Successful and safe summer fairs

Planning your first summer fair since 2019? Take inspiration from these PTAs, who held a fair in the 2021 autumn term and delivered a roaring success despite covid restrictions

Who needs Glastonbury? We held our own mini festival

Music filled the air as the fantastic live band got into their groove. Parents chilled out on their picnic blankets, watching their children run across our large, grassy field. Although it felt like a festival, this was no Glastonbury – it was our very first back-to-school fair.

Holding our festival in the school’s massive playing field gave us more confidence that our event could go ahead safely. Excited chatter could be heard all around as families who hadn’t seen each other in person for months caught up.

To remove barriers for parents, we decided our fair would be free entry this year, which brought a smile to everyone’s faces! Without an entrance fee, people felt more inclined to splash out on the circus skills workshops or the magician’s performances we had organised.

We had a ‘PTA shop’ selling a selection of pocket money toys and handcrafted items, including teddy bears fashioned from old school uniforms. The fair was open to external vendors too, who paid a fee to set up their stalls.

To put everyone’s minds at ease, we made several safety adjustments. Instead of our traditional face painting stand, we offered glittery festival face gems that people could stick on themselves, reducing the need for contact.

We set up a play zone for the children with a selection of outdoor toys to keep them entertained, and we ran a bar serving a selection of alcoholic and soft drinks. People strolled to and fro, listening to music in the September sun.

Holding our festival so close to the beginning of term proved to be a bit of a challenge. Even with 17 PTA members, we still needed more hands on deck. But with many parents still in summer holiday mode we struggled to find enough volunteers to run stalls. We only had two weeks to promote the event to our school community, and we weren’t sure how many people would attend.

Imagine our surprise when we counted the takings – we had made £4,500. Thrilled with our result, we were able to put this towards the next stage of our playground redevelopments – a trim trail for the Key Stage Two children.

The success of our back-to-school festival has been encouraging for all of us. We hope to run a summer fair this year because we know how much our parents appreciate these events.

Sarah Everson, PTA Secretary, Friends of Halsford Park School, East Grinstead, West Sussex (410 pupils)

We handled no cash and still made a splash

I was a roaming ticket tout with a difference – at no point in the day did I handle any money. Instead, we used electronic card readers, which helped us all feel safe at our back-to-school fair.

The parents stepped up with enthusiasm, and we used PTA Events to coordinate our volunteers. 

There was such a happy atmosphere on the day; everybody was in a great mood. Many parents had come to hear their children sing together for the first time in over a year – their faces said it all!

We sold entrance tickets before the event, which boosted footfall. We also pre-sold £10 ‘bounce bands’ for the bouncy castles to make sure we broke even. The bands gave children unlimited turns (as long as they queued each time). We sold so many bands that we had to end sales early because we were worried that children without one would never get a turn.

On the day, we sold £1 paper tokens (bought from Amazon) for stalls, which attendees could buy using one of our three electronic card readers. Each stall had a beautifully decorated box where they could ‘spend’ their tokens, removing the need for contact and lots of spare change. The kids loved it and rushed into the fair clutching rolls of tokens ready to spend. We also supplied large bottles of hand sanitiser at every stand.

Because the tickets had no value outside the fair, we sold out of everything. As soon as we announced the fair was due to close, there was a mad scurry as people rushed to spend their remaining tokens.

This event was only a third of the size of our usual summer fairs, but we were delighted to have made £6,500 after expenses. We’re optimistic about organising another cashless fair in the summer.

Rebecca Geitgey, chair, Parent Staff Association, Queen’s C of E Primary School, Kew, London (400 pupils)

With donkeys and go-karts, no one wanted our fair to end

No sooner had we opened the gates than a crowd came charging towards us. After the upheaval of the previous terms, the children and parents were so excited to have a school fair again. There were go-karts to drive, rats to splat and popcorn to eat. Children could ride donkeys and even, to great delight, soak their teachers! We had really pushed the boat out for our late summer fair.

A parent loaned us the go-karts from their business and we hired the donkeys from a local company. We persuaded our head to run the barbecue, and set up an ice-cream stall too.

We’d set ourselves an ambitious fundraising target of £10,000 for the year to finance a first round of playground renovations, including a new climbing frame that the children chose themselves. We’d already raised nearly £8,000 from a virtual hot-air balloon race and some raffles, but we were pinning our hopes on the fair to reach the goal. We needn’t have worried – the fair raised over £3,000.

The kids absolutely loved the event. No one wanted the bouncy castle to be let down or the donkeys to go home. Some of the older children wrote positive stories about their day in the school newsletter. (If you can get Year 6 on board, you know you’ve cracked it.) Many delighted parents took to Facebook to share their thanks.

We provided plenty of hand sanitisers and held the entire event outdoors to ensure people could enjoy the day sensibly. We were grateful to all the parents and teachers who helped out, ran the stalls and came along. Without their support, our summer fair wouldn’t have been possible and we wouldn’t have reached our fundraising target.

Helen, Alex, Gillian, Joanne, Kelly and Bev, St Stephens RC Primary School PTA, Droylsden, Greater Manchester (420 pupils)