(Indoor) Festival Season is Upon Us

(Indoor) Festival Season is Upon Us February 13, 2024

For many of us, February and March are “Indoor Festival Season,” as many of the largest Pagan gatherings in North America take place during the late winter/early Spring. As someone who goes to a lot of festivals, this is one of my favorite times of the year. And as I age, I find myself really loving events in hotels: mostly because of the soft beds (aching back), hot showers (hard to tame hair), and easy food access (DoorDash).

I realize that indoor events can be extremely cost prohibitive. It’s not the cost of the events themselves (which I’d argue might be underpriced in many instances) but the cost of having to rent a hotel room, or worse, the cost of having to fly/drive somewhere AND rent a hotel room! There’s also the added cost of missing work for many people. But if you live near a major indoor event (and there are more and more each year) and plan accordingly the cost can be equal to an outdoor gathering, or even just a few workshops at a local bookstore.

Black Phillip preparing for ritual at ConVocation outside of Detroit Michigan

One more thing . . . . I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you want more diversity with rituals and presentations at events, you have to either compensate presenters and/or at least cover their major expenses. There’s nothing better than hearing from someone “hey, I’d love for you to travel 500 miles and do some work for me, and I want you to spend your own money to do that work.” Workshops, rituals, and presentations at events are WORK, and most authors don’t sell near enough books to cover even a % of their expenses. Certainly a lot of presenters do what they do for love, but love doesn’t pay the bills.

As someone who visits a lot of festivals, event organizers will often ask me what they can improve upon. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my recommendations, and that’s cool. One of the great things about our festivals is that they often offer lots of programming with many different options running at the same time.


ConVocation, Ypsilanti Michigan February 22-25
PaganiCon, Plymouth Minnesota, March 15-17
Sacred Space, Towson Maryland, March 28-31
Spring Mysteries Festival, Seattle Washington, March 28-31
The Magickal Marketplace, Boxborugh Massachusetts, April 5-7


I am not suggesting that everyone needs to party like a rockstar, I don’t even party like a rockstar all the time, but I do think if you are running a festival you should offer a communal activity on Friday/Saturday nights that brings people together and gives them a central place to go. Many festivals accomplish this with a “ball” or dance of some kind. I am not a dancer, but I love communal spaces that I can hang out in for fifteen minutes and then leave without causing a ruckus to grab a drink of visit a friend. (No one does this better than ConVocation in Michigan.)

What is important about communal spaces? Well they keep the festival from devolving into ten separate parties in various suites and hotel rooms. Not everyone at an event with 1000 people can have all of those people together at the same time, BUT, it’s nice when there’s an event that all of those people could walk in and out of over the course of five hours. Also, nighttime activities should have energy! Give people something to do that makes them twist and shout.

Black Phillip(s) partying like a rockstar at PaganiCon, near Minneapolis Minnesota.

I think we should have Pagan musicians at events, but what makes that tricky sometimes is that concerts are often not something you can walk in and out of, especially indoors. Schedule the bands at 7 or 8, and then follow that up with “The Time Warp” from Rocky Horror. It’s the best of all worlds.

And of course, while the party is happening, there’s always room for something a little less loud. Maybe there’s a ritual happening or a board game room?


Options are great, but there’s also a point of diminishing returns. No one likes to go into a workshop space and find out that you are one of just five attendees. The energy in those situations is just WEIRD, for audience and presenter. Many events have too much stuff going on at the same time, and not enough attendees to justify it. I’m a firm believer that workshops are more fun with a large audience in attendance. And remember, our community is small. You can always ask a followup question of a presenter later during the weekend. People are around, and most author-types are super nice and accommodating.

Also, the more stuff that is happening, the more difficult it is to see the things you are interested in. I’m either always presenting when there’s a workshop I want to see, or it is just too early in the morning on the East Cost for my West Coast schedule. There’s not much that can be done about the latter issue, and it’s my own, but the first issue can be rectified.

Black Phillip hanging in the Llewellyn suite, Paganicon.

Workshop slots are often way too long. No one needs two hours for a workshop. (If people need more time, they can continue in a hallway or other communal space.) Tighten up the schedule and add another block of classes. Maybe there’s no “break” for dinner or lunch in such a scenario, but people can figure out on their own when they should eat. In an age of short attention spans, an hour often works just fine for workshops, and even a lot of rituals.

And there are always certain rituals and workshops that really do require two hours, and that’s cool. Maybe offer “Part 1” and “Part 2” or have some slots set aside for longer presentations, and other slots set aside for shorter ones?


One of the most successful events at many events is “Pagan Speed Friending.” Sort of like speed dating, but without the pressure of you know-dating, Pagan Speed Friending is an opportunity to meet new people without anyone feeling like they’ve put on the spot. We have lots of new people come in and out of our events every year, and because of just how many old friendships there are, people are often cliquish without realizing it. Foster conversations and new connections with some speed friending.

Black Phillip wondering what he has gotten himself into . . . .

Another reason why I love open spaces that facilitate conversation is that they are nice places to get to know others. You can do that in a ball-like setting, striking up a conversation with the person you are standing next to at a concert is just rude. (It’s rude to those of us trying to listen to the performers, and it’s rude to the performers, no one has ever gotten mad at me for talking over the Pagan classic “Gin and Juice.”)


If you are visiting an event be sure and do something a little bit outside of your comfort zone. Stop by that inclusivity panel and listen to voices that are often marginalized and overlooked in larger society. Visit a workshop or panel dealing with a topic you have limited understanding of. Challenge yourself by going to an unfamiliar type of ritual.

And take the time to meet other people if that’s your thing. If you don’t like people, that’s cool, but if you do like people: smile at others, visit communal spaces, and go to activities. I have met a lot of my absolute favorite people at festivals, and I did that by going to events and just being around.

Also, don’t forget to set some time aside for sleeping, eating, bathing, and drinking water!


Selling books at events is hard. There’s the lugging of books from hotel room to workshop (books are heavy) and then the limited amount of time between the end of a class and the next presenter needing the space. “Book signing times” which I see at some events are generally during workshops, which means no one is around while you are available to sign stuff. (Also, you can get stuff signed just about anytime. I’m at the bar, I’m not hard to find.)

Two Black Phillips, one shiny and new, and the other one is mine. He has been everywhere!

One of the best things a festival can do for authors is reserve and operate a space for those authors to sell their work. At ConVocation in Detroit all of the books by the authors (and often music by musicans) at the event are at a table near registration and people can buy books there for 12 plus hours a day and simply pay the people running registration. Registration also takes credit cards, making purchasing easier for attendees. Selling books is how many presenters are able to make SOMETHING during an event (and please remember, no one is selling enough to cover all of their expenses, but you can help someone you like eat dinner!).

Another alternative is to give authors a table in the vendor room, space permitting. This happens at some events, and I usually find such tables a fun place to hang out, even if I’m not really selling much of anything.

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