By Caterine de Vantier - open for editing
This is a walk through of some ideas that it might be helpful to think about when you're looking at stewarding an event. Some of them - like deputies, chores and rubbish, for example - apply to pretty much all events. Others might not apply to your event. If you have items that aren't already listed here that you think it would be helpful to include, please email me and let me know - after all, we want this to be a genuinely useful resource!
Drop Dead Deputies
Having a deputy steward is important. This gives you someone else to help put the event together. However, the deputy steward should be someone who doesn't live in the same house as you. What would happen if you both came down with gastroenteritis? It might seem convenient to choose someone you live with as your deputy, but if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, there's still someone to run the event. If you're stewarding a feast, it's also a good idea if the feast cook's not living with you - or at the very least, that they have a drop dead deputy of their own that isn't.
Maps, Site Directions & Signage
Do people know how to get to the event venue? It's a really good idea to post the address, a link to a map of the location on the group website, and a picture of the building if you have one. If there's special information that people need to know about parking (e.g., "parking is down the long driveway at the side of the hall" or "on street parking only"), post this up as well. A day or two before the event, it's a really good idea to also email this information to the group email lists.
There are two blue and white plastic "SCA" signs in the Quartermaster's gear. Place these appropriately to help direct people towards the venue.
Event Sign In
People will need to sign in to your event, to record that they are there, so that they are covered by our insurance for the duration of the event.
You will need at least two sign in sheets: one for members, and one for those that are paying for event membership. Fortunately, SCANZ has provided us with these - all you need to do is download and print them. They can be found here.
You are also required to keep a copy of the SCANZ rules available at the event for people to look at if they want to. A copy of this can also be found on the SCANZ website, here.
Chances are you'll be too busy running around being a steward to make sure that everyone signs in. It's a good idea to assign this as one of the event chores (or ask someone specific to do this if you're not having delegated chores). You will probably want to provide them with some sort of instructions, oral or written. There is a template that you can use for this here, but it is also perfectly fine to make up your own.
You'll also want a method for handling the cash. I've outlined one way of doing this on the page Financial Record Keeping Before, During, and After the Event. You are free to use this, or your own method. The most important things to achieve with cash handling are accuracy, collecting all required payments, and not losing the cash - as long as you can manage this, you can use whatever system you like to do so.
There will always be chores with events. There are multiple ways of dealing with this, and as far as I'm aware, none of them result in no complaints. You can only do your best with this, and be satisfied that you have tried. Whatever you do, you need to have decided on your process for dealing with this aspect in advance.
One method (best for small events) is not to assign chores and ask people to help as necessary.
Another method is to assign people their chores and tell them what they're doing. This is fine if the event structure is fairly relaxed, but may cause stress for example if you accidentally schedule a heavy fighter to do kitchen work during the heavy tourney. It's not insolvable, but will require a bit more thought about which people in the group are likely to want to take part in what things, or a willingness to spend ages shuffling people around.
For big events, there are two reasonably common practices that I'll mention here. Both of them involve you as steward working out a chores roster of things that are going to need to be done at the event (e.g., food prep, sink and toilet cleaning, table setting, dishes, putting up/taking down banners etc).
One method is to have people sign up for chores when they sign in. If you're going with this, it's a good idea to have pieces of paper or space in an event booklet available so that people can write their chores down to remind themselves of what they're doing.
This does give a little advantage to those that arrive on site first - it's worth bearing in mind that these might well be the people who booked late for the event, while those that booked early are unable to make it until later, but end up with chores that really don't suit them as a result.
Which leads on to the second suggestion, which is to have people sign up for chores in advance. This involves creating a list, emailing it out to those that have booked, and asking them to choose a number of chores which would best suit them, from which you give them x number (e.g. choose four, be given two). This gives an element of egality to those that have booked and paid nice and early, and enables those with busy schedules to get in quick and make sure they're doing something that works for them. It also means you know you have at least half your chores covered before you get to site.
If you're using this method, you're still going to want to be able to give people a written reminder of what it is they're doing.
Bear in mind that regardless of how many pieces of paper you pass out, someone will alwaysforget what chores they're on and ask you. Or someone won't show up to do dinner prep and you'll have a stressed cook wanting to know who it is and where they are. Make several copies of the roster. In the case of kitchen chores, make sure that a copy gets stuck somewhere visible. This is really important, as it's easy enough for an extra piece of paper to get scooped up and thrown out if it's sitting on a bench somewhere. Also be prepared to have someone (yourself or a herald) call for the next round of kitchen help, or dish washers/dryers.
Meals & Food Buying
Depending on the type of event, you might want to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning tea, or afternoon tea. There are multiple ways of dealing with this.
If it's only one meal, you might want to consider making it pot luck depending on what meal it is.
Or perhaps make specific groups of people responsible for bringing parts of a meal, or covering an entire meal.
Or maybe you (or the cook) works out what will be needed for the weekend, and you designate ingredients to specific people to bring, spreading the load evenly.
Or you could operate it as a meal plan and have one cook covering each meal, or one cook responsible for all aspects of the meal.
Whatever meals you have, and whatever way you deal with this, someone's going to need to buy the food. Negotiate in advance whether it's you or the cooks, and discuss with them whether they are happy and able to purchase food out of their own money, or if they need a cash advance to cover it. Normal practice is to write a cheque out to the appropriate amount for the current number of bookings x budgeted cost - for example, if there are currently 25 people booked for the feast, and you're charging them $20 each, you can ask the Reeve to write an advance cheque for $500.
One of the joys of running an event is getting rid of the rubbish afterwards. It's normal for the stewards to remove rubbish from a site, and include it in their own weekly rubbish. If you're paying for bags, you may want to include this cost in your event budget.
There's usually a supply of generic rubbish bags in the Quartermaster's equipment - but you will want to check this ahead of the event.
Bear in mind that if your site is discreetly damp, you will need to remind people to take their bottles away with them - or provide an appropriate receptacle and do this for them.
Is anyone able to take food scraps away from the event to dispose of them? Are they able to take away any food scraps, or just fruit and vege ones? Some sites may be able to dispose of these for you. If you are able to separate out food scraps so that they're composted or fed to animals, that's great - just remember to provide something appropriate for these to go into separate to the normal rubbish.
Finally, remember that this is something extra that you're probably going to need to take away with you - in addition to all the other stuff that you've already brought out to site - so you'll need to allow space for it somewhere, or be willing to make a second trip. It's really easy to forget about this until the very end of the event, when you're absolutely worn out and it's an extra thing that you need to deal with.
Also, since the contents can be a bit icky and bags sometimes split, it's a really good idea to have a tarp or something in the car that you can put them onto to protect your car interior. I say that from experience.
Set Up Crew Lunch
This is something that we've recently introduced to reflect the fact that often, the stewarding team and people volunteering to help set up will arrive on site in the morning or at lunch time, and spend several hours setting up ahead of an event - and usually won't have thought about feeding themselves.
People work better and are easier to get along with if they've been fed. Budgeting in a small amount of money to feed the people putting in the effort ahead of the event to get it all set up and looking nice is a worthwhile reflection of this effort.
Since you'll often have a cook in the kitchen, it's easiest if rolls are prepared in advance so as not to disturb them. Just make sure not to choose sloppy ingredients, or things that will make a roll go soggy!
The easiest way to manage feeding a set up team is to have all the rolls bagged individually in snaplock bags, all the snacks in a second set of snaplock bags, and a bag full of fruit. Since these people are going to be moving around a lot, being able to pull out a couple of baggies and a bit of fruit and give it to them enables them to take it and keep on going, and eat as they need to. Make sure to physically put it in their hands, don't just place it nearby, as they're likely to forget about it. The snaplock bags also mean that if you have anyone with special dietary needs on your set up crew, you can easily identify their food with a name on the bag.
Fires at Events
If you're planning on having a fire at your event, check what the current local fire restrictions are. Also check with the people you're hiring the site from that they're okay with you having a fire - presumably if you're thinking of this, there will be a specific fire pit, but just in case.... You will also need someone to keep an eye on it and make sure it is put together safely and put out safely.
Tent Peg Markers & Fire Buckets
If you're organising a big camping event you will want to remind people to put white ties onto the guy ropes of their tents so that these are visible at night. Buckets full of water next to tents - especially over summer - are useful as an anti-fire measure.
Storing Fresh & Used Tea Towels
At any event involving feeding people, you're going to go through a lot of these. Keep the fresh tea towels somewhere handy and obvious, and make sure you regularly send new ones to the kitchen if the main sinks are located separately. If at all possible, get used tea towels hanging out so that they dry somewhere. Think about where you're going to store these, because at some point someone's going to start dumping them on the floor. It can be convenient to store these in spare plastic bags. Try to make sure that these aren't the same as the bags you're using for rubbish, it's really easy for these to get mixed up at the end of an event if you do.
Chances are, you'll need to do some of this at the end of the event. Almost certainly tea towels, definitely tablecloths if you have a feast as part of your event. It's easy enough to do the tea towels as a load or two at home - there's usually some laundry powder in with the Quartermaster's gear - but it's often much easier to take the tablecloths down to the laundromat. You'll need to do this fairly quickly after the event, or they'll tend towards mould in our lovely humid climate.