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Yesterday I called a parks and recreation staffer to discuss “Boo by the Woods; The Trail of Haunted Tales”, a fun family-oriented party at our local library.

The event celebrates the holiday by providing active storytelling along a park trail and more: “inside the library, you will find many activities! Take your photo with visitors from a galaxy far, far away, make a spooky craft, grab a balloon animal/monster, or learn a little bit about our creepy crawly snake friends with Ohio State University!

For our little ones who aren’t quite ready to take on the trail but still want to hear a story, join us for Picture Books… That Go Bump in the Night! This spooky (but not too spooky) story time and sing-a-long will take place in the Story Time Room…Outside the library you will find pumpkin decorating, the Ghostbuster’s car and the Ghostbuster’s themselves, a DJ, and the entrance to the trail.”

What a perfect event for a face painter!  (And you know, my favorite holiday is Halloween…duhhhh)  But lo and behold, they already had a face painter in the past and although she was “terrific and very fast, the line was enormous.”  They are considering hiring a second artist, but as with all public events, budgets are tight and they might forgo the face painting altogether.

“Whaaaaat,” I said with shock and and amazement…to myself!  Deny kids the opportunity to get a mask painted on for the Halloween activities, to match their costumes and then get their photo snapped and feel like mini-celebrities all evening? Just because it is TOO POPULAR?

There is something wrong with this picture!

So we worked on a couple of strategies to make this less of a Halloween nightmare and more of a festival of fun, with the inclusion of the very popular face painting.  Feel free to sub in what activity works for your event:  balloon twisting, caricatures, henna, tie-dying your own t-shirts, etc.

Strategies to avoid “a big, long line” for a party activity: 

  1. Have some of the work done before the party, and make sure the set up by the artist is complete before the party starts. I make sure that the birthday family is done before the first guest walks in and then the first guest becomes the first to be served.  Last guest to arrive gets done last, and usually has to wait the longest…but they arrived late, so it works. Balloons can be twisted before the party starts so there is a pile of balloon sculptures to choose from as the guests walk in.
  2. Number the guests in the order of arrival, so they do not have to stand in line. Then the artist can post a whiteboard or a chalkboard of what number they are on, and guests can participate in other fun activities until it is their turn. Sort of like a bakery…and they get a super sweet reward at the end! When the numbers are called out, the lucky “winner” feels like they just won a chance to “come on down” for the show.
  3. Hire extra artists. Although this is not a low budget option, it will alleviate the impatience of and the missed opportunities by standing in line for a long time. Some event hosts want to be able to provide services to every guest, and with enough artists for each activity, this insures that everyone gets a turn.
  4. Start an artist earlier or have them stay later. Part of the frustration for children is that they stood in line, and then the event was over before they got their face paint, their tattoo, their balloon, their caricature, etc. Most entertainers have an hourly rate of how FAST they work and what type of designs they can do in 2, 3 or 5 minutes.  Use this as a gauge for how many hours of service you need.
  5. Lastly, if you charge for the service that you are offering you will cut down on the numbers of guests that will wait in line for that service. However, you need to adjust the price point based on what people will pay, and the admission cost for the event. In Westfield NJ, forexample, the kids so love to be painted, that parents will stand in line at a street festival for an hour AND pay $10-$12 a person for a well-crafted full face design. In another town where full face designs are not so popular, people might be reluctant to pay more than $8 for a face paint… especially if they have more than one child in the family. Obviously for a birthday party or private event, this is not an option, so go back to Strategies 1-4.

Bottom line: Work with your entertainer or their agent and let them know your most important goals:

  • to provide a sampling of services, as opposed to “covering” the whole event or the whole guest list with your hired activity?
  • to reduce waiting time, or avoid a line altogether?
  • to generate revenue to support your event?

A professional entertainer will work with you to make sure that the needs of the event and the guests are met, if the communication channels are open and each party is allowed to share their expertise.

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