- How to make checks payable
- Requirements for minors to attend
- If site allows for alcohol
- Feast information
- Prepayment and reservation instructions
What are some best practices to running an event?
These are some ideas that I always try to implement when running an event. Of course, the group may have other ways of getting things done.
- Creating a planning calendar: I like working with a timeline that helps me get different tasks done ahead of the event and help make things fun and on time the day of the event. I try calendar my list of things to do four or five months before the event all the way to the month following the event.
- Contact staff regularly: I find it very important to stay in constant communication with my staff. Don’t expect them to contact the event steward, and if they don’t need help it at least reassures them that you are available. Remind them to be asking for volunteers so that they are also completely staffed for any shifts they need to fill. They may also need to send advertisements out to different email lists.
- Hold staff meetings: At least four weeks and two weeks before the event I plan meetings with my staff and officers. It is important to see them face-to-face to take care of any last minute concerns or issues.
- Keep to your schedule: Begin and end activities as close to the published time as possible (people may travel long distances expecting to participate in activities at the published times).
- Publish site rules: Put into print the rules that people will need to follow at a site. The location may have particular rules that people would not know otherwise.
- Accept prepayments: If the event accepts prepayments, then it can better predict how many people to expect for the event. It is especially useful for people cooking if meal tickets are sold ahead of time so that they do not over cook. If the event does accept check payments, make sure to deposit them as quickly as possible. The group may also consider using the SCA credit card prepayment system.
- Plan for Nobility and Royalty: Determine whether Nobility or Royalty is expected to attend the event and hold Court. If so, make sure to plan time and space for Court. The group may want to waive their site and/or feast fees; if so, build this into the budget. Send invitations: It is a personal touch that may encourage people to come to the event. Send them early. The group may want to invite champions, the Crown and Coronet, or the landed nobles.
- Make event tokens and gifts early: Make site tokens, staff thank you gifts, competition prizes, etc., as early as possible rather than the week before the event. This is something that is usually left to the end but is often labor intensive and will add unnecessarily to your last-minute stress.
- Registration: Someone must be in charge, and there must be enough volunteers to keep it manned while open. Provide a place for volunteers to sit, a table, and some shade if outdoors. The person running registration, or the local exchequer, should make sure the correct forms are available, but it's a good idea to confirm that is being taken care of before the day the event starts.
- Consider Overnight Accommodations: Publicize local reputable hotels in case people need a place to stay while traveling or if they need an alternative to camping. You can contact a hotel beforehand and see if they will offer a discounted block of rooms for the event. Having a crash-space coordinator is a long-standing SCA tradition and can help make it easier for people to attend events as well.
- Directional Signs: People get lost. If signs are set up on the road pointing them to the event or parking it will help people get around. Printed maps of the site and more posted signs help people know where to go once they have registered.
- Site set-up and clean-up: Plan to have time before the event opens and after the event closes to take care of the entire event set up and cleaning. This is much easier to do when it is just the event staff on location. If your group has a storage facility or is planning to bring a lot of equipment, make sure you allow time for loading and unloading. You may want to have a separate person in charge of that activity.
- Marshal Activities: Make arrangements to have people to works these activities. Marshals, list coordinators, and heralds may all be needed. Get volunteers before the event happens.
- Arts and sciences competitions: If there is a judged competition, arrange for judges in advance so that they plan to attend the event and are there when you need them.
- Raffles, auctions, and other fund raisers: Occasionally someone will want to hold a raffle or some such activity. If so, make sure that someone is in charge of it, and that both room and time for it is planned into the event. Make sure everyone understands you are asking for donations and selling the tickets. Selling raffle tickets is often not allowed by state law. Giving them away and accepting donations usually is allowed.
- Security: If the site is open to the public, then the group may want to have a volunteer to patrol the parking and camping areas or parts of the building.
- Publish lost and found items: People will forget something at the event or misplace it. Make sure all unclaimed items found at the event are gathered and send out an email or list them on the webpage so people can claim them.
- Publicly thank your staff: There are many people who work on an event and all deserve some amount of gratitude. The steward and the people in charge of an activity should make a list of everyone who helped and then publish the list on the local email list and publish it in the local newsletter. It is a small thing but worthwhile.
What kind of paperwork is involved?
You may have already had a good idea before starting this article that there would be some paperwork involved in running an event. It is completely dependent on how the Kingdom is organized on what a group needs to complete to keep the event in good order. Your Seneschal will be a good resource to learn more about what is involved.
To start – events will be governed by rules established by the different groups overseeing the event. Where you live will determine how your event is run. You can learn a lot about your events by reading these different rules or learning the customs for your group.
Regardless of what paperwork may be required, you should work with your staff to get all event reports submitted prior to deadlines. Some typical reports and paperwork due after an event include, but are not limited to:
- Seneschal’s event report
- Event steward’s event report
- Exchequer’s event report
- Participation waivers
- Profit sharing checks
- Non-member surcharge check
- Event receipts
- Court report of awards
- Marshal activities event report
- Children’s activities event report
- Chirurgeon’s event report
Remember that some of these require multiple signatures or information from another person, so don't wait until the last minute to get them filled out. The group should be aware of the responsibilities of the staff. A good idea is to make copies of paperwork to keep in the group’s files before sending to the right contact.
What makes a good event?
Good food, friends, and entertainment. People enjoying themselves and talking about coming back to do it all over again. Activities that appeal to many different people with diverse interests. Well-organized with lots of information published ahead of time. And, if you choose to help out, remember to have a great time yourself. Happy moods are contagious and we will all have more fun.