On the second Saturday of September, the most anticipated and largest event in Saaremaa took place - the traditional Kuressaare street picnic. After the event, Kristina Mägi from the organizing team stated, "We took a leap forward by organizing the street picnic together with Fienta this time." Read more from the interview to understand what Kristina meant by that.
The initiator and leader of the street picnic is Terje Nepper, who, while traveling in France, once saw a similar event. Of course, what she saw there was not on the scale of what we organize in Kuressaare today. In the first year, we had about 750 people, then 1500 people, and our street picnic has grown year by year. This year, we organized it for the eighth time, and about 5500 people attended throughout the day. Although the record from 2019 was not broken, there were more people this time than last year.
Previously, the event has been free, and we have collected voluntary donations because people have been willing to contribute financially. This year, we were in a dilemma whether to make the event paid or not. We still decided to ask for a symbolic fee, hoping that a small ticket price would discipline the attendees. In previous years, there have been quite a few table reservations that have remained empty on the day of the event. We hoped that the ticket price of one euro per person, i.e., eight euros for an eight-person table, would still discipline the attendees. There were 490 tables this time, and we didn't even need to put all of them out.
In terms of organizing costs, it certainly could have been higher, but we don't want to turn the street picnic into an expensive event because then the original idea would be lost. It's still a party for everyone at the end of the summer, where current and former Saaremaa residents, friends from the mainland, foreigners, and everyone else come together.
We have always announced the date when the booking starts in advance. Most people have received this information well, and it has always been like this. Previously, my physical capacity was the reason I couldn't complete all the bookings on the first day. But even before, a considerable number of emails were sent on the first day, and all tables were booked within the first week. Booking was previously done manually - people sent information by email about how many tables they wanted and where they wanted them, and I entered this information into my Excel spreadsheet. This time, 10-20 people wrote to me in the first few days, but then I directed them to Fienta, and everyone made their ticket purchases.
Exactly for the same reason that the event has grown bigger and it is no longer manageable manually. Since we wanted to charge a symbolic fee for reservations, we were concerned about who would be responsible for invoicing and checking payments. It seemed clearly impossible for us to manage it ourselves. Therefore, we started considering different ticketing platforms. We had several providers selected, but when we came to the point that we don't have a classical theater hall, but rather a street plan that needs to be viewed, with the right table at the right place, most of them backed out.
Previously, it was always the case that for the first thirty minutes after the start of the picnic, when people arrived, I was nervous about whether all the table reservations would match up, whether any tables would be left over, whether anyone would be left without a table. Mistakes were made when making reservations by mail. But now, when everyone could choose the exact location and the number of tables they wanted, that responsibility fell off my shoulders. This is certainly also an argument in favor of Fienta.
There was a technical point that none of us probably foresaw - tables were reserved as individual seats. I have been working with the table chart for six years, and I know that one square or dot on the plan means one table, but for the person buying the ticket, there was a connection that one dot means one seat. We have always had a shortage of tables, and to not miss out, it has been necessary to make reservations quickly. Then it seemed that there were people who just bought in a hurry and didn't notice that they didn't have to choose seats from the plan, but tables, and consequently, they didn't notice if they paid not eight euros, but for example eighty euros.
Although even three days before the picnic, tickets were still being purchased incorrectly, it was still a small part of the overall number. So we managed to guide the unnecessary purchases to be refunded through Fienta, and it seemed that everyone was very understanding. No one was angry; everyone was very peaceful, and I haven't heard any complaints. There has been no complaint about the fact that this time the event was paid.
I have never received information that someone sat at the wrong table, and if they did, it was clarified on the spot. We have a large number of people who have been before and already know how to find their table. The tables are in blocks of ten, and the blocks are marked with large balloons labeled with corresponding block letters A, B, C, etc. In addition, the names of the reservists are on the tables, and the table designation is also marked on the Fienta ticket. On-site, there are organizers marked with large green "Info" balloons upon arrival, guiding anyone who has lost their way to the right table.
Yes, I even wrote a couple of times. It's a great feature of Fienta that reminders and messages can be sent to participants. For example, before the event, I sent information on how to sort garbage on the spot or how the table blocks are laid out exactly so that they can find their table quickly. After the event, I sent thank-you messages and a photo gallery to the participants.
Fienta's super-fast response! From the very beginning, setting up the event. And of course, on that very first morning when ticket sales started at 9 am and it turned out that the tables were reserved incorrectly. I really liked that you reacted before I even got to express my concern and resolved the unexpectedly arising table/seat confusion. Fortunately, everything was quickly sorted out.
Yes, there were beautiful dishes and goblets. Candles and flags were also placed all over the table. It was so beautiful to see! Unfortunately, waste has always been a big issue and was the same this time. Despite sending an email before the event that sorting waste at the picnic is necessary and mentioning it several times on-site, it still happened that people didn't look at where and what they were throwing.
I'm just so satisfied! I don't see the need to do anything differently. You will certainly develop Fienta further over the next year, and we are looking forward to new and exciting functionalities. It was great that we could gather new subscribers to our newsletter through Fienta. We made a leap forward by organizing the street picnic with Fienta this time, and working with you was just very pleasant!
I encourage you to work with them to organize events. I was very satisfied. Really, everything was significantly easier and went much smoother than I initially thought. And now I'm thinking, why didn't we take this step a long time ago.
Photos: Valmar Voolaid