Nights are getting longer. Cobwebs and candy corn adorn offices everywhere. Campus smells like crisp leaves and that telltale chill in the air, (depending on where you are in the country, of course.) Autumn is among us.
Early to mid-Fall is the biggest craft fair season of the year, as artists and artisans from around the world head for local festivals to showcase their wares. There are bound to be plenty of creative students on your campus, so why not give them an outlet to showcase their skills with a Fall Festival? Encourage creativity (and possibly unload some unusable course materials in the process) with a mascot craft contest, pumpkin-carving contests and more!
Develop your craft contest
Download: Fall Fest poster template
Invite students to come in to create some sort of craft that represents or is inspired by your school mascot!
You can simply let your students create whatever they wish with whatever they want, but to add more challenge and structure to your contest, you might take a page from Adobe’s book.
Adobe’s Inspire Magazine features a recurring challenge called “WTFIT,” where Adobe “sends creatives one word and a box of random stuff, from which they build something that represents that word. The results will make you see junk in a whole new way.” WTFIT has produced incredibly creative art pieces that capture the essence of a theme using seemingly unrelated trinkets.
To translate this to a bookstore setting, you could develop a “craft kit” using surplus supplies or merchandise you sell (like notebooks, pencils, paper or binder clips, etc.) This gives students a creative challenge and can also help promote some of the non-textbook merchandise your store offers. You may also consider offering a sale on scissors, paint or other craft supplies to coincide with the contest.
You could even opt to transform old unsellable books as tools in the craft challenge — although keep in mind other opportunities to recycle some of them do exist. Just be sure to have students or teams sign up to participate beforehand, so you can know how many people will participate and adjust your craft kits accordingly.
You can have your project be as open-ended as that, or be more specific about design, size or other requirements. To add a sense of challenge and spectacle for observers, you could clear a space and put down tarp to protect your floor and have students create their crafts in store during a set time frame. For smaller spaces, you simply have students bring their craft in for judging and display by a certain date.
If a mascot-themed project doesn’t work for your store, or you want something a little simpler to manage, you might also consider a pumpkin-carving contest. If plenty of pumpkins aren’t available in your area, make some with books.
The contest doesn’t just have to be for artistically-inclined students, either. Have those students showcase their hard work and invite the rest of your campus community to visit, peruse and vote for their favorites. Tally your ballots and declare a winner!
This makes your craft contest more fun for everyone, while promoting more traffic through your store.
Choose a date
It’s of course important to pick the right date (or dates, if you wish to keep mascot crafts on display for the season.)
While Halloween seems obvious, October is also host to National Pumpkin Day on Oct. 26. This falls on a Monday this year and is ahead of a Saturday Halloween, so it could make for a good focal point that won’t clash with any potential parties or other campus events that could potentially hurt your attendance.
Pick your prizes
Of course, you’ll stand to gain more participation in your contest if something’s on the line. Offer a prize for whoever earns first place for their craft or pumpkin. You could pander to their creative side and reward them with a gift basket of additional art or craft supplies, or you could offer a gift card, sweater or other piece of fall-weather clothing you sell.
This is a great opportunity to strengthen partnerships with other vendors in your community, as well. Consider contacting businesses to see if any would be willing to sponsor the event by donating something to contribute to your prize pool!
Provide the party
What fall fest is complete without tasty autumn treats? Serve hot chocolate and warm apple cider to drink. Candy corn (and candy in general) fit the Halloween season, while apple slices provide an equally festive healthier option. Pumpkin spice is always a hugely popular flavoring, and you could also find a vendor to provide kettle corn.
Promote your Fall Fest
If you want people to participate, you need to make sure they know the event is happening. That’s why we’ve done the hard part for you — download any of these social media images or poster design to get the word out on your campus: