Planning a festival during a pandemic brings with it some unique challenges. Although the Surya Yoga Festival was designed to be straight forward and simple to plan, the pandemic added a new level of complication.
The festival took place on the beautiful Kemptville Campus on September 18, 2021 after a Covid delay. The festival, designed around the sun, was meant to take place during the summer solstice. But instead was pushed to the fall to ensure that we would be able to go live as planned.
I love everything about planning a festival. I am not sure what it is about it but I have always loved the large scale, fast-paced excitement of it. A yoga festival, you could argue, is the complete opposite of that. It is slow-paced, quiet, relaxed and zen.
Covid provided many challenges in planning this festival;
- planning for the unknown
- delays in being able to book a venue
- limited attendees allowed
- changes in restrictions only weeks before the event
- Covid protocols to be followed
Planning for the unknown
As restrictions continued to change we found ourselves in a state of constantly having to readjust our plans and vision for the event. The most difficult part was knowing that in order for the festival be as financially successful as we hoped, we knew we needed hundreds of attendees. Having to scale that back to a maximum of 100 people created budget restrictions around other areas of the festival.
Delays in being able to book a venue
Because everyone was in a constant state of “on hold” we were delayed in being able to secure the venue. Although the venue assured us we would be able to proceed, the concern of a last minute venue change hung over our heads. We needed that signed contract in hand so we could be assured we had the venue secured.
Limited attendees allowed
Our province remained at a steady 100 people outdoors status for an extended period of time so we kept our planning around that number. In order to ensure the most number of yogis able to benefit from the festival we held off on allowing vendors to join the event. We had many enquiries but had to continue to hold them off until only 2 weeks before the event when restrictions lifted. Although the yogi market was still a success, we certainly would have preferred to have had many more vendors in attendance.
Changes in restrictions only weeks before the event
Event planners are strong A-type personalities. We like to plan, be organized, think through the strategy. When a pandemic causes constant changes to plans it adds a level of stress we don’t generally experience. We are of course used to plans changing but these changes were big impact changes. In this case we had planned for 100 people and had limited our programming around that number. But only weeks before, the province loosened restrictions and although we wanted to be able to maximize that opportunity, it was too late. We were into the final details of the event. Adding new components, expanding the marketing and hosting hundreds more attendees was just not in the plan.
Covid protocols to be followed
Making sure our attendees remained safe and healthy was at the top of our list of concerns. Implementing protocols that we’ve never had to manage before was difficult. Working with the local Health Unit for a festival is typical and usually quite straight forward. In this case we were working with them to ensure that compliance with constantly changing, and not necessarily consistent, protocols were followed.
For the most part, our attendees were understanding about the additional check ins that were required. But for the few who were not happy about having to complete Covid forms, it did add a layer of stress for our volunteers.
Despite the added details to manage, the festival was a huge success. We were able to offer 21 classes to over 100 attendees. The outdoor space we selected was perfect – it provided us with enough space to keep everyone comfortably distanced while providing shaded areas from the warm fall sun.
It was wonderful to be able to be at a live event; safely located outdoors after a very long period of no live events. It most certainly filled the souls of not only our attendees but our planning team too.