Have you ever wished Rachel Coleman would come perform in your town? I certainly did. I remember reading the newsletters and blog posts about fantastic Signing Time events in many different places, and wondering when it would be it would be our turn. Well, as I later found out, those events are hosted by organizations, schools, libraries, or individuals in that area who partner with the Signing Time Foundation and simply pay the expense of bringing Rachel (or the whole Signing Time group) to perform or speak.
I decided that we needed a Signing Time “Sing and Sign” concert in my hometown: Maple Grove, Minnesota. Signing Time did not air on our PBS station, and I knew that there were many families in my community that would benefit tremendously from Signing Time. The big challenge was that between the time we found out that Rachel would be available to perform, and the date that the event was scheduled to take place, there were only 30 days. It wasn’t very much time to pull everything together, but I decided to take it on!
The first step was finding a venue for the event. Many places said they could host it, but that they wouldn’t allow charging for tickets. Many of the places that allowed charging for tickets were already booked. There were some venues that were available, but the cost of renting the space was too expensive.
After calling everywhere (and a little prayer), on the evening of April 5th, I was able to secure a venue. On April 6th I made my first announcement on Facebook, and on April 7th I made flyers and started handing them out. I made sure the flyer was in electronic format (PDF), so when I went to all of the local preschools, I asked for their email addresses, sent them the document electronically, and they sent it out. On April 10th I handed out flyers at the Regional Down Syndrome Conference. I also collected emails and asked people to send the PDF out to their friends. From there, the flyer spread far and wide.
The venue, Lord of Life Lutheran Church, agreed to help co-sponsor the event, which took care of the cost to rent the space. They also printed the tickets and flyers, and were able to set up online ticket sales. They were great partners!
I had set the goal of raising $1,500 in ticket sales for The Signing Time Foundation. I set a family friendly ticket price, $10 for adult/$5 for children. I was a little worried about making $1500 happen with such short notice so I started asking for grants. I heard a lot of no’s but was relieved when I got one yes for $500. I also went to all four local hotels and asked for them to donate two nights for Rachel’s lodging. I got one “no”, two “I’ll look into that” and one (the last stop) “let me see if we have rooms those nights.” The answer was: “Yes we do, we’d be happy to help.” Success!
The event was a huge success. There were 250 seats reserved in advance and the actual final ticket sales were over 370 seats! With volunteers, there were almost 400 people in attendance. We raised $2200 in ticket sales and received a $500 donation check to the Signing Time Foundation.
The concert was entertaining, funny, exciting, touching and inspirational. The children loved the opportunity to come up on stage and sign with Rachel. In fact, some children couldn’t be kept from heading to the stage! Watching the audience was also a treat. A bunch of strangers seemed to connect and bond immediately, singing and signing as if it were choreographed. It was amazing to see children in wheelchairs, children with down syndrome, autism, hearing loss, and many typical children singing and signing together and laughing. Afterward, Rachel stayed for two hours so that everybody had the opportunity to meet her and get her autograph. It looked like everyone stayed to have a turn to meet Rachel. I’m sure she was exhausted, but you certainly wouldn’t have known it the way she smiled for photos, autographed DVDs, and hugged fans and new friends the whole time.
Countless attendees stopped to thank me. One fan drove from Ontario, Canada to be there! Some in attendance knew nothing about Signing Time, but had come on the recommendation of a friend. A few shared with me how amazed they were at the experience of watching children (of all ages) singing and signing together. They all experienced first-hand the power of signing.
I also had the privilege of accompanying Rachel to visit a young fan who has been in the hospital since last fall. We instantly knew which room was hers, because we could see Signing Time playing on her TV. Her parents were so grateful to meet Rachel and their little daughter’s face lit up when Rachel entered the room in her Signing Time clothes. It was a tender moment.
Since the concert, many people have expressed the desire to help make sure we put on another event next year. The church where the event was held is also excited to do it again. A printer offered his services as a donation. The Hampton Inn of Maple Grove offered to donate Rachel’s hotel room again. Several major organizations have approached me about partnering to host the event. Marketing experts have even contacted me about handling the publicity! It is amazing how many people in my community have rallied to make sure that Rachel comes back.
It was a definitely a challenge to organize this on my own. It was a lot of work. However, sitting in the audience that night and watching the show made it all worthwhile. In a perfect world, I would have had a committee, or an organization that would sponsor the event. The best part is that my own community experienced first-hand the power and fun of signing. And now, we have a committee, we have sponsors, and we all plan on making this an annual event right here in Maple Grove, Minnesota.
Signing Time Academy
International Associate Director
Certified Master Instructor
Read Rachel’s answer to the question: When is Rachel coming to perform in MY town?