The selection of participants is covered in more detail on the large events pages; Large Events, and much key information on how to make suitable mess and other suitable games are on the other pages of this site, in particular the Messtival pages; Messtival.
The events I run are normally for at Scouts and Guides, and so have a typical age range of 10-15 years old. These finales will work with other age ranges but will need a number of considerations covered later.
To run a successful event of this type, it is critical that you pull together a trusted team, and ensure that your planning is thorough and everything set up prior to the crowds descending on you. There is much written elsewhere relating to stage management for event that I won’t copy here, but would be worth a read if you aren’t used to stage based events.
I recommend that a minimum of 4 staff are used to run an activity like this;
One person should be assigned as a compere/ quizmaster whose sole role is to ‘host’ the event. It goes without saying that this person needs good presenting skills.
To assist the compere I supplement with at least two assistants (maybe more for complicated events or multi-team activities). These will help keep score, guide the participants to the right places, issue and help with any kit required, and maybe act as cheerleaders.
These first three staff should be able to be clearly identified to distinguish them from the participants- I have used coloured boiler suits for this (which make personal clean-up easier), as well as once using dragon costumes.
The final member of staff is the stage manager and trouble-shooter- in my case I usually take this role. This person should know the equipment and the games well and is there to sort out anything that isn’t running to plan, or be handy to tip the odd extra bucket of gunge over a participant.
The location is likely to be fairly fixed if you want this to take place at a particular event, but there are still a number of factors to consider. It probably goes without saying that you should consult with the venue before the games.
Indoors will give you more flexibility should the weather be poor, but you may be restricted with space or the amount of mess that can be used whereas outside is likely to be tolerant to large amounts of mess but may be away from facilities. In either case it is best to have a clearly demarcated area that will be visually interesting, clearly visible to the audience, contain the mess, and assist in controlling the audience. This may be a stage area or if outside a fenced off area of field.
If the event is to take place at times other than summer months you will need to consider how weather affects the event, especially will participants get cold whilst wet or messy and either the venue changed or the games suitably tailored.
You will need easy access to other services- definitely water for wash down and showers for participants but maybe power and somewhere to dispose of waste gunge. You may also need vehicle access during load in and load out.
Finally you will need to ensure that you have access for the setup and pack down time and consider that you may cause the area to be unusable for a period afterwards (particularly for large amounts of mess on grass).
Care needs to be taken at the setup phase to make sure any sensitive or valuable items are protected or moved out of the way if there is the slightest chance of the mess coming in contact with them (e.g. PA system). I usually also bring along extra materials to cover up tables, hide kit etc. If outside, black garden weed fabric can be an economical way of doing this.
Bear in mind that if carrying out games in an established venue you will need to comply with local rules or guidelines, particularly relating to power and fireproofing of set and drapes.
I like to ensure that there is a time between any selection games and the finale (at least half an hour). In this we brief the participants about how the games will work, walking them round any that aren’t going to be a surprise, what to expect and what to wear. We then let them go, sort themselves out and give them a set time to return before the finale formally starts.
Typically we run the finale with two teams of about 6, but this can obviously be tweaked to suit your needs. You will need a way of clearly identifying teams, which may be a sports bib, Neckerchief for Scouts or Guides or a T-shirt. We normally buy t-shirts in a range of sizes in two colours, and find that by buying a couple of extras we can get them to fit. As with other messy games, we recommend that participants wear swimming kit- swimsuit/ bikini/ trunks/ shorts under the t-shirt, and shorts or leggings in dark colours (to avoid staining issues) over the top.
I my view the participants are taking part to have fun, they are not there to be made fun of or humiliated, so it is important that the assistants are aware of this and can act to alleviate any problems- a typical example is that someone really won’t like a challenge, so aim to be flexible to swap participants around. Likewise if someone is particularly cold, the ability to drop out and warm up might be needed.
A significant part of the aim of the activity is to get very messy, and therefore I don’t encourage cleaning off between games, preferring the mess to build up. I do however provide several bowls of clean water and flannels should they be needed, and will allow kids to wipe faces if necessary. Likewise I don’t believe that goggles are necessary in the vast majority of cases, but do have a few pairs of swimming googles available in case any kids want them for a specific game.
Age & audience
The activities as described here are targeted at 10-15 years old, and will run for about ½ hour without any issues. If you have a younger range of ages in either participants or audience I would shorten the games, make them less messy and probably do slightly less to ensure they remain fully engaged.
If you are working with older age ranges, the same style of games will work, however further crowd management may be needed, particularly where alcohol is present. Games may also become more physically boisterous, and especially where large pools of goo are present be prepared for a wrestling match to ensue.
(If you wish to run a controlled wrestling match, a simple, effective method is to tie a loop of wool round the ankle. Two opponents start off kneeling in the pool of goo, and once the game is started try and remove the wool from their opponents ankle. The winner is obviously the first to do this. Blindfolds can be used to make it more difficult.)
I layout all games prior to the event starting, covering up with cloths/ plastic sheeting anything that needs to remain hidden. Care is taken during layout to ensure that the audience can clearly see the action wherever they are stood. You may need to consider raising props or games up to help achieve this.
The all-important mess
There are various recipes on this site, which I won’t repeat here, however it is worth bearing in mind that the look and effect of the mess is critical to the success of the event and therefore you should give it a suitable amount of effort and budget. In particular I like to make sure that colours are vibrant and opaque, meaning typically using 2-3% powder paint, but also making sure the gunge is nice and thick.
Everyone will need to be able to hear what is going on, so unless the event is very small, a modest PA system is likely to be needed, preferably with at least one radio mic that can be used to roam around. If a PA is available it could also be used to play jingles, background music or sound effects.
I use a giant egg-timer I’ve built, but other options include dedicated quiz countdown timers or set length incidental music played over the PA.
Scoring & Prizes
I keep the scoring system simple, using a whiteboard sign-written with the team names, but there is no reason why a cricket style board couldn’t be used or a more elaborate computer based system. We give points for each win and correct question, trying to keep scoring consistent. It can also be helpful to award points in one or more games based on the score achieved- e.g. number of balloons burst. This will tend to alleviate any need for a tie-breaker at the end.
We present the winning team a token prize- this could be something for them to keep, or a trophy if appropriate. You could also give an additional prize for the messiest participant.
In between messy rounds we ask a quiz question for them to score extra points on. This also allows a short time to clear down from previous games or do any setting up needed. I download suitable questions for the age range from the web and print out on separate cards, keeping the question and answers obviously separate. I have found it is usually best to use multiple choice questions otherwise the time to get a correct answer can drag on. It is well worth having plenty of spare questions available in case you need tie- breakers or the questions prove too difficult.
I have built a pair of robust quiz stands from scrap cable reels, scaffolding and KeyKlamps, complete with big red button, siren sounds and lit team identifiers- more details on these will go on the site later.
After the event the participants will obviously need to shower off. A prewash will tend to mean your showers don’t get completely covered in mess- we have an outside shower, along with bowls and flannels. Couple this with the ability to strip outer clothing off down to swimming kit before entering the shower block should help you keep on top of the mess.
Have a look at the Messtival pages for cleanup tips.