VACAVILLE — When businesswoman Betty Lucke got involved in planning special community events in downtown Vacaville, she found there was precious little in the way of books to guide her in the dos and don’ts of creating an event 0n a shoestring budget.
“There was no resource that told me everything that I needed to know,” Lucke said.
While there were books and publications that dealt with events and festivals put on by professionals, “they left out events that were volunteer-based,” Lucke said. Any books that covered that were long out of print and hard to find.
Help from the Downtown Vacaville Business Association, downtown merchants and a small legion of friends combined with her love for fantasy literature – especially J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” – inspired her to create a community festival celebrating the genre.
The result was the Medieval Fantasy Festival, which had a successful seven-year-run in downtown Vacaville that ended last year when the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District dropped it in favor of putting on a country music festival.
Her just-published book, “A Festival Planning Guide: Creating Community Events with Big Hearts & Small Profits,” is the result of all the lessons Lucke learned while creating, organizing and running the Medieval Fantasy Festival, which she now wants to pass on to others who want to create family-friendly community events.
“I wrote ‘A Festival Planning Guide’ because it wasn’t there when I needed it,” Lucke said.
Lucke previously was a pastor and an elementary school teacher before she started running a small business called the Otter Nature Store in downtown Vacaville. She also had served as the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District’s first president.
She embarked on writing “Festival Planning Guide” in 2009 to empower others with the knowledge necessary to build successful festivals and community events, with a step-by-step blueprint for creating an event with little money. It runs from coming up with a viable vision for events and hunting down sponsors, to working with vendors to negotiating the frustrating minefield of state and local bureaucratic regulations.
The book became available Wednesday from Spearmont Books, a publishing company that Lucke formed. It is now available through Amazon.com and may soon be offered by Barnes & Noble, Lucke said.
When it comes to organizing community events, Lucke said the biggest challenge “was the sheer enormity of it all, all the things that had to be in place at the same time.”
“Finding volunteers was also a big challenge. But we did find wonderful volunteers, some of whom stayed with us throughout the festival’s life,” Lucke said.
There were first-year Medieval Festival surprises such as Vacaville’s requirement that vendors had to carry $1 million in liability insurance, which a lot of the smaller vendors found hard to afford. In response, the organizers waived vendor fees so the vendors could put that money toward the insurance.
“When planning, you need to go to the city ahead of time to find out what you have to do,” Lucke said.
Lucke’s best advice is that event and festival planning should be looked at as a team sport, “because you can’t do it all by yourself and on the day of the event, you can’t be everywhere at once.”
“It makes things run more smoothly when you bring in a lot of people,” Lucke said.
Lucke said she hopes the guide will help someone push their own dream for a community event or festival past all the obstacles from just being an idea to being a successful event.
“I want this to be a help to people who are visualizing and planning community events, which will help their own community grow,” Lucke said of what she wants the book to accomplish.
For more information, go to festivalplanningguide.com.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.