Eps 29  |  Hayden Walker
October 17, 2019  •  by Lisa Carson

Growing a Food Festival with Hayden Walker, Austin Food Magazine (Podcast)

In this episode we talk to Hayden Walker, the organizer of the highly successful Mac and Cheese Festival held in Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon.

Hayden is the Executive Director at AFM Media and Editor in Chief of Austin Food Magazine, with his finger on the pulse of all things foodie in Austin.

Hayden created Austin’s Mac and Cheese Festival which became a huge sell out success, enjoyed and embraced by attendees and vendors. Now in its 4th year in Austin and 2nd year in Portland, the Mac and Cheese Festival has a winning event recipe that is set to grow and take on more cities in 2020.

Available on iTunes or Spotify

Key Topics

  • Turning something you love into a career
  • Creating the Mac and Cheese Festival experience
  • Research and inspiration
  • Evolving a food festival, growing in size and locations
  • Managing event stakeholder relationships
  • Testing event formats and target audiences
  • Ticket pricing and event promotion
  • Benefits of prepaid events
  • Preparing vendors for success
  • Event day gate management


Portland Mac & Cheese Festival Sunday October 27, at Castaway Portland. 

Austin Mac & Cheese FestivalSunday November 10, at Carson Creek Ranch.

Interviewee Information

Hayden Walker

Founder and creator of the Austin Mac & Cheese Festival, which hosts over 1300 attendees and over 25 chefs, eateries and vendors in a food festival style environment. Executive Director at AFM Media and Editor in Chief of Austin Food Magazine. Managing a talented team of contributing writers, photographers, and social media influencers to produce a weekly digital publication/blog presenting Austin's vibrant culinary scene. www.austinfoodmagazine.com


Lisa: Welcome to Ticketbud Tidbits, where we share tips, advice and insights from event organizers, for event organizers. I’m your host, Lisa Carson, and we’re going to chat with another great event organizer today!

In today’s episode, we talk to Hayden Walker, the organizer of the greatly anticipated Mac and Cheese Fest held here in Austin, Texas, as well as Portland, Oregon. Hayden is the Executive Director at AFM Media, and Editor in Chief of Austin Food Magazine.

When it comes to food in Austin, Hayden is all across it. He works with restaurants, food trucks, media and foodie influencers. He’s in the know, when it comes to all the great food events around town, from pop-up restaurants to specialty dining experiences and food festivals.

Despite the many food events in Austin, Hayden saw great potential for a Mac and Cheese Festival, a classic family favorite, reimagined in a variety of different ways. Individual chef interpretations of the dish would be voted on by event attendees and a panel of judges.

Hayden’s hunch was right, with his Mac and Cheese Festival becoming a huge sellout success, enjoyed and embraced by attendees and participating restaurants and food trucks. Now in its fourth year in Austin and second year in Portland, the Mac and Cheese Festival has a winning event recipe that is set to grow, and take on more cities in 2020.

In this episode, Hayden shares how he got into the food industry, turning something that he loved into a career. He describes the Mac and Cheese Fest experience and the importance of doing thorough research, in creating that experience. He talks about how to evolve a food festival, growing in size and locations, as well as keeping the event fresh and interesting.

We discuss managing various event stakeholder relationships, from attendees to vendors and sponsors, ensuring these different audiences’ needs are catered to. He continues to test different event options, from things like tasting sessions to an open event. This year, he’s trialing a vegan tasting session in Portland.

Hayden explains the importance of prepaid tickets for these events, as well as finding the right ticketing price point. Hayden shares other great insights, from preparing vendors for success to managing media press passes, event promotion, event day gate management, and much more.

Stay with us, and listen to Hayden talk about managing a food festival. I hope you enjoy the episode!

Lisa: Hi, Hayden! Welcome to the podcast.

Hayden: Thank you for having me.

Lisa: As Editor in Chief of Austin Food Mag, you’re the man with his finger on the pulse of all things food in Austin. Can you tell me a little bit about your role?

Hayden: Yes. I have been doing this for about six years. I’ve been part of the food evolution of Austin. I’ve seen the progression of restaurants come, and some go, with the evolution of food trucks and everything that has to do with food in Austin, and of course, food festivals and events, and things like that. My role is to make sure that people know about it.

Lisa: I’m new to Austin, so I’ve been like “Oh, all these different places to discover, plus all the food trucks on top of it!”

Hayden: You can definitely gain some weight, if you have the money to spend on the food.

Lisa: It’s a good problem to have, lots of good options to eat.

Hayden: Exactly.

Lisa: Your path to get where you are is really interesting. I love hearing about people who sort of start off down one path, and then go “No, this isn’t really my passion, the thing I love. How can I make a living out of what I love?” For you, it was food, and you ended up doing something very different.

Hayden: Sure. I started just doing it as a hobby. I was in the insurance business and finance business, and you know, that’s not the most exciting world. The money is decent, if you’re good at it, but on the flip side, it’s just not – most people don’t go to school being like “You know what? I can’t wait to grow up and do this.”

Lisa: Excited about it in the morning.

Hayden: Right. People want that exciting job, but some people don’t know what that means. I was just bored, and I was a big fan of watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and all of those Travel Channel food shows. Then, I just said “Oh, I’ll just do one on YouTube,” which I did.

I started a YouTube channel about food, so we visited restaurants in Austin. Eventually, I met a certain amount of people that said – we basically collaborated and said “Hey, let’s start a magazine, a food magazine.” There was only one other one in town.

We said “Yeah, let’s try it out and let’s do it!” So, we did. We did two issues, and the original publisher moved on to other things. Then, when I took over as publisher and editor, we just said “Let’s just do everything online, as a blog.” That’s essentially what it is, but we still keep the name, the magazine, because essentially, we are running things very similar.

Lisa: Had you had any involvement in a magazine before that?

Hayden: No. I had experience with writing, but it wasn’t really in a role of a journalist. It was more like I would write stories. I’ve written a few short films, screen plays, none of which you probably have ever seen.

But yeah, I had some experience in that. I was just like “I’m interested in this.” When I started, I had no intention of “Oh, this is going to be a business.” I was just looking for something to do, plus I like food, and it evolved.

That was in a world before – social media was around, obviously, but it wasn’t what it is today. A lot of people, when they start something similar, it’s like, now Instagram is the big thing, or whatever it is. So, people have the objective of wanting to start it based on what they’re going to get out of Instagram or social media, which is fine. It’s completely fine, but the game has changed. Motives might be slightly different.

But at the end of the day, it is an exciting transition, if you can make that happen in your life.

Lisa: My next question is what career advice would you give to your younger self?

Hayden: As a younger person, it’s funny. I would always tell everyone, when I was younger – I feel like I was ahead of my game when I would say you have to be open to a lot of things, especially in the progression of any business you take part in, because everything changes. The way technology has evolved, it changes quicker than it’s ever changed, ever.

So, I knew that would happen with our business, in our world, I should say, of social media and blogging and things like that. You don’t get to print as much anymore. I knew that was going to happen. I didn’t realize social media would be as big of a deal, but I knew it would be a big deal, as far as the way it’s become, especially with Instagram.

So, I would just continue to tell myself to be open to everything and watch what you’re doing. At the same time, don’t be close-minded to anything that comes around. I can’t go back in time to say “Hey, you know this new app is going to come out! If you only knew about it, invest in it!” That would be amazing.

Lisa: Like getting a time machine. Go back and invest in this!

Hayden: That would be time machine stuff.

Lisa: I think mine would be don’t worry so much. Just give things a try. I think I always thought I had to have all the answers.

Hayden: That’s true.

Lisa: Now, I’m just like “If you just keep walking in the direction of things you enjoy doing, and keep trying different things, different doors that open.” You never know where you’re going to end up.

Hayden: Yeah. I learned a long time ago, ,before I even started any career – my parents and my grandfather were really good about telling me how to set expectations for your life. Sometimes you’re going to fail, and it’s okay if you do, because that’s how you learn how to overcome the next thing.

In planting that seed in my head, “Okay, great!” You know you’re going to screw up sometime. You just have to minimize it and learn from it. You don’t want to wreck your life, but you do have to take chances.

Lisa: Take some risks, yeah.

Hayden: You have to take chances, to do something. That’s how I came up with an event, a festival.

Lisa: I know! Your love affair with food has now gone over into a food festival, the Mac and Cheese Festival. What appealed to you about doing that?

Hayden: Well, when I first started, from a business perspective, my business partner and I said “We need to come up with an event, an event that people will want to attend.” What would that event be?

I wrote down a list and brainstormed, and I kept thinking “I don’t know. Are people going to go to this?” I wrote down things I’d think would be a good idea, but I was like “I don’t know if people will actually go to that.”

Then, I said “What’s my favorite food?” Barbecue is my favorite food, but we already have a barbecue festival, so I can’t do that. Then, I said “I love mac and cheese! A mac and cheese festival would be amazing!”

I actually sat on the idea for probably about a year and a half. I even told a couple of people “How would you feel about this?” They were like “That sounds amazing!” I was like “I don’t know.” I started second-guessing myself, but then I was like “I know it’s a good idea. Everyone else says it’s a good idea, and I’d better create it before someone else does.”

So, I went ahead and did it. Now we’re here at year four!

Lisa: This is the fourth year in Austin, and the second year you’re doing it in Portland, in Oregon. What is the event experience that you’ve created?

Hayden: It takes you back to having fun, when you were a kid. I try to keep it simple and fun, to where people can enjoy mac and cheese, but also at an elevated experience, especially when you have a chef creating something. That’s where it gets fun.

Mac and cheese is a versatile dish. You have an entire festival devoted to one dish, and that dish can be created in multiple thousands of different ways. That’s where we get to explore that.

Then, when you have a competition behind it, then it’s like you’re not just throwing “Who is making your grandma’s favorite mac and cheese?” No. It’s “Who is making their version of their favorite, of their best mac and cheese?”

I’ve had chefs that have been in it every year, and they’ve created something different every year. I love the fact that it’s pretty limitless, as long as there’s cheese and macaroni involved. Of course, nowadays, you can kind of go around the edges, with gluten-free and vegan options, and things like that.

I think it’s really fun. It allows people to re-live their childhood, in some way.

Lisa: But with some new, different flavors and tastes.

Hayden: Right.

Lisa: I’ve got this idea like a Cajun version. That would be awesome!

Hayden: Yeah, we’ve had that. I’ve cooked my own version of mac and cheese multiple times, and Cajun has been one of them!

Lisa: Did you gain ideas from other food festivals? Was there anything that you went to other events and got ideas, or went “I don’t want to do it like that.”?

Hayden: Sure. Part of learning is to see what other people have done, and also coming up with your own ideas. Of course, there’s the basic things that you have to do, as far as laying the foundation; make sure you’re following health rules and guidelines, and things like that.

But then, there’s the other portion where you’re like “What’s going to keep this fun and unique?” That’s where you see, when you go to other events, you might see what they’re doing. But then, something might hit you, like “How come they’re not doing this? Well, I’ll just do that.”

Throughout this, and this is the fourth year, so laying the foundation where other people have started their festival, because for lack of a better word, maybe they got inspired by what I was doing, because people have ideas all the time. It’s great that they can put that out there, especially for a food event, especially in Austin. We love our events, and half of them are food-related.

I’ve seen people, like a friend of mine did a chicken wing festival. Then, there’s a brunch festival, and there’s all kinds of festivals now. A bloody Mary festival.

Lisa: My calendar is full! How has the event evolved, and how do you keep improving it?

Hayden: The idea was to start small. The first year, we only had like 18 or 20 vendors. The next year, we had almost 30. The third year, we had a couple small issues. I think we only had 22 vendors. It was still fine. It was one of those days. It was raining, and we had a little problem with the electricity, the generator. It was our hiccup year, is what I refer to it as.

Then, year four, we’re getting back on track. It’s bigger, because we’re going to have more vendors this year. I think so far we have like 31 vendors. We’ve elevated the VIP area, because you get an option to get a general admission ticket and a VIP ticket. VIP, you get to enter the venue early, an hour early, and you get to try all of the mac and cheese without fighting too many lines.

Then, there’s the VIP lounge, which will have additional vendors that you won’t have in the general area, as well.

Lisa: What is your vision for the Mac and Cheese Festival? Do you want to hold it in more cities? Keep growing it?

Hayden: Absolutely. Next year, we have other cities already planned, in the works. We’re looking into Dallas, hopefully in the spring. Seattle, we’re looking at hopefully in the spring or the early summer. Then, we already have scheduled Newark, New Jersey, which to me, I was like “Why would I do Newark, New Jersey?” But somebody approached me and said “Look, it’s a great little spot.”

It’s going through their changing phases. They’ve got a lot of younger entrepreneurs and young couples that move out there. They love food, obviously, and they’re looking for events. I don’t really know too many people in New York City, and I don’t know anyone in Newark. But I know the people that I’m working with now, and it’s going to be an exciting time, a new venue.

Lisa: Choosing the cities, is that about places you know, or other people giving you advice about places to go to?

Hayden: There’s a list of cities I have targeted, and then there’s, like this one wasn’t on my target list until somebody mentioned it and said “This is why you should do it.”

Lisa: What are the benchmarks for growing a food festival from one, to now we’re ready to go to two, to now we’re ready to go to five? How do you know?

Hayden: I guess I would say, from a business perspective, you have to figure out, is this worth the time? And hopefully, you’re profiting. Obviously, we want to profit, but at the same time, we want to give back to communities, so we want to make sure we partner with certain charities and things like that, that will give back.

It can’t be just about business, business, business. But at the end of the day, it’s got to be fun. Are people going to come to something that’s boring, or that was a disaster? We’re not trying to develop the Fyre Festival.

Lisa: No, thank you!

Hayden: You want people to feel good that they spent their money on something, and that they want to come back. At the end of every year, we get feedback. We say “What can we do better, and what will bring you back?” As humans, we don’t like to – some people like to repeat themselves and do the same thing over and over, but as long as it’s something they enjoy. If it’s unenjoyable, then you won’t go.

That’s the reason why ACL is so successful. They bring in new talent every year, and you go and enjoy the music.

Lisa: Keep building on a good experience.

Hayden: Right.

Lisa: With an event like this, obviously there are various stakeholders involved. You’ve got the attendees, who are coming to try new food, have a fun experience. There’s sponsors, who are wanting to engage with people and do branding. You’ve got vendors who want to gain exposure to an audience. I don’t know if you’ve got investors. That would be another people we’ve got responsibilities to.

How do you consider all of these different stakeholder relationships, and manage and communicate with them?

Hayden: You basically just show what’s in it for them. For example, we do have sponsors. We say “Look. This is how many people are going to be at the event. You have the opportunity to expose your brand to X number of people.”

For example, Portland. We know that we will at least get 1,200 people at that event. So, we develop a marketing kit and a package, and present it to each of the potential sponsors, and say “Hey, this is who you have the potential to reach all at one time, as opposed to getting people to go by your store, and maybe they walk in, maybe they don’t.”

They figure out “Okay, this is what we’re going to do.” They might do giveaways and swag, and whatever they do, anything that gets attention to their brand. For them, it’s all about exposure. And of course, if the food attracts them, then that’s always a bonus.

For the audience, once again, it’s about “How am I going to enjoy this event?” Mac and cheese gets a lot of peoples’ attention, just because of what it means to them. But also, if you go to the event and you have to wait in line for an hour, or however long, that dampens it.

Lisa: The joy goes down.

Hayden: The joy goes down. That’s one thing I see at a lot of events. There are some events, they have super long lines, and you’ve got to wait for it. We do have lines at the event, but I don’t want these massively long lines. So, there’s a lot of little moving pieces.

You have to get your vendors to make sure that they’re producing – that number one, they have enough food to serve. And number two, that they are offering in a way that’s a quick turnaround. But also enjoyable, because at the end of the day, chefs are artists, and they want to be able to make sure their food is impressive from a visual perspective and from an eating perspective.

Lisa: You’ve got to balance all of those different relationships and things, and make sure they’re all getting what they need. It’s a lot. There’s a lot going on. You’re not just organizing an event. You’re organizing – all of these different people are being involved for different reasons. You’ve got to make sure they get what they’ve been promised.

This year, you’re using Ticketbud for your event ticketing. Would you talk to us a little bit about, you’ve obviously used other ticketers in the past. If there were limitations, or things you weren’t happy with?

Lisa: In the past, I just used Eventbrite. Eventbrite is fine. It’s been around for a while. This year, I decided to use Ticketbud, because of a referral, and you guys are local. That was a big part, obviously. Then, at the end of the day, what’s going to be the comparison as far as money that we’re keeping and that we’re sending out? Those are little details that you work in between the lines.

But at the end of the day, it’s the user experience. From my perspective, is it going to be great? For people I’ve talked to, like friends that have already used it, they’ve had nothing but great things to say.

To me, if it’s going to be a great experience, and so far it is, then I would love to just continue the business. You know, when you switch from one aspect to another every year, it’s just like “Oh, man.” It’s just another thing you’ve got to do. Is it more hassle? Am I spending more money, less money, and so forth?

You factor all of those in. I think most people, if something is working, you don’t want to go re-do it and fix it. Just stick with it.

Lisa: I’ve had experiences before where people were not particularly happy with their solution, but they keep going with it, because they’re like “I’ve already kind of invested in this.” There’s always that tipping point, where “No, it’s not actually working for what I need. I want to try something new.”

Hayden: Exactly.

Lisa: This event is a food sample event, where your ticket entry gets you access to tasting samples from all of the different vendors. Why did you choose to go with that style of event?

Hayden: That seems to be the most popular. We’ve done others, where it would be more like a dinner. We did a mac and cheese brunch one year, the second year of the festival. I think those are still good ideas. It’s just the amount of time it takes to put some of those together. So, that might come back. It’s not this year, but we are also toying with the idea of what if we do something like that throughout the year? It doesn’t have to be all during the festival season, or during the same time that we do the festival.

But with the advent of us doing other cities, that’s just something we have to add into the schedule. It means I have to bring on more people to the team, to help out with the organization of these things. I just think it’s an evolution. What works this year, we’ll have to see if it works next year. You always have to push the envelope, to change something, to make people “Oh! I’ve got to go back for that!”

Lisa: The idea of getting people to prepay, and then what they eat inside is free, is there a reason why you think that is a better way to go than letting them just pay when they get in there? Getting that money up front?

Hayden: The thing is, what I’ve seen in the past, for example, if you create an event on Facebook, and you say “Great! I’m RSVPing!” Well, there’s literally a hundred other events going on, and you RSVP to that. Then, there’s the ones you might, at the time that you RSVP to it or you say “Yes, I’m going to go to it,” you actually might have the intention of going.

But then, there’s the day of, and things happen. If you didn’t pay for it, you’re like “Well, I’m going to stay home and watch football.”

Lisa: “I don’t lose anything.”

Hayden: Yeah. “I’m just going to just hang out and not do anything,” because you didn’t spend any money.

Lisa: You didn’t lose anything.

Hayden: But if you’ve paid for a ticket, then it makes a big difference. Then, we can relay that to the chefs, and say “This is how many food samples you need to have prepared.” When it comes to that, that’s really important. You don’t want to have too much food, and you definitely don’t want to have too little.

Lisa: You have different ticket package options. The Portland event is a little bit different to the Austin event. You’ve got sessions for the Portland event.

Hayden: We won’t have as many people in the venue, so the line should be pretty minimal. Then, they get to hopefully get stuffed, and then they’re happy.

In Austin, we have a big giant outdoor venue, so it’s a four hour event. The VIP gets the extra hour, basically, and general admission has three hours. I think it’s all about what kind of resources do you have, and where is this going to happen? You want the attendees’ experience to be good.

Lisa: It’s interesting that you are running both events, so you’ll get to see the difference, and test it out. An event like this has, obviously, really broad appeal and lots of different people to cater to. How do you balance being inclusive of everyone, but you can’t do everything?

Hayden: This year, we have a vegan session that we’re doing in Portland. Portland is one of those cities where vegans are very prominent. Austin is, too, but very much more so in Portland. So, we decided this is more an opportunity to see how are people going to respond. Because they actually have a vegan festival up there.

So, while ticket sales aren’t quite as high for the vegan event, we also don’t have quite as many vendors, as well. Right after the vegan session ends, we’re going to start the regular mac and cheese session, all in one day. We’ll see how that works, and see how it goes. If it continues to work, then we’ll expand on it for the next year.

Originally, we were going to do vegan a whole different day. But then, I started looking. It was like “If I do that, I have to rent the venue for a second day, which is spending more money. Is it going to be worth it? At the end of the day, let’s experiment first.”

Lisa: Let’s test it.

Hayden: Yeah. So, we’ll see how it goes. The number one question I do get a lot, on top of that, is “Are there going to be any gluten-free options?” I can’t guarantee that, but I’ve asked every vendor to consider that. I can’t make them do it, but it’s one of those things that’s the reality of the world we’re in now. There’s a lot of people that are gluten-free.

Lisa: Can you tell me a bit about working out expenses and what you need to charge, to make a profit, and not hitting that pricing tipping point, where you’re charging too much, and now suddenly it’s not valuable anymore?

Hayden: Yeah. In comparison to other festivals, I think our event is pretty fairly priced at $45 for a general admission ticket. That includes beverages and, of course, all the food you can eat. I’ve gone to some other events, like say the BBQ Fest, which makes sense, but they charge, I think their lowest priced ticket is like $80 or something. It might be $75. I can’t remember, but it’s more, and VIP is like $130 or something.

Because it’s meat, and it costs more to pay for that, it makes perfect sense. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much food people can eat. If they stuff themselves full of meat, you have to ask yourself “Did I get the value?” But then, you’ve got to pay for the venue, and you’ve got to pay for all of these little things.

We did the ticket prices for $45 because when people think of mac and cheese, you’re like “Man! I’m going to spend $45 on mac and cheese. I could probably go spend half of that at a restaurant.” So, this is like you’re going here to get food from multiple vendors, music, drinks, and have fun with your friends, and all the things that we have that’s included.

Are you paying a little bit more than when you go to a restaurant? Sure, but you do that at any event. Any event you go to nowadays, it’s an all-inclusive ticket. The format is pretty similar. You taste the sample items from each vendor. Some people have done that in the past, and they’ve moved on from that.

Now there are some people that are like “Oh, great. I just want to eat at restaurants now, or pop-up dinners or something like that.” Those are great, too. So, this is where we are. This is what we’re doing right now, but we have the other ideas later, to have pop-up dinners.

Lisa: And different kinds of experiences appeal to different people, so it depends.

Hayden: Right. But this is almost like you’re going to a buffet, kind of, with multiple restaurants involved, as opposed to you’re eating at this one restaurant, and this is this one dish you’re paying for.

Lisa: Were there any unexpected expenses in the first year, that you hadn’t considered?

Hayden: I don’t think so. There’s always something you’re like “Oh, man! I didn’t that was going to be that expensive.” Now, maybe before I did some research, I was like “Oh, man.”

Lisa: “This will be fun!”

Hayden: Yeah, but then you’ve to pay for the fire permits, and there’s all these little permits you’ve got to get.

Lisa: It all adds up.

Hayden: Those were the ones I would say there might be some people that are surprised at how much those are going to be, and which ones you have to get.

Lisa: How are you communicating event details to attendees, leading up to the day?

Hayden: Basically, on the Ticketbud site, when you purchase your ticket, all of the emails are seen, so we can be able to email each attendee, and let them know, “Hey, this is what time this is going to happen. Make sure you’re here at this time. This is the directions,” and so forth.

It makes it easy, because all of the information is right there, and it’s just simple. We also have the social media, to where we don’t have to – if people are following us that way, they can get updates, as well. It’s pretty simple.

Lisa: What about vendor registration? How have you managed that?

Hayden: Vendor registration was something we basically – I set up a Google form. Basically, it’s an application. If I sent out the invite, I said “Hey, participate, or let me know if you want to. This is what’s involved.” I put the package together, and if they registered for it, then great! They’re in, pretty much, because that’s the invitation I sent them.

We keep like a tracking form for everything that we do on the team.

Lisa: You can do that through Ticketbud, as well, if you want to. As like a non-public event you can just set up, so it tracks. Whether it’s paid or not, they just register through that, so that’s another option you could do.

How do you prepare the vendors for success, for when they’re participating, like what they need to know? Quantities, site maps?

Hayden: I just basically let them know. The site map is pretty simple. That’s the kind of thing where we just say “This is where your spot is going to be. Look for that number,” and so forth. But also, it’s a judging type of event, so the people are going to vote on their favorite item, and there’s a judges panel, like a food journalist or whoever we invite.

You have two different chances to win, as a vendor. Presentation is part of it, and obviously, the taste of the food, and so forth. We get them all of the things, like “If you want to win, and you want to be successful, this is what you need to do. Don’t run out of food. Make sure it takes good, obviously. Don’t base it on what you think is good. And presentation-wise, make the best decision.”

We just give them what they need to know.

Lisa: I saw on the website that you’ve got a note about media requesting press passes in advance. I’ve seen this at other events, where media have turned up at the gate, and gate staff don’t know how to manage it or what to do. Is that why you’ve set that up, so there’s a limited amount of press passes that have to be pre-approved?

Hayden: Right. There’s always going to be people who are like “Hey, I’ve got to take pictures for my Instagram,” or whatever. It’s like, I know most of the ones in town already, so that makes it easier. But then, there’s the other side. It’s like “What are you going to do for this, so that it allows me to give you a pass?”

Because if it’s an attractive event, everyone wants to go, which is fine. I understand that, because I’m the same way when it comes to certain events. But it’s got to be beneficial to both of us.

Lisa: I was going to ask you about promotion for the event.

Hayden: Promotion, we just did a lot of social media promotion. Facebook is still one of the best vehicles out there, along with Instagram, so we just pour a lot of effort into past photography that we’ve had from the event, and also making announcements every few days. If there’s a new vendor that joins us, we’ll say “Hey! Guess who’s joining us this year! This restaurant!” Maybe we’ll get a picture of the dish and stuff like that, so it will stay front of mind.

There’s hundreds of things that people are doing daily. There’s hundreds of events happening. They might see it and be like “Oh, I want to go to that!” But then, it’s like “Well, I’ll think about it later,” because you’ve got to figure out your finances or whatever, or your schedule.

We’ll basically do like Bam! Here goes another picture of something that maybe you didn’t realize before. You didn’t realize this vendor was involved. It’s just basically staying in front of mind.

Lisa: Just keep putting it out there.

Hayden: Right. That’s just part of – even if you’re just running your own social media account, like Instagram, you want to stay ahead of peoples’ minds.

Lisa: Yeah, keep top of mind. What’s the plan for the gate setup and management on the day, to have a smooth process of going through the door?

Hayden: We have a group of volunteers and staff that will be basically scanning everyone in. That way, they get their ticket scanned in, and they get their wristbands, and by the time the gate opens, most of them should be able to just walk on in, because they’re already gotten their things that they needed.

Lisa: Scanned ahead of time, moving down the line and scanning. Are you going to have separate lines for people who are buying tickets at the door?

Hayden: If we don’t sell out, yes. If we do sell out, then no. In the past, we’ve always sold out, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m anticipating we sell out again.

Lisa: How are you going to give people the tokens? Are you using tokens, for people voting?

Hayden: They almost look like Bingo tokens or something, where you just give them and say “Drop it in the bucket.” In past years, we used noodles. For some reason, that didn’t seem to work. We would always run out of noodles. When you think you just bought enough noodles, and you’re just “How did we run out of noodles?”

I think it was just that we misplaced a bag somewhere. But this year, I bought like 3,000 of these little things, so we’re not running out!

Lisa: Is that after they get through the door, there’s a spot where they can collect them?

Hayden: No. We’re just going to give it to them. The person that hands them the wristband will give them the -.

Lisa: “This is your token.”

Hayden: “This is what your voting token is.”

Lisa: My final thing I was going to ask you is if there’s any tips or advice you want to give to event organizers, based on your experience?

Hayden: Just be ready for anything. Make sure you do a lot of research. Don’t have too many expectations of everything being perfect, because you’re going to have – something is going to go, I don’t want to say wrong, but something might surprise you. You’re going to have some challenges along the way, but that’s how you learn how to do it better the next year.

Be ready. Be prepared.

Lisa: Always be ready!

Hayden: Yeah. And then, use Ticketbud!

Lisa: We appreciate that. It’s great being involved this year. I look forward to coming to the event. Thank you so much for coming along and chatting with us today, Hayden. It’s great to have you on the podcast.

Hayden: Thank you.

Lisa: The Portland Mac and Cheese Festival is being held Sunday, October 27, at Castaway Portland. The Austin event is Sunday, November 10, at Carson Creek Ranch. Tickets are on sale through Ticketbud now, and I’ll put the links on our podcast page.

Thanks for joining us, and thanks everyone, for joining Ticketbud Tidbits!


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