Pre-pandemic, Australian millennials were attending more and more daytime, family-friendly events on the weekend than ever before according to Eventbrite research. I’m assuming this is true for the U.S. and that the trend has resurged post-pandemic because it seems like people these days bring their children to everything.
Maybe it’s because of their schedules and if they didn’t bring them they’d get very little time with them. Maybe everyone is still eager to make up for lost time. Millennials especially (in their prime child-raising years right now) are very experience-oriented. Why wouldn’t they include their children.
The trend has been strong for some time with even historically “adult” places like bars now opening up to more family-friendly events. If you’ve noticed this too and want to host some of your own to meet the needs of this powerful demographic, we’ve got some great family-friendly event ideas for you.
But first a disclaimer…
Many event-heavy chambers got burned with COVID. Since most of their offerings were based around events they struggled with relevance when the pandemic shut that side down.
Now that we’re on the other side of the virus (hopefully), it’s easy to think we should all go back to our full event schedule.
But you may want to reconsider this. Events take up a lot of resources. There may be more valuable things you could be doing for business than hosting events. And if you waited to get back to events or have restarted slowly, you may realize that some groups have filled in your spot. For instance, some chambers are seeing a lack of interest in their golf tournaments because other groups have moved in and are hosting their own. While other chambers are seeing local businesses come together and host their own joint events like “Girls Night Outs” and “Wine Walks.”
Before starting a new event, make sure it is in line with your mission and your strategic initiatives. If not, pass on it or pass on being the sole host. There may be a downtown merchant’s association, or something like that, which would enjoy co-hosting the event with you. That way you can divide the resources (time and effort) between both organizations.
If you are looking to add events back in, consider a niche that serves this generation of parents. Family-friendly events. Here’s a list of ideas to get you started.
Family-friendly Events for the Chamber
- Touch a Truck or Car Show.
Bring in large trucks and other machines and allow kids to get behind the wheel. Invite vendors and food trucks to round out the event.
- Vendors Around the Square or Food Truck Rally.
Bring in vendors or Food Trucks for a fun strolling event.
- Sidewalk Summer Sale.
This outdoor shopping festivity is a fun way to help people get more for their money and everyone could use that these days.
- Cookie Walk.
Erik Bush hosts a Cookie Walk during Small Business Saturday to entice shoppers to stop in. Erik explains, “I ask my members in the shopping district if they would like to participate. If they do, their names get mentioned in our advertisement (including inside the newspaper), and they just have to pass out cookies. I get sponsors for the event and they get their logos on the flyers and a sign in front of Santa’s house. I sit outside of Santa’s house and sell cards to cookie walkers for $5 a piece and they get to go into the stores and get cookies from each participant. Then they return their cards for a chance of two $50 prizes.”
- Scavenger Hunt.
Create a list of items that people have to collect or take a picture of. When they do, they mark off their card and bring it to a designated location. People who finish their cards can be entered into a drawing or receive something special.
- Seasonal Showings.
There are tons of seasonal events like a Harvest Festival or what Anna Jensen’s chamber does, an End of Summer Celebration. She said the event consists of “… five venues for live music along with kid activities. Members have specials that day and sponsor the event. It is one of our largest fundraisers.”
Speaking of seasonal activities, Cindy Charles Brooks shared that at the New Castle-Henry County Chamber of Commerce they have “…a Christmas Walk the first Thursday in December. Last year estimated 4500-5000 people attended. We had, for the first time, 60 vendors. We included all the downtown businesses whether they are members or not. We went to each one individually, around 55-60 businesses. The Christmas walk stretched for five blocks down and one block over in some areas.
“One business has Santa’s workshop with pictures with Santa. We had vintage dressed carolers. We have a plaza that had a DJ with music playing, snowball fighting tent, lots of games, activities by vendors and nonprofits, live nativity set, horse and carriage rides, lots of hot chocolate, several food trucks, and of course all the great vendors. Something we did different this year is we had all the vendors face towards the sidewalks. So as people walked up and down the sidewalks they were with the businesses that were open and the vendors… It was a great way to bring community and family. We increased the sponsorships and had a presenting sponsor this year.”
- Family Movie.
Family movie nights are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the summer. Host them in a park, field, closed off parking lot, or even a pool. There’s likely someone in your community who has the equipment and you can borrow from them. Just make sure you secure the proper movie showing license beforehand. Bring in food trucks and other vendors for a great evening out.
(Image from Flickr Via M&R Glasgow)
- Mini Events.
There’s no reason every event you host has to be a year-long type of planned event. You can host a few signature events as well as smaller ones.
Elizabeth Catherine Cleary shared, “We routinely do small programs with member businesses that are family friendly and encourage members to bring their kids and significant others. It’s a great part of our culture and our members love it. It also aligns with our mission. Some things we’ve done: Breakfast with Santa in lieu of a traditional business breakfast, annual summer events like Night at the Ballpark(s), Bowling Tournaments, offer a Chamber day at a local amusement park, etc. They all align, but also they aren’t -massive- events and don’t take a lot of energy off the staff. You can even think about what you currently offer that you can encourage family participation at. It all comes down to mission but also almost as importantly your Chamber culture.”
Remembers, while these family-friendly event ideas have the potential to be fun, it’s important that you examine what others are doing in your community.
Does your city already host a lot of family events? Does your school district?
Understanding who is already “playing” will give you a better indication of your potential for success. One chamber pro suggested creating a task force for brainstorming ideas and then selecting the best. This can help ensure that your family-friendly events don’t compete with others in the community.