Spring has arrived. The first flowers are in bloom and the bees are busy bringing back pollen and nectar to make honey. Summer is just around the corner and it’s time to prepare for the country fair and possibly your annual honey show.
As any organiser of one of these events will tell you, the planning, preparation and organisation can be a daunting but rewarding task. Especially if observation hives and live bees and honey tasting are to be included in the centrepiece of any display. It is probably sensible to say that the planning for the next honey show starts as soon as this year’s show is finished, and we clear away everything, or sometimes even sooner. Every show and venue are of course different, but we have written a suggested plan of action below. There are many tasks to complete before the show opens and the visitors arrive on the first day, so what needs to be done, and where do you start?
Initial Planning Meeting
Long before the event meet the organiser of the event, festival, show or country fair. The person you meet should ideally be a decision maker, rather than their representative, or a committee member.
What sort of event is it? If they relate the theme to nature, farming or the environment, you are probably in the right zone. We were once asked by a commercial events business to attend a Vegan food fair, as beekeepers we know we are tuned perfectly to nature, but attending this event could have caused unnecessary conflict with other people’s beliefs.
Ask the organiser what they expect from you and your organisation, as a beekeeper and producer of honey you are going to work out quickly whether what they are expecting from you is reasonable and practical to carry out.
Agree a time and a place for your meeting and make sure they allow you enough time to discuss any of the questions you have. It might be a good idea to send them a list of questions in advance and agree all actions in writing.
Now is the time to raise the subject of financials. Is the main event a pay to attend for the public, is your organisation expected to pay a fee as an exhibitor, or do they feel that because beekeepers bring added value, and attract interest you will be able to exhibit for free?
You probably already know the location where the upcoming event is going to be held. However, you do need to know the dates, the opening times, what day/time in advance that you can get your vehicles in to set up, and what time you are expected to exhibit to before you are allowed to close or pack up each day.
Is the organiser providing you with shelter like a tent or marquee, or do you need to bring your own? Do you need to bring your own tables, groundsheet, or are they provided? What about the floor, will it be covered with walk boards, or will it be a soft surface like grass? What happens if it rains, will the shelter have sides and be waterproof?
Will you or your team need event passes to get in or out each day? What about car parking, can you leave your vehicles onsite or do they have to be moved out and be stored at another location? If the event goes over several days, what about security? Can you stay/camp with your exhibit, or do you need to go home each night, or stay in a local hotel or bed-and-breakfast?
If you can’t camp local accommodation gets booked up quickly and if the event is held each year and is popular, they may charge inflated prices to stay, so book early.
A one-day event shouldn’t be a problem for your bees, but if the event goes over several days or a week as some events do, your bees will need to be allowed to fly. Is the event organiser aware of this? How does this affect you attending? What about members of the public? Where will your tent/shelter/marque be located on site?
Are you allowed to sell bee related products? We discuss the sales of goods like honey, and beeswax products such as hand creams and lip balms and the existing U.K. regulations for selling these products later in a separate article. It would be good to find out the regulations for selling these products from your part of the world in the comments section.
If you are U.K. based, you will almost certainly be asked by the event organiser for a copy of your public liability insurance and a risk assessment. We have included a general risk assessment template in the downloads section of this article. It contains the common areas that you will need to address. As no two events, venues or circumstances are the same, you must assess your own events in your own words to produce your own document so as to make it valid for you. If something does unfortunately go wrong, you will be relieved if you have.
Before you can fully complete your risk assessment, you will need to visit the site of the event in person in advance, as there may be hazards and risks that need to addressed in the risk assessment you produce. The site survey is not just about producing your own risk assessment, as there will almost certainly be other factors that you may need to consider before you bring your precious bees along.
When you first visit take note of your journey. How long was your travel time, will you need to travel a day or days sooner, if so what about your cargo of bees? Will there be any traffic issues on the travel day such as weather, heavy event traffic, roadworks or diversions? People do not like hot vehicles, bees appreciate them even less. Are there any access issues like width or height restrictions along the way, like bridges, gates or farm roads?
When you arrive at the event site, what are the access roads like? It might be sunny and dry when you visit and hopefully during your show, but think in advance about rain, car tyres cutting up grass surfaces into mud, slopes and hills that might cause problems. We have attended events that required the use of a tractor to tow us back to the tarmac road.
What facilities will be available onsite? Show food is okay for a one-day event, but not for a week. Don’t forget to find out about toilets, handwashing, and access to fresh water without having to bring it or buy it.
If you need electricity is it provided, or do you need to bring your own? It is not uncommon in the U.K. for event organisers to ask for the Portable Appliance Test Certificate (PAT Test) for portable generators brought onto the site. On occasions we have also been asked to check and advise on the noise level produced by our generator. At some events there has been a requirement to box in/cover/muffle the generator while it is running, as well as a curfew time when it must be switched off. The use of a generator and electric would need to be covered in your risk assessment too, as would storage of the fuel it would use.
If you can get a site plan from the organiser before your site survey visit, it may help you a lot, particularly if your bees will need to fly. An active hive of bees making foraging flights behind a high mesh screen should not be a problem. Equally an active observation hive that has an access tube out of the back of your shelter for the bees to fly in and out should be okay, unless the access tube is pointing directly into another marque or at the local children’s dance troop.
Careful planning and preparation can and will help to ensure that your time at the event is enjoyable for exhibitors, the public and event organisers as well.