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AgapeFest Recap

I promised it and now it's here.

Yeah, it's been two weeks since we hosted the 32nd AgapeFest music festival here in Greenville. The festival itself is entirely run by students from Greenville College and they do a fantastic job handling such a large event. We bring on average 5000 people to the Bond County Fairgrounds each May and host the biggest names in Christian music on our main stage, plus many local, indie and up-and-coming artists on our smaller Stage 2.

Building a StageWe are a mid-sized festival and definitely a different experience than the Cornerstones and Icthuses of this industry. But we serve a need to be a less expensive, local, but high quality event for churches and families to attend. Even with a tumultuous history of red ink, the last four or five years have been fairly solid in generating a profit. For our non-profit, that is important. If we hit a hard year and lose money, the festival is at risk to be shut down by the college board of trustees. We certainly know that we may have to pay--so to speak--for the losses of our predecessors.

But that serves as better motivation to do it right. That makes us tighten up the budgets and make smarter decisions with our marketing.

Part of my job at the school is to not only serve as a staff advisor to the festival student staff, but to oversee a bulk of the web marketing. This past year I made a push into social media for the festival and it seems to have paid off well enough. I rounded up a group of eight or so students on staff and gave them our Twitpic email for posting. From setup to tear down they were sending images to Twitpic that would post to the festival's Twitter stream. We were sort of liveblogging the event in this capacity. It was really cool to be able to operate this way.

Another aspect of my normal work is as a backup photographer. So I had a Canon 20D on my back the entire time we were out there (mainly because Jessica wanted to hang onto our D80 and shoot with it). During the weekend I was uploading photos I took to our flickr group.

On top of those I had my Flip Mino camera out there and would hand it off to the staff to make videos, or I'd shoot some myself. These would get uploaded to the YouTube channel.

With these three (sort of four) avenues covered, I tweaked the AgapeFest.com design to be a little more micro-blog format friendly. I went to a two-column front page with a wider area for posts and then used the FeedWordPress plugin to import posts from our accounts. This meant that any visitors over the weekend could see what was going on at the festival without having to track down all of our social media outlets. It was a glorified lifestream for the main festival site, but it was wildly successful for a first run. I was averaging 8000 or so hits to the website in the days leading up to the festival and jumped our Twitter following by about 40 followers (Twitter isn't as ubiquitous in this demographic).

At this point I'm looking forward to what we can do next year.

So, the festival. It was good. Looks like we made a little money this year despite the recession, rain leading up to and on Friday afternoon, and a few hiccups at the festival. We had some weird people come out. I'm starting to see more weirdness -- we had a man and his two sons dressed in full Renaissance faire costumes carrying knives and hatchets try to come in -- and I'm not sure if it's just not being on student staff I see more, or if there really are more oddities happening.

In any case, the student staff did a great job, as usual, even if there were some hiccups and challenges along the way.