How do you use your Celebrations? Do you celebrate enough? I think there are many park leaders that need to hear this.
I also realize that this may not be the right time to be talking about getting together and having celebrations because of COVID19; however, I would encourage you to think about how to creatively have celebrations and begin planning for them now.
Celebrations can be time-consuming, unpredictable and sometimes expensive. But if done right and with the right purpose they can and should be something you do often.
In the park world we often forget to celebrate. So often we forget to celebrate our small victories! We get caught up in the next project or simply just not having enough time to plan something formal. It is certainly easy to worry about the details, the speaker list, who gets recognized, do you serve food or drinks, what about the weather, do you have audio-visual, a microphone, what about access to the site, what about parking, will anyone really show up, do you need a PR firm to arrange it. Believe me, I’ve been there, I have battled through many of these questions with my own team, with myself, and my bosses. The answer to these questions can easily be “no” we shouldn’t do it for lots of very good reasons. It does take time and planning for sure.
I want to challenge you to think of celebrations in a different way. When I was working on the TN Riverpark project I had the opportunity to work with so many great leaders. One of them was Jim Bowen. I interviewed Jim about his early work on the Riverpark, and one of things he talked about was the importance of celebrating often. He said they would plan the groundbreaking of one phase while cutting the ribbon on another. He said he felt like every year they were kicking off or opening up a new section of the now beloved Riverpark. He said that it gave them momentum both financially and politically, because people would show up to the event.
As I mention in the 9 Lessons Learned document that you can download on my website, you have to have Consistent Celebrations.
I have planned celebrations for breaking ground on a new section of greenway in the dead of winter and it was awesome…. in its own way! We had a tent and our contractor had some dirt and shovels ready for us to get great pictures, and guess what? We had a small turn-out and about 15 people showed up. But we had the Mayor, we had our team, and we had a couple supporters. We had good pictures, we had a story in the newspaper and our team was excited and inspired. One of my personal favorite events was the grand opening of Stringer's Ridge Park, where 100’s of people showed up. The mayor, a major funder, and one of our community partners all spoke. We provided guided hikes and a National Park historian was on site to talk about the historic significance of the ridge. It was an event! You have to think about the audience: Who is this celebration really for? The celebration may be more for the politician and to get a headline or picture in the newspaper. On the other hand, you may need to have a massive showing of community support and a large crowd to show the funders and politicians that you have strong and deep support. In some cases, it is okay for them to be small and intimate. However, in some cases they need to be planned way in advance and need to be a community wide event.
Five Must-Do’s at Your Celebrations:
Whether it is a Ground Breaking or a Ribbon Cutting, an announcement about receiving a grant or a special visit from the Governor’s office, it is critical to celebrate major milestones along the way. You are showing the public that you are constant and that you are moving forward and you have MOMENTUM! Celebrations are more than just big scissors and cutting a ribbon. Use these 5 items to make your celebration meaningful, worthwhile and a catalyst!
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