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Book Review: The Festival Entertainer

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Book Review: The Festival Entertainer

If you’ve been wanting to work fairs and festivals, Keith Stickley's The Festival Entertainer offers an effective guide to booking and working outdoor fairs, festivals and similar events. While the book’s title may bring to mind large state and other fairs, Stickley focuses on local festivals and street events put on by cities and other organizations-fall harvest festivals, spring fling events and more. While he offers useful tips on working these events-what to wear, material to perform, traveling and more, it’s the marketing and promotional advice that is the book's strongest suit.

Fairs and Festivals

Keith Stickley is a comedy magician from Detroit who currently lives in Las Vegas and has made a living working festivals and fairs. He defines a fair or festival as an event, generally outdoors, which lasts for a short amount of time and draws huge crowds. Most of the fair dates that Stickley works are between three to four days long and are often held in smaller towns where fair organizers close off the streets and the events occur on the streets.

In his book, he focuses on smaller events as opposed to large county and state fairs that book much of their talent through specialized conventions and tradeshows. Nonetheless, the information in this book is still applicable for booking these events.

The first part of the book offers useful advice on making it as a fair/festival performer. Stickley talks about using a camper as a low-cost means to get to the events and work and live there. Stickley talks about material that you can successfully use at events, as well as how to structure a show, gather a crowd and pitch and sell items for extra money-if a venue allows it. There’s also advice on lighting and PA systems.

The Business Side

The book’s second section offers insightful business tips to help you make contacts and book yourself at these events. Here, Stickley shows how to find out about events, make contacts and approach organizers, and outlines a marketing program. His 30 Day Action Plan offers a concentrated and effective means to book shows.

There’s no silver bullet or magic solution here. Stickley offers logical advice that will require some work on your part, but that give results. He includes templates for basic letters as well as samples of his own promotional material and contracts (some of these are offered in electronic format on an enclosed CD).

Part III, titled "Odds and Ends" talks about other topics such as what to wear, dealing with weather, handling hecklers, accepting tips and more. The last part of the book offers Fair Resources-useful websites to find local events and information about equipment and more.

Testimony Time

The 100-page, spiral bound book is an easy read and offers powerful advice for those who are serious about tapping into the festival and fair markets. I can add my own testimony to this review. Using the techniques outlined in Stickley’s manual, I booked two local festivals.

I didn’t earn top dollar from these events-the organizers were strapped for cash-but I worked at times when I had no other shows and handed out lots of business cards. One of the events was my first shot at performing “street-style magic” without having to pitch for tips-a learning experience.

-Wayne N. Kawamoto

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