How To Run A Christmas Fete


These notes are biased towards the organisation of primary school Christmas fetes but the principles are relevant for all types of fetes.

General Organisation:

Pick the date and time of the Christmas fete carefully! Try and avoid clashing with other Christmas events. The time of the fete is also critical, for school fetes, either start immediately lessons finish or in the evening/weekend. Fetes that start 30 minutes after lessons finish (to give staff and helpers time to get things set up) will be very poorly attended – people won’t wait around in the cold and the wet for the fete to open and once they get home they won’t leave to come back.

Start planning early. Requests need to be sent out for raffle prizes and gaming or alcohol licenses may need to be obtained. Parents need time to obtain goods to donate for tombolas and jumble stalls. Outside traders are often booked up months in advance on popular dates.

Try and use a Christmas theme throughout the fete, Christmas trees, decorations and tinsel can be used to rapidly transform a humdrum hall into a winter wonderland. A lot of the attractions can be given a Christmas feel by the addition of a bit of tinsel or coloured paper, wrapping paper can be used rather than tissue paper for the lucky dip prizes.

Whilst it is nice if all of the stalls and attractions produce a healthy profit some attractions may need to be run as loss leaders to attract visitors to the fete, no Christmas fete would be complete without Santa’s grotto. With care and advanced planning it should be possible to at least ensure that all of the stalls and attractions break even. A fete serves both to raise money and to raise the profile of the organisation. If people are having fun they will spend money, tombolas may make the most money, but a fete with only tombolas and none of the usual games will only attract people for a short stay. The longer people stay the more likely they are to want a drink and something to eat, food sales can be very profitable, especially if all of the cakes and drinks have been donated by parents!

Months In Advance:

  1. Appoint a Fete Organiser and a Treasurer, allocate any other volunteers to other tasks such as planning and building Santa’s grotto or writing to companies asking for donations.
  2. Apply for gaming and alcohol licences if required.
  3. Send out letters to local companies and businesses asking for donations of services or raffle prizes.
  4. Invite Outside Traders to attend the fete, charge a table fee or ask for a percentage of the takings.
  5. Get the date of the fete written into the school or organisation’s calendar and sent out with the regular newsletters.
  6. Start drawing up a list of the desired stalls and attractions.

  • Do they need any advanced work, such as being built?
  • Do they require any supplies to be purchased in advance?
  • Will there be enough people to man/woman/child all of the stalls?
  • Is there enough room in the hall/building to accommodate all of the stalls and attractions?

1 Month To Go:

  1. Gather items required to make Santa’s grotto such as Christmas tree and decorations, armchair for Santa to sit in, make a sleigh out of cardboard or MDF and if artistic skills permit, paint a set of reindeer to pull the sleigh.
  2. Make a life size snowman. Cover space hoppers with paper mache. Once the paper mache has dried deflate the space hoppers and remove. The resulting large balls are ideal for turning into a life size snowman, stack three on top of each other, paint white, add a carrot nose, eyes, mouth, scarf and hat to complete the effect.
  3. Arrange for the children to make items to be sold at the fete, such as laminated tablemats or handmade Christmas cards.

2 Weeks To Go:

  1. Invite the local paper to the fete, free publicity is always useful.
  2. Send out flyers advertising the fete, list the major attractions and the Outside Traders.
  3. Put up advertising posters.
  4. If a school uniform is normally worn, allow the pupils to wear their own clothes in return for a donation of a Tombola prize or a jumble sale item (alternatively accept a small monetary donation). Different year groups can be allocated different items to bring in to ensure a good selection of Tombola prizes.
  5. Sort all incoming donations. Tombola prizes to be numbered, jumble sale items to be sorted into jumble, "Trash or Treasure", and Hoopla prizes.
  6. Wrap the "Trash or Treasure" in newspaper.
  7. Wrap the lucky dip prizes in Christmas wrapping paper.
  8. Start filling large boxes with all of the items required for each stall including any signs and instructions.

1-2 Weeks To Go:

  1. If possible decorate Santa’s grotto in advance.
  2. Treasurer to start preparing the float for each stall. Put the floats in labelled plastic container, such as those obtained with takeaway food.
  3. Send out another flyers advertising the fete, list the major attractions and the Outside Traders, make the flyer different from the first so that it is read and not just thrown away.

On The Day:

  1. If a school uniform is normally worn, allow the pupils to wear their own clothes in return for a donation of cakes and baking (alternatively accept a small monetary donation).
  2. Sort any cakes or baking which have been donated into those destined for the cake stall and those which are to be sold "by the slice" on the tea and mulled wine stall.
  3. Start setting up as early as possible as it always takes longer than you expect to set up all of the stalls.

After The Fete:

  1. Send a thank you letter to all the local companies and businesses that donated services or raffle prizes thanking them for their donation, telling them how much was raised and the worthwhile projects it is helping to fund. Remember you may wish for another donation next year. Some businesses will only make a donation to an organisation every 2 or 3 years, make a note of which year a donation is received and in future only send a request letter when a donation is likely to be received.
  2. The Treasure should produce a summary of the each stall’s profitability (allowing for any costs incurred in running the stall) this will enable the fete organiser to better plan the next fete.

Suggested List Of Attractions:

  1. Santa’s Grotto – An absolute must for all Christmas fetes. Set up a small room or screened off area with suitable Christmas decorations and charge admission for the children to tell Santa what they want for Christmas. Include a small gift and for an additional charge provide a photo of the child with Santa. The small gifts should be wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper and divided up by age range and sex, remember to allow for the cost of the gifts in the admission price for Santa’s grotto. The photo needs to be produced immediately so either use a Polaroid camera or set up a digital camera and printer.
  2. Outside Traders – Arrange for small traders to sell their goods at the fete, charge either a table fee or ask for a percentage of takings. Handmade toys, cards, chocolates, candles, clothes etc. usually sell well. Consult in advance with the traders to ensure that you can provide any tables or mains power they require. If the fete is to be held outside, you may need to arrange for marquees or other suitable shelter to provide protection from the elements. Try your local Avon Lady and ask all the traders if they know of other traders that would like to participate in the fete.
  3. Cake and Baking Stall – Put prices on all of the cakes and baking donated by parents and place on a table.
  4. Refreshments – Sell soft drinks, tea, mulled wine (alcohol licence may be required) and slices of cake, use some of the cakes and baking donated by parents. It may be possible to give an alcoholic drink away as part of the entry fee without having to obtain an alcohol licence – check with your local authorities.
  5. Trash or Treasure – Not a huge money earner but very, very popular with children. Chose items from the incoming donated jumble for the Trash or Treasure stall, remember one person’s trash is the next person’s treasure so include a good mixture of books, toys, games and free toys from fast food chains. Wrap everything in newspaper to hide what it is and charge a small amount for each item chosen. Very useful for getting rid of all the jumble which has been donated but will never sell on a jumble stall. Be prepared for a mad scramble as children love this stall, arrange to have a bin close by for the newspaper. If the child is not happy with what they have chosen suggest that they may be able to use it as a Christmas present for someone, intercept anything that is being thrown into the bin and offer it for sale again, unwrapped this time.
  6. Bottle Tombola – Ask for donations of bottles (such as shampoo, soft drinks, wine or alcohol) then stick a number on each bottle, use tickets from one half of a raffle ticket book. Depending on the odds you wish to offer either stick every number on a bottle (100% chance of winning) or just use every 5th ticket (1 in 5 chance of winning). Fold up and put the other half of the raffle tickets in a box suitable for people to draw out off. If a child wins an alcoholic prize then hand the prize to their parent, alternatively run two bottle tombolas one for children and one for adults (charge more for the adult’s tombola). If the quality or quantity of the donations is not high then you may need to buy some bottles to make the stall more attractive, take care not to buy too many expensive bottles!
  7. Chocolate Tombola – Similar to the bottle tombola but use chocolate.
  8. Hoopla – Arrange the prizes on a table and provide hoops for the contestants to try and throw over the prizes. Very useful game for getting rid of the donated "fast food chain free toys", vary the criteria as to what counts as a successful throw depending on how many prizes you want to get rid of (hoopla ring partially on the prize or fully on – BE CONSISTENT). Also works well if chocolate is used as the prizes, if the prizes are too large for a hoop to fit over then use something smaller as a target and mark it indicating the prize to be won.
  9. Lucky Dip – Purchase small toys and wrap in Christmas paper, place in a box decorated in a Christmas theme.
  10. Bauble Hunt – Make or purchase baubles to hang on a Christmas tree. Hide a number in each bauble, pick the bauble off the tree and win a prize. For a cheaper version, decorate square envelopes to look like Christmas presents and hang these from the tree in place of the baubles.
  11. Snowmen Skittles – Decorate 10 plastic bottles to look like snowmen and use a child’s ball to knock the skittles over. Either award prizes depending on how many skittles are knocked over or give out a sweet to each contestant.
  12. Rudolph Bean Bag Throw – Decorate a piece of cardboard or MDF approximately 1.2m x 0.6m to look like Rudolph, cut out a hole for the mouth. Contestants try and throw bean bags through the hole. Either award prizes depending on how many bean bags are thrown through the mouth or give out a sweet to each contestant.

The idea for the attraction, stall, event or game shown on this instruction sheet or on the fetefun web site has not necessarily been tested or tried by the authors. We accept no responsibility for any injuries, damages or any other losses caused by following our instructions. The use of these instructions or any ideas shown on the web site implies acceptance of these terms.

Ó 2004 N & C Forbes (www.fetefun.co.uk) Permission is granted to photocopy this document.