By John Hanley
Louisiana loves to party.
Festivals, concerts, marathons, barhops, shows – you name it, we have it.
Thousands of people flock to these events, taking in the sights, the culture, and the attractions. However, with the event itself working to grab their attention, many don’t think about the people that have brought the whole thing before them. Behind the stages and tents are people that have been working tirelessly for months on end to bring everything to life.
Heather Sewell Day rules this industry.
The founder of Red Cake Event Planning, Day and her company take on anything, ranging from wedding days to festivals to fundraisers to bar mitzvahs.
The company’s “About” page dubs it “The Big Day.”
“People talk about the Big Day,” the page reads. “They plan for the Big Day. At the Red Cake, we create the Big Day.”
People may get a taste of this level of preparation when planning a wedding, but few realize that this type of work is needed for any and every event, large or small.
“I coordinate,” said Day in an interview. “I contact the musicians, the caterer, the bartenders, the venue, and put all of that together.”
Day says the idea for the company came to her in 2000. She had been doing event planning work on the side while working as a retail manager, and decided to move forward with the idea for the company.
“At the time, there weren’t any event planners in town; there were no wedding planners. It kind of wasn’t a thing yet,” said Day.
With a corner on the market, Day gained experience and connections by doing volunteer work with groups like Forum 35, a group focused on youth leadership and community improvement, and joining boards as an event planner for fundraisers.
“I kind of fell into my niche,” she explained. “It was real word of mouth as far as how I got started.”
What sets Day’s niche apart from other planners is her versatility and the creative energy that her company uses to plan events.
“I’m not just a wedding planner,” she said. “There’s a lot of wedding planners now, but I’m more of a creative force with my events, and have a little more control.”
Part of Day’s job is what she calls “event styling,” which is exactly what it sounds like – coming up with themes and styles for events and putting it into production. It’s not just putting the pieces of the puzzle together, but styling the pieces as well.
However, another thing your average event-goer may not realize just how many pieces there are in the puzzle.
“[There are] so many details. I don’t think anybody realizes…all of the different things you have to think of,” Day explained. “From who’s going to take out the trash to directional signage – I’ve been in meetings for days just talking about signage.”
Juggling hundreds of different people and companies, Day and Red Cake Event Planning can spend months building up to that Big Day.
Mid-January will bring one such day, which Day and her company have been helping to build for several months: the Finish Festival.
The Finish Festival is part of the Louisiana Marathon, which will be held January 16th through the 18th, along with an accompanying expo and the festival.
Day’s planning helped create the aptly named festival, an amalgam of food, drinks, music, and culture that will be held on Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th a half-block from the end of the marathon’s course at the A.Z. Young Park.
As Day listed the different attractions planned for the festival, the sheer number made it clear how big of a feat it is to plan such an event.
Beer trucks, restaurant booths, local bands and musicians, showcase tents, local vendors, and more, on top of technicalities like medical tents, funds, event and liquor permits, and booking stages and musicians – the list is seemingly endless.
One of the tricks to success, Day says, is delegating.
“You’ve got to rely and have confidence in the people that are under you,” she said.
However, even with a team under you, the work is definitely not for the faint of heart, and the task of planning an event is a long and strenuous one.
But as one might expect, hard work often offers a very satisfying reward.
“The day of the event is my absolute favorite,” Day said unflinchingly. “Watching all of the hard work come together.”