Add to the appeal and spectacle of your summer fair by tying other events into it. Set up a stage and music acts for your own mini-festival, invite visitors to camp on the field overnight, round the event off with a grand auction, or encourage young chefs with a bake-off competition.
Ask local allotment societies, garden centres and plant nurseries for donations. Always position your plant stall somewhere sheltered. If you have the resources, make up some planters as higher-priced items. Herbs always do well, but make sure everything is well-labelled.
Unlike a raffle, which relies on pot luck, a silent auction allows people to bid only on the prizes they want. By stating the value of each prize, your supporters can gauge how much they’re prepared to pay, which is sure to be more than £1 for a raffle ticket! Seek out experiences or services as prizes in order to tempt supporters and encourage bidding wars.
Invite visitors to bring along their (well-behaved!) pets and run a competition with different categories and prize rosettes. Alternatively, ask a local pet shop or shelter to bring some animals along. Charge for the animal encounters.
Have different age categories so everyone can take part, including adults. Participants register before the fair, paying to enter – let players know their time slot. Hold matches in a cordoned-off area. Allow time for the winners of each round to play for a chance to be in the final, while still having time to enjoy the rest of the fair.
‘Last year we held a bake-off competition at our fair. We promoted it through our Facebook page, and contestants brought their creations to our “afternoon tea” marquee. As the cakes spent a while on the judging table, some contestants created videos on Facebook the day before to help with the judging in case the hot weather affected their cakes.
The judging criteria was appearance, taste and how well the cakes matched the fair’s theme, “the great British summer”. The judges consisted of myself as chair, the deputy head and the fair’s compere. We offered trophies to the winners and runners-up in two categories: adults and children. The competition was free to enter but, as we sold the cakes afterwards, it was also a way of getting free contributions for the afternoon tea marquee. We raised £3,517 across the whole of our summer fair.’
Tracy King, PFA Chair, Trinity CofE Methodist Primary School, Chorley, Lancashire (520 pupils)
‘We created our “Pig Chase” scarecrow trail three years ago, inspired by the infamous Tamworth Two, a pair of pigs that escaped from the local abattoir and made international headlines. Each year we choose a different theme; last year it was Piggywood. Each pig scarecrow was dressed up to represent the title of a film and participants had to guess the title. We held a competition to guess the most movies correctly and had a vote for the best three pigs.
Six months before the event, we start contacting individuals, families and companies that have previously built scarecrows to see if they would be interested in joining in again. We also offer three levels of sponsorship. Bronze costs £30 and the sponsor gets their details in the trail map and signage next to the pig on the day of the event. Silver costs £50 and means the company also gets their logo on a stall, as well as in the trail map and promotional information. Gold sponsorship (£100) gets the company logo on all advertising and also on one of the bigger fair stalls.
In the past couple of years, we’ve focused on advertising far and wide to attract visitors from miles around. We do a flyer drop in the local villages and send out a newsletter with raffle tickets. We advertise in the local press and place banners on key sites around the village and in the local town. Our efforts attract between 500 and 700 people a year.
We hold the trail on a Saturday afternoon in either June or July. Participating families work their way around the trail, filling in the map with the answers. Tea, coffee and cake are available at the church, a villager provides a refreshment stop in her garden and we hold our summer fair at the school at the same time.
Most recently we raised £4,400 from the Pig Chase, raffle and fair.’
Kellie Chandler, former PTA chair, Lea & Garsdon CofE Primary School, Lea, Wiltshire (110 pupils)