Sunday, September 30, 2012

10 tips for hosting your first letterboxing event

Even ran into some of the little letterboxers at the Markham Fair today after Box ON!

The dust is indeed settling over this year's Box ON! event.  It was fantastic - I had a great time, the weather was perfect, and it looked like everyone was enjoying themselves.

If anyone had ever asked me two years ago when I started letterboxing whether I would host one of these events in the near future, I would have said no way.  But now, after having hosted one, here are the things I learned that might help you out if you are in the same position I was hosting your first event:
Venue: Milne Park, Markham.  Check.
  1. Breathe.
  2. Figure out the location of the letterboxing activity *before* you host.  In my case, I volunteered to host the year's Ontario letterboxing event in my hometown before I thought through where I could actually have people come and letterbox.  I had already scheduled the event and picked a theme before my mind even turned to that. There are no big parks or trail systems in Markham.  Oops. Luckily, the only place that I could possibly host it was actually the perfect place to host it, so we all lucked out and I didn't have to change the event location.  Phew.
  3. Pick a theme that you'll like.  If you'll like it, others will too.
  4. Don't do it all yourself: letterboxers are a particular type of human being: kind, generous, and genuine.  Ask and you shall receive; everyone who attended my event voluntarily contributed, either by carving stamps, giving a raffle item, helping to plot, buying raffle tickets, etc.
  5. Exception to tip 4 - things come up and sometimes the good intentions to contribute a stamp will not flesh out an actual stamp.  Just be alert to this and have a back up plan if you think you won't have a full set of boxes for the event.
  6. Clues, clues, clues.  Check 'em once, check 'em twice.  And you'll still goof some of the lefts and rights.  I went to an event a while ago and there was a right in the clues where there should have been a left.  It was fine and I found the stamp, but remember wondering if they double checked their clues.  Well, karma is a bitch, and I did it three times in my clues. Gah.  It's a lot of clues to put together at once, so take it slow and try to mentally go through each clue to keep it clear.
  7. Clues again: be straightforward in your clues to save yourself some grief.  It's a lot of clues at once... I had this great (read: sarcasm here) idea that I'd send people off to a letterbox which would contain a clue to a further letterbox - for each letterbox of the event.  Sounds great in theory until you get into the practicalities of actually planting boxes like that - compounded by the complexity of planting some like that with secret bonus boxes associated with them.  Gah!  Save yourself the trouble.
  8. Amazing shirts for raffle with art by the immensely talented Ondine, check.
  9. Venue choice: as a personal preference, I like private venues with potluck meals over restaurants.  I like the privacy of a rented venue for the ability to talk letterboxes, do exchanges, personal travelers, raffles, etc. without the prying eyes of muggles. Also, since it's potluck, it can be pretty economical when folks don't have to pay a restaurant for dinners for a whole family when done this way.  However, once you pay for insurance on top of the rental costs, it can be pretty costly to rent the venue.  On the other hand, I know from hosting other non-letterboxing events that to reserve space for large groups often requires credit card reservations and minimum orders amounts for everyone that can leave you on the hook if a lot of people drop out suddenly or arrive not very hungry.  Food for thought ;)
  10. If you are going to be putting out some money for the venue, and you probably already will be putting out money for the actual boxes themselves, a raffle is a nice way for people to contribute financially without actually asking them for an event fee or something like that.  Because of the raffle, I was able to completely offset the venue and insurance, so that was a definite plus. 
  11. Relax and have fun! People know what to do - show up, letterbox, then go back, eat, and hand out with all the cool letterboxers whose signature stamps they've seen in all the logbooks.  There's actually not much for you to do once you've reserved a venue and planted your letterboxes.  Sit back and enjoy yourself as well!
The event planning and execution was amazing, but boy am I tired.  Now I actually get to go back to the regularly scheduled carvings and work on things that actually don't have to do with mysterious things ;)  Maybe I should do something really ridiculous and carve Hello Kitty or something.

For posterity, here is the clue map I made for the event. Click on it to see it in full size.   Happy trails!

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