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Host an Event

5 Steps: 1:Planning | 2:Expectations | 3:Policies | 4:Ethics | 5:Application

Please scan through this entire page to get an idea of what is involved in hosting an event. Then, if you're still interested, follow the link here at the bottom of the page to see what behavior we expect personally of Local Coordinators.

What to do?

At a minimum, we ask each Local Coordinator to coordinate a public ritual, food drive, and networking event, with perhaps a "merchants row" for local metaphysical bookstores. If you're creative, you may also choose to expand on this greatly, with workshops, music, and other festival activities. This event must be media friendly and designed to provide positive public relations for the Pagan community as a whole. Local Coordinators must be out of the broom closet, and be prepared to do outreach and interaction with the non-Pagan community.

A guideline to think about: a lot of people's first thought about putting together a public event is to use the festival model. Don't fall into that trap. _Pagan Pride Day events are not festivals_. The first -- and perhaps only -- purpose of festivals is to provide events and resources for Pagans, often in a restricted or private area. The first purpose of Pagan Pride is to provide a public area where Pagans and non-Pagans can interact for educational and community-building purposes. Obviously, these aren't the same thing; don't neglect reaching out to the non-Pagans.

Where to do it?

I believe it is more effective to hold one major event for everyone within a ninety minute radius than to have a lot of small festivals. Policy requires events to be spaced at least an hour apart. Some people may be required to drive a bit, but a large number of people in one place will be more effective in terms of presenting our message to the community at large, than smaller events that appear to attract less people. The Regional Coordinators are the primary individuals who will determine how many events are needed in a given area, based on their knowledge and research of an area. Some geographical areas only have one Local Coordinator and one local celebration, such as Rhode Island in the US; some are big enough to have a dozen or more.

When to do it?

The target date is the weekend closest to the Fall Equinox. However, if that is not possible, we ask that it be scheduled between August 1st and October 31st. We base our celebrations around the Autumn Equinox because in the northern hemisphere this is often celebrated as thanksgiving for the harvest, and in Pagan Pride events we are giving thanks for the freedom to celebrate our spirituality, and sharing our harvest with our community through our food drive. Exceptions to this date window can be granted by the Board of Directors.


Find a location for the event

Your first goal in finding a location should be locating one that allows for Pagan _and non-Pagan_ walkby traffic. You need to maximize accessibility as your first goal. You also need a location that will not require you to charge admission, as admission charges require a Board waiver and it's one of those things that, frankly, you're unlikely to get. Therefore, your best bet is to use a public park.

Examine your local newspaper to find out where groups like Gay Pride hold their events, or simply use your area knowledge to determine a place. You will need a large enough area to hold a Circle for a decent number of people. Based on previous event statistics, it is not unreasonable to expect a minimum of 60 people; some areas may be able to gather many more. With the publicity we will generate, expect numbers. The Unitarian Universalist organization did a survey in 1998 and found that fully 19% of their members consider themselves primarily earth-centered. The Unitarian Universalist has 550,000 members. That's over a hundred thousand people right there, and the number of earth-centered religionists who consider themselves Unitarian is a small percentage of the Pagan community. Just think - if that hundred thousand people participated in the USA, that would be 2000 people a state. Do I expect that? Not hardly. But the potential is there. However, a space large enough to let at least 100 Circle comfortably is probably a good guideline. A shelter nearby is a good idea, given the vagaries of Autumn weather many places. Look in your phone book under City Recreation, or check out your local State Parks or the equivalent in your country, if there is one in a good central location for your area that is still convenient for you, the coordinator. Reserve city park shelters at least a couple of months in advance; for some state parks, there are long waiting lists, depending on where you want to hold the event. Also remember, state parks have entrance fees, which might keep some people from attending.

When you reserve the location, be specific about what you are reserving it for. I told the park last year that I was holding a public religious ceremony for Pagans and others who celebrate earth-based spiritualities. I verified that the use of candles was not in violation of any ordinances (and if you use candles, please, make them the kind specifically meant for outdoor use. You can often find citronella camping or patio candles in the primary colors, and they provide the dual purpose of marking your Circle and keeping the insect world from celebrating more fully in your event. :)) I did *not* ask about bringing athames/swords; I chose from the beginning to simply say 'No Blades' for the event. Every area has different ordinances about what you can carry, what size you can carry; some traditions use them, some don't; and it is much simpler when we are promoting positive views of our path to simply leave that out of the equation. Tools are nice but not necessary. I also made sure that there was nothing special we needed to do for merchant booths like licensing (there wasn't at our park; you will want to verify this for your own location).

The other issue that may come up when you search for a site is insurance. Some locations require an organization to have proof of insurance for events. Make sure you ask about any other requirements the site may have.

Gather support from the local metaphysical community

Check the following locations for financial and volunteer support:
  • Local covens/groves - It's important to have support from those who are active in the community already. Look here for primarily philosophical and volunteer support. Some events have had groups provide security and greeting services. It's a good idea to have a central 'welcome table' if you can, and often a group can volunteer to man that. Many Prides have also had tables where groups could provide information about their services, rituals, and membership.
  • Metaphysical bookstores - Here is your best source for financial support. We're not asking for anything large here, but perhaps one or two of the local bookstores could pick up the tab for the shelter rental in exchange for being mentioned in your press releases and other publicity? If you are choosing to allow the bookstores to bring things to sell at the event, this is a natural trade - ask one to pay for flier photocopying, another two to split the rental, etc. Also, ask the bookstores to be locations for people to drop canned goods for the food drive, again in exchange for being mentioned in the publicity. Dropping off canned goods provides foot traffic for the stores, and therefore potential customers. To find stores, look in local 'new age' publications, or check the phone book under 'bookstores'.
  • Unitarian Universalist churches - Find out, if you don't know already, how many Unitarian churches in your area have CUUPS groups (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans). You can research this at the CUUPS web page, or just check your phone book under 'churches'. Even if they don't, a UU Church may be a location for support of one sort or another, bearing in mind that they sometimes have problems raising their own support. And again, they are a natural location for food drive boxes.
  • Natural food stores, ecological shops - If nothing else, these are often locations you can put up fliers.

Plan the Food Drive

Check with the local food bank to see what their guidelines are for using their name in publicity, most especially if they connect with a church in some way - ideally, you will promote this event at least partially as "(State's) Pagan Pride Day - a celebration of the harvest to support (Whatever's) Food Bank", so make sure that's okay with them. Decorate boxes to place at stores, and label them proudly as Pagan donations.

Due to IRS regulations, the recipients of our local food drives (or other donations collected at events) must be 501(c)3 organizations.

Be aware that some Christian food banks have (unbelievably) refused to take donations from Pagans. If you find this is the case, you may want to work instead with a women's shelter, an AIDS hospice, or the Red Cross, who will cheerfully take whatever we offer, no matter whose name it is in. It seems a shame that some places preach charity but don't practice it, but there it is.

Prepare Decorations

Prepare autumn-appropriate decorations for the shelter, or find someone artistic to do so. Create a banner for the shelter. Plan an elaborate altar to make the Circle attractive. View this as a dramatic presentation in some ways - if you could show people what you consider the best parts of a Pagan ceremony to be, what would you want there? Cover tables for merchants if appropriate, or ask them to bring their own decorations, adding to the festive atmosphere. In the park itself, put up signs with arrows to guide people to the proper location (remember to take them down when we're done... we're Pagan; we should leave a place better than we found it).

Plan the ritual itself

Again, we provide a ritual geared to group use - I've been writing rituals since 1991, so even if you don't have experience, don't panic. If you are not leading it yourself find a Priest and Priestess you trust to do so. The ritual we use involves grass seed as a prop - this is also a way to help alleviate any harm you do a grassy area by doing ritual there, or at least helps feed the local birds. Grass seed is normally very cheap at your local nursery, and not that much is needed. If you know Pagan musicians to lend their talents to the ceremony, or the before-and-after times, you might want to provide this.

The ritual provided is in a Wiccan format. We've found that having other Pagan groups do ceremonies throughout the day helps present a more balanced view of our spiritual paths. Perhaps a Druid group would do an opening ceremony, or an Asatru kindred greet the afternoon.

Other activities

None of these are required; however, they are activities that have worked well at previous Pagan Pride events:
  • Voter Registration - As a non-profit organization, we cannot directly support anyone's campaign. But you can certainly encourage fellow Pagans to get out there and vote!
  • Labyrinths
  • Face painting
  • Divination - tarot, runes, scrying, etc.
  • Children's activities
  • More items listed as we compile them.

Have fun!

As much as this is an event to promote a positive view of earth-centered beliefs, it is also a chance for Pagans of every kind to get together, meet one another, enjoy community, and simply have fun celebrating the Autumn Equinox. Keep that part in mind. We are indeed proud of our religious beliefs, proud to be children of the Gods, and proud to present them to the world as well.

Once you have a location and date, PUBLICIZE!

a) Newspaper articles

Modify the press releases we provide and send it to as many newspapers as you can. Generally, you can expect at least one or two interviews; and the Coordinators will be attempting to garner national media coverage as well. Search the Web at AltaVista for +"state name" +newspapers and you'll probably find lists of newspapers in your state that are on-line. You can then send the press release e-mail; technology is a wonderful thing. Also, check local newspapers for an 'events' section. These usually have specific guidelines for submissions, including a date and time by which it has to be submitted, so make sure you follow the guidelines and aim the publication at four, two, and one week prior to the event. In all of these, be prepared to give a contact name and phone number. This is not someplace you can be anonymous.

b) Radio public service announcements

Call your local radio station and ask for their guidelines on PSA's. Many will provide 30-second slots free to local non-profit organizations; our local community theater got them every year. We are not a formal non-profit organization (we don't have any sort of treasury as of yet, so we haven't needed it). If they do, feel free to modify the 30-second PSA we provide with specifics for your location.

c) Television stations

Again, use the press release we provide with appropriate modifications, and prepare for the possibility of camera crews. It's frightening to some people. But it's also what we need to show the public that we're no more frightening than the local Methodist congregation.

d) Fliers

Prepare to do a flier blitz precisely one month before the event (much earlier, and people forget it; much later, and you miss people). You are welcome to modify the flier we provide and post it at the following locations. Be sure to ask before you post, and take with you masking tape (clear tape can harm paint) and thumbtacks.
  • At the metaphysical bookstores.
  • At regular bookstores - our local Borders has a bulletin board, and if you give the flier to their community relations director they're happy to post it.
  • At natural food shops and ecological shops
  • At clubs/coffeehouses if you know they're where Pagan-friendly crowds gather and if they have bulletin boards
  • Anywhere else you know has bulletin boards and you don't think they'll be immediately torn down by fundamentalist Christians.

If after reading all this you are still interested, continue to Step 2: Expectations of Coordinators >>>