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Part 4 – The “Day of” & “Post-Apocalypse.”

The 2023 Sunflower Festival Apocalypse before we hand-replanted… Not the best look! Below, the tent in mid-self-destruction.

Part 4 – The “Day of” & “Post-Apocalypse.”

The last three weeks, we covered what we learned, discovered, and uncovered as the weather handed out an old-school rainy season over much of the upper Midwest to the mid-Atlantic and into the Northeast US.

If you missed the other three blogs, take a few minutes to find and read them, as the process is sequential.

We thought first about choices made “Years in Advance” regarding the very structure of our businesses to create a more stable operational platform.

Then, Strategic Choices included pricing, per-cap spending, multiday vs. must-have dates, and indoor spaces.

Last week was Preseason Actions & Systems – specific systems each business needs to react successfully in the event-immediate time scale. The trick is to set up the systems during the preseason so you are ready when the event is imminent.

The “Day of” Actions are the deployment of decisions and activation of the systems you put in place in the preseason.

Daily deliberations. My wife haaaaates rainy weekends in October, not because she works at the farm, she doesn’t, but because of my deliberations. We’ve been married 25 years, and she’s seen 27 seasons of Hugh’s rain-day deliberating.

There are only a few choices.

#10 Open and suck it up. Not every day is going to be the most profitable day. Some days will be wildly profitable, but not rainy, rain-threatening, rain-adjacent, misty, or drizzle.

In the theme park business, they say,

“You can make a good day great, but you can’t make a bad day good.”

Sometimes, you have to open and suck it up. If the weather is threatening, depending on the date, sometimes you cannot close because it’s too close to Fall prime time, and people are running out of time to visit. (See the amazing hand-drawn graph below.)

Accept your less profitable fate, bring in a skeleton crew, and have a schedule of reduced hours for attractions that take extra staff. Open and hunker down.

#11 Call it & close. There are days when nothing will work, so pull the plug, go home, and take a nap. Inevitably, the sky will clear slightly the minute you choose to close, but don’t look back. You made your decision – Lock the gate. (You probably need a nap anyway.)

When we decide to close, we use the system in place IMMEDIATELY.

  • Ticket Mass Cancellation – This is a TicketSpice-specific feature we use on time slot events, such as Sunflower Festival and Wine Your Way Out, where the guests have selected a particular day & time. We can select ONLY the affected ticket holders and issue a mass email cancellation that provides the guest with a promo code exclusive to them to rebook another day & time. Last year, we did this THREE TIMES during the Sunflower Festival with no issues. (We have a no-refund policy, but guests can rebook for other events.)
  • Communications blast. We take the team approach. Michelle notifies the staff, Janelle posts on social media, the staff puts out cones to block off access to the parking lots, and I update the phone system & send email alerts to ticket holders and our main email lists.
  • Typically, we are fully updated in 15 minutes or less from decision time because the systems are in place.

You can’t reach everyone. YES – Someone will show up at the farm no matter what. However, if you are facing a no-win situation, take the minor loss of a few upset families over burning payroll and wasting time all day. It’s just too bad for them. If we are still on site, we offer them free tickets to come back.

#12 Post-Apocalypse. This year, a wind storm blew down a huge swath of sunflower during full bloom. It whipped our brand new 40x60ft tent’s top off, ensnaring an HVAC unit and ripping it out of the wall along the way to its own self-destruction.

The field was not pretty, so we went in and hand-replanted hundreds of sunflowers with only mild success. In full bloom, only 1 of 3 festival weekends passed, and we needed a post-apocalypse plan.

Get back on the horse. We filmed strategically located LIVE videos, took pictures, and moved forward, featuring the vendor fair, food, wine, and THEN sunflowers – last.

We offered special “All you can carry” flower packages, and people cut flowers from downed stalks to get them. It wasn’t a record-setter, but we didn’t have to close. We showed them the real deal, clipped downed flower blooms LIVE on camera, and appealed to guests with authenticity.

So, what does all this mean? Well, in outdoor entertainment, bad weather is a bummer, but now you have 12 strategies to deploy.

The key is to be ready to plan “Years in Advance,” making “Strategic Choices” in your business direction and using your “Preseason Systems” to take action on the “Day Of,” so in the “Post Apocalypse,” you can minimize the impact and get back to business.

It’s a New Year, and we have some great new games & attractions coming your way, so stay tuned…

It brings us so much joy to be a part of your business’s success and your business lives through the work we do.

There isn’t a better, more supportive industry in the world. That fills me with gratitude as we end 2023 and begin a fresh, bright shiny New Year.

Happy 2024,


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