Wade Henry   July 5, 2015

There is always a risk of poor weather with outdoor events.  Fairs and Festivals need to have a plan for those rain-days that will inevitably occur.

It’s one of those subjects you don’t really want to bring up.  No one wants to set up an expectation for poor weather.  However, it wouldn’t be prudent to simply ignore the possibility.  With good preparation and a good plan, a Fair or Festival can still deliver a great experience to attendees….even in the case of poor weather.

And like the airline flight attendant, who delivers that preflight briefing on emergency measures (how to use those oxygen masks), having a plan in mind delivers reassurance.  Having a plan – even if not used – gives the reassurance necessary for a smooth, enjoyable flight through clear blue skies.  No worry needs to be invested in “what ifs”.

                                      Grades of Poor Weather

The first thing that should be known is that there are grades of poor weather.  In many cases, particularly in the summer, a sprinkling of rain is just a temporal occurrence.  It might rain for a half hour….and then simply clear up.

Then there is a minor drizzle that continues on and off for the day.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is the day-long thundershower.  This is actually a rare occurrence in most areas of the country.  In the extreme case, the intense storm – prolonged through the day – can lead to the dreaded conclusion of formally cancelling that day’s activities for your event.

Each of these 3 grades requires a different approach.  Fair and Festival goers are for the most part – hearty people.  They realize also that an outdoor event comes with certain risks with regard to weather.   Therefore, the goal with poor weather is to make the most of the hand you’re dealt and roll with it.


A day of rain at the Day of Rain at the 

                                                                                                                   Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
                                                                                                                   didn't put a stop to the fun.


Some Fair Managers might not know that there are “Rain Insurance” policies you can buy for your event.  The  

coverage allows the insured event to select an increment of total rain accumulation which they feel negatively

impacts their event (i.e. ¼", ½", etc.).  Your Fair Association Directory will have a list of insurance companies

that provide this sort of policy.

                                          Entertainment During Poor Weather

With regard to Entertainment, the key is to know before you go.  Before contracting an act ask him (them), “What do you do if it rains?”

The answer you don’t want is an immediate “You pay, I holiday.”

There are many, many things an entertainer can do to contribute to your event – even when it rains.  Most professional fairgrounds entertainers are familiar with the issue of poor weather (if they’ve been in this business for any length of time), and have some sort of back-up plan.

For example, if it’s raining, we simply put plastic bags over the speakers and mixing board so that we can still have sound.  We change-up the show with tricks that can be done even if it’s wet.  As long as there is someone there to watch, we’ll play for them.  They were dedicated enough to leave their home on a wet day and come to the event….might as well do something for them.

Of course, safety is a consideration that always needs to be taken into consideration.  But, there are always things that can be done which are safe and which will provide value to the public.  Sometimes the entertainer just needs to be creative.

Another option is to move the show indoors.  Some acts are very portable and can be moved around very easily. 
Or a stationary show can sometimes adapt itself as a “Strolling Attraction” and entertain inside the commercial buildings.  This is another approach we’ve taken.

The time to find out what your act can do for you on a rainy day is when you are shopping entertainment and/or negotiating the contract – many months before the event.   Otherwise, you could be caught on a mildly wet day during the event and ask “Where’s my show??”  The response could be “Contract says it rains, you pay.  I’m going to my hotel room.”

What you want is for the entertainer to say “As long as there is one patron there to be entertained, I’ll do something.  I’m here to service you, even during rain.  I’ll change up the show….or perhaps I’ll do some roaming indoors if it get’s real bad.  If the event is open, I’m open.”

Most entertainers will even back up this policy in the contract for you. 


Here are 10 suggestions to make sure entertainment gets delivered – on those days when the weather is poor but the event is remaining open:

1.    Ask about it verbally when you are in the hiring phase.  Bringing up the issue before you contract the entertainment puts an expectancy there in the mind of the person you are hiring. 

2.    Ensure that the contract states that the act will deliver in poor weather as long as the event is open (even if it means modifying the show or moving indoors).

3.    If you are in a region of the country that typically gets rain during Fair season, hire acts that can deliver in such circumstances.  (Stay away from acts that can’t.)

4.    Hire Stolling Acts that can also work indoors if needed.

5.    Ask your Stationary Acts if they can move to an indoor location if needed.

6.    Ask your Stationary Acts if they can modify into a Strolling Act if required.

7.    Have towels available to wipe down seats or bleachers for days when there is intermittent or temporary rain.  

8.    Have plastic bags (or large trash bags) to cover your speakers and sound equipment    so that it doesn’t all need to be disassembled/reassembled.  The sound can play through the plastic in drizzling weather.  Alternatively, if the weather clears, the bags can quickly and easily be removed.

9.    Make occasional announcements on any PA system or from the stage that the event is staying open, such as “Hello Fairgoers, and welcome to the 151st Willow County Fair!  We are experiencing a light rain, however we do appreciate your patronage and we are staying open for the time being.   Enjoy your time.”       

    Fairgoers might assume that the Fair is closing because of rain when there is just a  sprinkle.  And sometimes rumors start to circulate which are          unfounded.  If you’re staying open, let them know.  (If you decide to close, let them know that, also).  Let them in on it – whatever the plan.

10.    In the case of cancelled shows or sets because of temporary rain, don’t be afraid to ask your act(s) for an extra show when it clears up.  Most will      be happy to deliver.



​Wade Henry

Wade Henry has been performing his act at Fairs across the U.S. & Canada for over 20 years.    He specializes in Stage Shows, Street Performances and Strolling Entertainment.   He has delivered over 10,000 shows throughout his career at hundreds of Fairs, Festivals and Exhibitions.