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Planning Hybrid Events for Wine, Food, and Drink Festivals

Millions of Americans have received the COVID-19 vaccine and many more are in line to take it. But that doesn’t mean the virus has disappeared. COVID-19 cases continue to rise and the CDC still reminds all Americans to wear a mask, stay six feet apart, and avoid crowds when going out is unavoidable.

But this doesn’t mean that you should stop planning your food and wine events or postpone the festivals that are already on your lineup. You can still proceed but in collaboration with state and local health officials. Be flexible; make adjustments based on the circumstances of the venue’s surrounding area.

As the event draws closer, always assess the current conditions to determine whether you should push through, postpone, or reduce the number of attendees. Another thing you should consider is turning the food and wine festival into a hybrid event. It might just be the new normal for these events.

What’s a Hybrid Event and How Do You Plan One?

A hybrid event is essentially a combination of virtual and in-person activities that make up the entire thing.

On the virtual side of things, it would be good to release teasers on your website and social media pages as the event draws closer. This gets people excited about the event. Consider taking online orders, too, so they can still be a part of your food and wine festival even though they can’t physically attend.

Another way to make the virtual part of your hybrid food and wine event more special is by sending gift bags to attendees who can’t make it. This way, they won’t miss out on what the in-person attendees experience. As for the in-person event, it’s important to stick to CDC guidelines.

What’s the Safest Approach to In-Person Events?

Food and wine event planners and administrators are encouraged to check the CDC’s Consideration for Events and Gatherings page for the latest updates about physical events and to find venues that specialize in hybrid events. It provides the latest guidelines on how to keep your staff and attendees safe on-site. But here’s an overview of what you should do.

First, assess the risk of COVID-19 spreading at your food and wine event.

  • Lowest Risk: All activities, events, and gatherings that are completely virtual
  • Moderate Risk: Small gatherings with people who come from the same local area
  • Higher Risk: Medium-sized gatherings where attendees can remain at least six feet apart
  • Highest Risk: Large gatherings where it’s difficult for attendees to remain at least six feet apart

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Second, promote healthy behaviors to prevent the spread of the virus.

Event planners are responsible for implementing strategies that minimize the possibility of COVID-19 transmission during the in-person event. This includes advising staff to stay home when they aren’t feeling well and sending reminders to attendees before the event about when they should stay at home.

Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette should be highlighted, too. Remind attendees to wash their hands and cover all coughs and sneezes. Remind them to avoid handshakes and high-fives, too.

Third, pay close attention to cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation.

Food and beverage festivals are particularly prone to the transmission of COVID-19. So for in-person activities, make sure the catering team is observing proper protocols and that all shared objects are disinfected before every use. Make sure the ventilation systems are working, too, to increase outdoor air circulation while attendees mill around and check out the different booths at the event.

Finally, modify the layout of your event center.

Choose an event center that can accommodate your COVID-modified layout. Make sure the attendance capacity allows social distancing, and that there are multiple entrances and exits at the venue. If possible, choose a venue with an outdoor area to avoid indoor crowds. Use physical guides and physical barriers as a reminder for your attendees, too. The signs might be repetitive but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Keep these things in mind and your hybrid food and wine festival is already halfway to success.

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