It's no secret that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the event industry. Social distancing and other COVID-19 compliance guidelines have made in-person events nearly impossible. Organizers have had to rethink entire events to ensure safety for participants or figure out how to navigate a celebration in the virtual world. Though it always requires more work than an event under normal circumstances would, hosting a successful event that is COVID-19 compliant is possible.
A SUCCESS STORY
This year, because of COVID-19, Pike Market Senior Center and Food Bank had to completely rethink its annual Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Celebration, which typically attracts more than 12,000 attendees to Downtown Seattle.
"Figgy Pudding" is one of the Senior Center's largest fundraisers of the year so it was imperative to find a way to keep the tradition running.
Just like with most projects, the first step was brainstorming solutions. An impeccable team was assembled to think about event alternatives with safety as the number one priority. After considering several options, our design team decided to move the entire event to a hybrid virtual and live television broadcast platform.
Luckily, our company had already invested the time for key team members to become certified COVID-19 Compliance Officers, or CCOs. CCOs act as an informer for an organization by keeping up-to-date on regulatory guidelines related to COVID-19.
By having CCOs, our organization already had the knowledge necessary to successfully maintain COVID-19 compliance. Because of this, we were able to help the Senior Center host a successful event with a 0% exposure rate.
FINDING A PERFORMANCE PLATFORM
Typically, The Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition is held throughout the streets of Seattle where attendees can walk throughout the event to listen to different participating choirs. However, because choirs this year couldn't gather in groups of more than 10 people, a lot had to change.
Through our amazing marketing team's efforts, Figgy Pudding was able to solidify a 30-minute holiday special on KING 5 TV. The holiday special featured 5 of the 13 different choirs from this year's event. In addition to the broadcast, we utilized the Senior Center's website as a viewing platform for all the choirs, encouraging folks to donate to the Senior Center in a brand new way.
PARTNERING WITH OFFICIALS
When discussions with the choirs first began in October, no one knew what to expect or what our end product would be. With the 30-minute holiday special in mind, we began working with the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority to devise a plan that would allow us to film choirs in the market.
Staff made it clear that if the event moved forward, there would be no live singing allowed, which presented a unique challenge to overcome.
Our team brainstormed a few options for the choirs to choose from so they could safely be involved in the Figgy Pudding event.
The chosen option was for choirs to lip-sync two songs while filming at Pike Place Market from Nov. 16-18. Each choir could choose an hour-long session to film their songs using prerecorded audio tracks prepared ahead of time. We asked each group to provide their own clear face masks to wear while recording, so we could see their mouths while filming at the market. Each choir also was limited to 12 members while filming.
In the end, we had a total of 13 choirs involved, seven of which filmed at Pike Place Market. The other groups submitted their own videos.
Virtual Figgy Caroling Celebration at Pike Place Market
Having a certified CCO team on the project allowed us to take every step needed for safety, which included:
· Checking that all personal protective equipment and EPA N list cleaning products were available;
· Creating specific signage for necessary guidelines at each location. This included face mask and hand-washing reminders as well as contact tracing information for our head CCO; and
· Cleaning all touched surfaces between each choir to avoid any cross-contamination.
One of the most important components of our plan was a COVID-19 safety check-in. Upon arrival, anyone entering the filming location was required to:
· Sign a survey questionnaire verifying they did not have COVID-19 symptoms; and
· Take a temperature reading. If their temperature was over 100.4 Fahrenheit, they had to be retested. If the second test resulted in the same reading, they were sent home. Luckily, no one showed a high temperature over the filming days.
EXECUTING THE PLAN
With a plan in motion, it was important for everyone involved to have a full understanding of what was expected while on set. We ensured each group that all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and county safety regulations would be followed with the help of our CCO team. This meant having continuous communication with the choirs and crew before they arrived onsite, preparing them to work onsite safely, answering questions and guiding participants through the plan.
After the final day of filming, we sent emails to anyone involved reminding them that if they began experiencing symptoms, they should immediately contact the event manager.
It has now been three weeks since the last day we filmed, and we surpassed the window of potential exposure without any incidents. It took a lot of coordination and efforts to make the event possible, but I believe our CCO team was truly the driving force behind the success story.
HAVING A SUCCESSFUL CCO TEAM
The biggest thing we learned was that the CCOs need to be solely focused on safety protocols and not any other aspect of the event or the production process. The hands-on and quick-changing nature of the position requires them to be strictly focused on everyone's safety and adherence to guidelines.
As a mentor of mine always says, "It takes a village," and I believe it truly does, especially during times like these. This event was successful only due to the vigilance of everyone involved.
Written by Kristen Rosello, COVID Compliance Manager for The Workshop