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Flow and interaction combine to create successful festival

Project Briefs | December 1, 2008 | By:

Flow and interaction form the ideal combination at the 2009 Palm Springs Food and Wine Festival.

While planning the 2009 Palm Springs Food and Wine Festival, owner Jeff Hocker has been relying on lessons from last year’s event and expert estimations to determine the best placement for multiple tents.

The 2008 inaugural event included two 40-by-60-foot tents serving as tasting pavilions, a 20-by-30-foot tent for ancillary purposes (bottled water and a spread of fruit, cheese, crackers and nuts), a 20-by-20-foot tent for a cigar lounge, and a 30-by-30-foot enclosed nightclub tent dubbed the Bubble Lounge. He also made sure there were small tents or canopies in strategic locations.

“You have to make sure your volunteers and employees are covered,” Hocker says. “You can’t have them sitting in the direct sun all day.”

At the 2008 event, which was held in a parking lot converted into a festival garden, Hocker also had to make room for a refrigerated truck where chefs could keep and prepare food without interfering with how guests were able to move between tents.

“Flow is really important,” Hocker says. “You have to make sure that there’s enough room for people to walk between the tents. And if you have cooking, you have to allocate walkways between all of the tents for prep areas and for washing pots and pans.”

Flow is only one consideration of placement. “Last year, we spent about a month trying to figure out how [participants] would interact with one another,” Hocker says. “We wanted to make sure that food and wine were right next to each other, because we wanted to pair the wine with the food.”

Hocker says the key players involved with last year’s show appreciated being placed in a central location. “One of the things [restaurants and wineries] told me was that they really enjoyed being where the action was, where the chefs were doing the demos, because that’s where people were,” he says.

The festival requires more flexibility in planning than does an event with an established number of guests. “You have to have contingency plans for both budget and to enlarge tents. If you sell more tickets, you have to allocate more space,” Hocker says. And that’s a good problem to have.

Janice Kleinschmidt is a freelance writer based in Palm Springs, Calif.

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