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How to Handle Crowd Control at Big Festivals

How to Handle Crowd Control at Big Festivals

At any large festival, public safety is the number one priority, and the key to public safety is crowd control. Most of the crowd control must be passive, because it’s impossible to control large crowds with security labor alone. The crowd control must be able to be maintained without constant supervision.

Pull Town or City Permits

The first stage of handling crowds is to pull relevant town, city or state permits. Towns frequently have regulations regarding parking that can often also provide helpful ideas for handling heavy vehicle traffic and parking at established venue sites. In other words, the same city rules that help ensure safety can also reduce the number of decisions that need to be made when drawing up blueprints in the next stage.

Plan Traffic Flow

The second stage of managing crowds at a large festival is to plan traffic flow. A blueprint or diagram of the grounds should be drawn up in order to plan vehicle traffic and parking for personnel and attendees, pedestrian movement, crowd viewing areas, vendor traffic, crew activities and talent restricted areas. Copies of the traffic blueprint should be distributed to all planners, crew members and talent management teams.

Plan Signage

Once the vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow has been established, the next task is to make the flow pattern obvious to festival attendees through highly visible and repetitive signage. At a large event, parking attendants should hold visible, instructional signs. However, stand alone signage is also needed. When electricity is available, LED signs work well for parking areas as well as on festival grounds. Otherwise, street barriers with appropriate instructions displayed are equally effective.

On festival grounds, signage is key to ensuring that pedestrian traffic can easily and efficiently move between areas. The vendor area, bathrooms, meet-up spots and first aid stations should be clearly indicated with tall, high-visibility banner signs.

Mount Announcement Speakers

The festival venue should be wired for sound, not only for the talent, but for public service announcements. Speakers can be mounted on poles that can broadcast important information such as lost persons or property, weather warnings, late performances, changes in stage locations, and other information pertinent to the safety and enjoyment of the crowd.

Install Stanchions

Stanchions are absolutely mandatory for any size crowd control, but especially at big festivals. These guideposts provide safe and obvious walking areas for pedestrians. A stanchion assembly works passively to control pedestrian traffic flow, which is indispensable when managing crowds at big festivals. Stanchions also provide a visible barricade to allow adequate space between the front row and the talent crew. Finally, stanchions can also be used to cement the brand name in the minds of festival goers. The retractable belts on stanchions can be customized to display the festival or band names, for instance.

Plan on placing stanchions wherever you need to direct traffic flow. As crowds thin out, the portable stanchions can be relocated, or retractable belts can be adjusted to accommodate shorter and more direct lines.

Estimating Crowds

To maximize crowd control and ensure adequate supplies, it’s necessary to estimate the number of attendees. Festival organizers for the Austin City Limits had to control attendees numbering 450,000, while Coachella brought nearly 200,000 people together in one place. One of the most straightforward ways is to limit the number tickets sold and then add in crew, vendors and talent teams. If you plan for 100% attendance, you should be in a good situation to handle the crowds that do turn up.

To sum up, handling crowds is primarily about safety and organization.

  • Pull permits

  • Plan traffic flow

  • Plan signage

  • Install announcement speakers

  • Install stanchions

If you do all these things, your festival event should go smoothly and with great success. For assistance with your event planning, please contact

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