The Royal City loves to party. Since its early days, New Westminster has always found cause for celebration; from May Day festivities, the Pride Festival, Hyack Festival parades, PopLuck dinners, PechaKucha nights, and countless galas and fundraisers. Over the years, the size and scope of our celebrations have grown. People want to celebrate in this great city, and there is nothing I love more than creating an amazing event experience while taking on the challenges that come with it. So how do you create a successful event in New West?
Timing is everything. There are only so many days in the year, and choosing the right date and time for your event is essential in a city with many competing events. Check event calendars— the City of New Westminster’s and Tourism New Westminster’s are both kept current—and avoid selecting a date that may split your audience. Hosting an event on a day or weekend brimming with events makes getting media attention to promote your event even more difficult with so many vying for coverage.
While certain events will get people out no matter the date or time—a visit by the Royal Family!—others will find success when held at a particular time or day. Hosting an event aimed at families? Choose a weekend morning. Aiming to get the business crowd out? Host your event mid-week, immediately following business hours.
So, you’ve done your due diligence and selected a date. Now you need to find a venue. New West is a relatively small city. We produce a lot of events with only a handful of venues. There are traditional venues such as Massey Theatre, multi-purpose spaces like Centennial Lodge, and heritage settings including 100 Braid Street Studios—my personal favourite. With so many events taking place, securing a venue can be difficult. The Anvil Centre and Westminster Pier Park are welcome additions to the event planning scene, but finding a venue that fits your theme, event size, and budget can be challenging. This is where you can get creative and find a venue that suits your needs. Think about stores with open spaces, rooftop gardens, or a dock off a riverfront park. It may require a bit more legwork but it can pay off in creating a truly unique event experience.
Ok, great! You have a date and a venue. Now it’s time to talk details. Your event may need vendors for decor, rentals, audio-visual gear, and catering. Sadly, we do not have a party rentals company or audio-visual supplier in town, so if you are looking for a red carpet or PA system, you need to go outside our city limits. Many companies deliver, but compare rates carefully: if you miscount your linen requirements, it’s no quick trip to rectify the mistake.
New West has a few caterers, but during the summer months, weddings take centre stage and it can be hard to secure a date. Truffles Catering is delicious. Fiesta Catering did a great job at the Royal City Farmers Market Long Table Dinner in September. While many restaurants don’t cater, there is no harm in asking a favourite if they can accommodate your event. Some of the best event food I have experienced has come from just asking.
If you are planning on hosting an event with out-of-town guests and you will need overnight accommodation, keep in mind that hotel rooms are at a premium with only a few hotels to choose from—especially in the summer months.
The last challenge can be getting people out to your event. Use marketing channels, social media, word-of-mouth, flyers, posters, email blasts, and traditional advertising. Just get the word out and make it easy for people to find information about your event.
While not specific to New Westminster, in Metro Vancouver we have a bit of a reputation for being non-committal when it comes to buying tickets to events. With almost every event I have planned, 50% of the tickets are sold in the week prior to the event.
Whatever the event—-big or small—remember to include a “wow” factor that will keep your guests talking long after the event is over. Step back, and walk through the event in your mind like a potential guest to ensure you have all your details covered and plan for as many “what if” scenarios as you can.
There are challenges in creating celebrations in New Westminster, but don’t let this deter you! Accept the challenge, think outside of the box, plan early and create another amazing event experience for this city.