Playing with festival numbers? by Gary Cole


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Since I have done a number of successful festivals where we charge by the face I am often asked how do I decide how many painters to send. Well it just isn't that easy to give you an answer. I would ask you how many fire fighters do you send to fight the forest fire? You need to determine everything from how big the fire is to how is the wind and what are your resources. In the end you might be better off throwing a dart at the numbered dart board. In this FAQ I am going to give you a few key factors to help you as you load up with your resources.

At a festival if you have too many painters then you will spend a lot of time watching your fellow painters work. If you have too few then the queue gets really long and you start to lose money because people do not wish to wait in line that long. Ideally you want the wait in line to be between ten and thirty minutes. If you get much longer in the wait then you should bring on additional face painters or increase your price.

The count on how many face painters to bring really should be based on a great number of key factors. It is kind of like the forest fire example given earlier. Here are a number of factors you need to consider...

1) Realistically determine how many faces per hour you can actually paint. If you can paint fifteen faces per hour and you start at 10am and paint until 10pm and take a thirty minute lunch then you can paint about 172 faces. (11.5 hours x 15). If you have some painters that can paint faster or slower then adjust your average.

2) Determine how many faces you might be asked to paint. Some festivals are more geared toward adults and others for children. If it is an ongoing zoo event then you know you will have plenty of families. On the other hand if it is Marti-Gras then there will be many more adults. You simply are going to have to make your best guess on what the child per adult ratio is going to be. You can ask the festival organizers as they might give you a better guess. On average I count one third as children that are your target group. Also ask what the attendance is going to be. Organizers will stretch the count. Be very aware of this.

This is where the math comes in. If one third of the attendees are children you might paint five percent of all children that attend. With this ratio, you need to have a face painter for every 10,000 people. This is how I figure it... 10,000 divided by three. That gives you potentially 3,333 children. If you painted five percent of those you would have painted 166 children. A typical face painter can paint about fifteen faces per hour. That makes for an eleven hour work day. Festival work is generally a ten to twelve hour day. If you were at a zoo then the child count would double as I would count two children for every two adults. If the attendance was 10,000 people then you would need two painters.

OK, time for a test. If you were going to an Irish Festival and the attendance was guessed at 40,000 for the Saturday and there would be one child for every two adults how many painters do you need? The answer is four. 40,000 / 3 x .05 / 15 = 44 man hours. Or 40,000 (total people count) divided by three (one child for every two adults) x .05 (guess that five percent would choose to spend their money on face painting) divided by the average of fifteen faces per hour = 44 man hours. The work day is eleven hours so you need four painters.

3) There are also many other factors. For example do you have exclusivity? If there are going to have other face painting groups there then you need to factor the competition into the mix.

4) What is the weather going to be like? If it is the hot summer in Texas then the number wishing to have their faces painted will be much less. The same applies if it is winter in Wisconsin or the rainy season in London. Sometimes you are simply going to have to make your best guess.

5) If you have done the festival a number of times you will know the work flow. When we start our large Art Festival we start the day off with about ten painters. By 3pm we have close to twenty and at 11pm we have narrowed the painters down to ten again. You will find that many of your painters just do not want a 9am to midnight work day. You simply are going to have to be flexible to a certain extent.

If you are going to err, then I suggest you have too few painters rather than too many. It is easier to tell everyone to pick up the pace and make the designs a little simpler than have your painters go home disappointed in the results. Well I hope this helps. Good luck with your event.

Gary Cole


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