Festin in Place: a Virtual Festival

     As a result of  COVID-19 and social distancing, all festivals have been postponed until later in the year or cancelled completely. This has left millions of festival fans all over the world hungry for an outlet to satisfy their musical whims. In response to the fans’ cries, festival organizers came up with an alternative solution to the issue, “Festin in Place”.  “Festin in Place” allows fans to virtually experience a festival event in creative ways. For example,  the famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation Jazz Festival partnered with their community broadcasting station, WWOZ 90.5 FM, to host the virtual event. The station was able to dig through their extensive archives and put together a full program from past festivals; the programs are shown everyday at the times the regular festival would have occured. On Monday, fans tuned in for the Monday between Festival fairgrounds and Austin’s own, Marcia Ball. Marcia’s performance as the headliner for Piano Night was broadcasted at 7pm on wwoz.org and their Facebook page.

    For professionals in the public relations and advertising industries, coming up with, executing, and publicizing creative ideas such as virtual festivals is important to do in times of crises. Not only does it satisfy consumers’ demands, but it also helps businesses thrive. However, putting together events that will draw fans from across the world is difficult; it becomes harder when the event lasts for a long period of time. In regards to the 2 week jazz festival, even Beth Utterback, General Manager for WWOZ, stated that the task was “not easy.” Tasks such as locating funding were still required for the virtual event. So, the festival organizers pitched their concept to businesses who saw the advantages of sponsoring an event that everyone could enjoy during social distancing. People could be social, while dancing in their front yards.

         Some people believe that PR and Advertising professionals have a responsibility to bring culture to the world.  Beth Utterback, in regards to the PR team for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation Jazz Festival, stated “ while we are not medical first responders, we are cultural first responders!  As a public relations medium, it is our responsibility to bring the culture to the world.” Therefore, they took on the virtual festival with everything they had (radio, facebook, twitter, Instagram). It was wonderful to see people posting pictures of themselves Festin in Place on all mediums and now serves as a lesson on how to adapt for all teams in the PR and advertising fields. 

Deborah Harkins
Towers Fellow