We continue our periodic series on upcoming festivals by directing you to the forty-fourth annual Towsontown Square north of Baltimore city. The festival began as an arts festival, but has branched into opportunities for local businesses, community associations, and charities to reach some 250,000 people who pass through the festival over the weekend., which runs this Saturday and Sunday (April 30-May 1) on the
We had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Nancy Hafford, who as been the organizer of the festival for a number of years, and we asked her about the ways the festival staff have sought to grow the attendance and participation. She stressed the many ways people can get involved not only in the festival, but with events and philanthropic projects throughout the year. Not surprisingly, social media has played an important role in spreading the word. Nevertheless, they faced some unexpected challenges.
“A little over a year ago, we got together with a social-media group to go into the ‘Big Three’ all at once: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. But with a small office of just two full-time staff members, we realized that we could not meaningfully handle all three at once. We needed to simplify.
“We made a Facebook page, for example, which was a mistake because , where you can add other groups and friends easier. We also hired interns from Towson University who have been able to spice up our site. When you are working ten or eleven-hour days in the run-up to the event, it’s not easy at the end of the day to start posting materials to your site, so the interns have really helped us enrich the content and engage our audiences.”
is a big part of the festival, with three bands playing on each of the two days. Similar concerts on the square will continue through the summer, and Twitter will be the go-to medium to spread the word on that ongoing festivity. Nancy especially likes the ability to update attendees instantly while there or on their way, thanks to the growing presence of smartphones.
“We really want to expand our use of Twitter starting in May, when we have concerts every Friday night. These concerts are outside and weather-dependent, and we can use Twitter both to advertise and to give updates, as well as let people know if – God forbid – we have to cancel a concert.”
Of course, almost all publicity is good publicity for a community festival, and Nancy stressed the importance of using any medium possible. ‘Traditional’ media continues to play an important role, as the festival has developed “great relationships” with local and regional media. Vendors and organizations at the festival are well aware of the opportunity such publicity for the festival has on their own experience and fund-raising opportunities. “Now that we get over 250,000 to the festival, our vendors know that the media will report on the event and they will be in front of both those attending and those who see and hear about the festival through traditional media.”
The message for the festival staff, indeed their mandate from the, is “to bring people from the outside into our community, so they can see the shops, restaurants, and people of Towson.” Nancy also stressed the fact that Towson is the only community in the region north of Baltimore City with a chamber of commerce. Other communities in Timonium, Parkville, and Hunt Valley work through the Towson chamber. “Most of these small businesses work through the relationships they have with other local businesses and the regional market. Outreach at events like ours is pivotal.”
But the festival is also a flagship event for residents in the region to enjoy a series of concerts and festivals through the summer, and it serves as a reminder of thein the same space in the fall and early winter. “We also have done ‘Stop-and-Drops’ for the Maryland State Army National Guard as soldiers are being called overseas. They are our family, they are from our community. And we had 250 volunteers to help give them breakfasts as they prepared for their shipping out. We have events like that for volunteers. We have community clean ups and opportunities to work with seniors as well. We have plenty of projects for people who want to volunteer, and many of our volunteers are not even from the Towson area proper!”
The festival this weekend will have great food, cold beer and soft drinks, music and dancing, carnival games, and loads of information about local businesses and community organizations. We encourage anyone who can to join in the fun, and tell Nancy that MKCREATIVE sent you!