Organizing an event in your park
Getting ready to host an event in your park? This step-by-step guide will make sure you don’t miss a step.
Park events bring our communities to life. Not only do they build a great neighbourhood atmosphere and bring people together outdoors, park events also help people become more engaged and invested in their city parks.
This guide will help you think through the steps necessary to host an event in the park and get you inspired by the possibilities.
Decide on the event, the timing, theme and objectives
Will your event be a spring clean up? A pumpkin parade? A movie night? In most cases, the event choice will impact the timing. Start with the event idea and other important decisions around equipment and promotion needs will likely follow.
Set initial targets for the number of people you'd like to attract and the types of people you think could be attracted to your event. If you’re targeting seniors, you might approach promotion very differently from marketing an event to youth.
Once you’ve determined the event, date, and theme of your event, connect with your parks department and City Councillor to let them know what you’re planning early on so they can become involved. A head's up at least 8 weeks in advance is advised.
Plan and divide responsibilities
You’ll want to form a small working group for your event. Together, your working group can determine the key event milestones, work plan and division of responsibilities. You might consider dividing the group up into main areas of responsibility such as marketing, permits, logistics, volunteer coordination, clean up, etc.
Consider how you can make your working group diverse so that it reflects multiple community interests. For larger events, you could invite local artists, members of a local environmental organization, municipal police and local ethnic community groups to join your committee.Other good ideas include enlisting local business groups, the Chamber of Commerce, and local businesses as they have a different perspective that may bring a new dimension to your event. For smaller events, consider inviting your neighbours, local dog walkers, parents, youth, seniors and people who have the kind of skills you'll need to make your event a success.
You can encourage more people to get involved in the group by:
- Advertising working group meetings to the local community through community centres and via social media
- Ensuring that working group meetings are scheduled at a convenient time and location for everyone to participate
- Putting together a list of jobs that can be handed over to community members who cannot attend working group meetings
After each meeting, follow up with the community members with a status update outlining the notes from the meeting and any assigned tasks to follow up on. Encourage working group members to get their neighbours and friends involved as planning or day-of volunteers.
Be sure to thank volunteers as they are giving their time to make the park event a great success.
Permits and insurance
When you’re planning any event in a park you need to ensure that you have the appropriate park permits and insurance. Municipalities’ rules around permitting vary. In some municipalities, if you’re bringing more than 25 people together, chances are you’ll need some kind of permit and insurance.
Consult with your local municipality to determine what permits and insurance you need and what is and is not permitted in your park. Food and live amplified music often require more complex permitting.
Park permits can take 6 weeks to 4 months to secure, so be sure to plan ahead.
Create the budget
There are many potential costs associated with running an event. Consider the following when building your budget:
- Permits and insurance
- Printing promotional materials
- Equipment for the day (AV, tent, table and chairs, etc.)
- Sound equipment
- Food for volunteers
When you’re creating your budget, be realistic and try not to underestimate your costs as there will likely be unexpected expenses.
Define how you’ll promote the event
When creating a promotional plan for your event, consider these questions:
- Who do you want to reach? Think about who those people are and where they’re most likely to see your promotional materials
- How much money can you spend on printing and/or design?
- Do you want to try and attract local newspapers or radio stations?
- How can you make the most of digital media like websites and social networks?
- What event listings in local newspapers and online platforms could you use to get your event promoted widely?
Make sure you get your publicity out well ahead of time, as some publications have long lead times and if you wait too late, you’ll likely be out of luck.
Consider the following channels when promoting your event;
- Local schools
- High density apartment buildings or condominium towers
- Local cafés and businesses
- Community centres
- Community Facebook pages and Listserves
Plan the event in detail
Make sure you think through all aspects of the event from beginning to end. Consider the following:
- How will equipment and volunteers get to the park?
- What time will you set everything up?
- Is there parking available? Do you need to provide attendees with parking or transit information?
- Do you need wayfinding signage in the park?
- When people arrive, where should they go?
- Are there announcements at any time during the event? If so, when?
- What is your rain/snow plan?
- What is your plan for cleaning up after the event is finished?
- Do you have first aid on site? What is the plan in case someone is hurt or injured?
- What is your plan to capture event participants email addresses so you can stay in touch after the event is over?
Follow up and thank volunteers
Park events are a lot of work and many hands make the difference between fun and drudgery. Getting together builds cohesion. Choose a restaurant, a community centre, or someone’s house for a little party right afterwards to thank volunteers and members of the organizing committee. Acknowledging and celebrating volunteers’ help will ensure that they sign on again in coming years. And besides, everyone needs to decompress—it’s time to trade stories about everything that happened!
This resource was developed with support from