How to Plan a Groundbreaking Ceremony


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Planning a groundbreaking ceremony can be relatively easy or very difficult, depending upon the time of the year, the type and number of individuals involved, and the cooperation of the local press. Below are some tips for planning a successful groundbreaking ceremony.

Pre-Planning the Groundbreaking Ceremony Program

Establish a date and time for the ceremony. Be sure to keep in mind the availability of the representatives who need to be involved.

Set the program for the event.

Make a list of all the individuals to be invited. It may include city, county and even state and federal officials; the local chamber of commerce and economic development groups; executives of the company or organization for which groundbreaking is occurring; and the local press.

Develop a contingency plan for bad weather. This could include a short ceremony outside for officials to dig the first shovel of dirt with the remainder of the ceremony held at a nearby inside location or in a tented area. If weather prohibits any outside ceremony, decide whether to move the ceremony to a rain date alternative or eliminate the ceremonial dig and hold everything at an inside location.

Determine the best way to extend the event invitation. If the event is closed to the public, invite participants by mail, telephone or direct email. If it is open to the public, then invitations can also be posted in the local newspaper and publicized in public service announcements on radio and television.

Call to confirm that the date and time for the ceremony is on the schedule of every person who is on the program. Be sure everyone who is going to be asked to speak or do something for the event understands their roles within the program and the amount of time they have to speak.

Keep track of all RSVPs for logistics purposes. If a program speaker should drop out at the last moment, have an alternative speaker in mind to take her place and make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible.

Preparing for the Ceremony

Call the local chamber of commerce or economic development group to ascertain if they have a groundbreaking kit. Most organizations of this type will have rope or ribbons to mark off the site as well as a golden (or other colored) shovel and hardhats for the ceremony. They will typically provide those gratis for members of their group. If those things are not readily available, then determine how to obtain what you want or need on your own.

Establish a budget for the event. If no budget is available, determine ways to get the donations needed to make the ceremony happen as planned.

Decide on decorations if they are going to be needed. Keep in mind both the original and contingency plans. Have them in place at least one hour before the event begins.

Arrange for refreshments and paper goods if applicable. If not, make sure that, as minimum, fresh water is available for the program speakers.

Arrange for seating both indoor and outdoor alternatives. If seating isn’t feasible for everyone because of audience size or where the event is being held, arrange for seating strictly for program participants and other dignitaries. Determine if there will be assigned seating. If so, make a seating chart so that everyone involved in the ceremony knows where program participants and other dignitaries will be seated.

Arrange for a tent if it is needed. Make sure it is up and in place a few hours before the event is scheduled to begin.

Arrange for a sound system if one is required. Make sure it is set up and tested before the ceremony is set to begin.

Arrange for trash receptacles, if applicable. Make sure they are inconspicuously in place before the event begins.

Make nametags for all dignitaries attending the event so that they can be easily identified. Arrange for someone to greet them as they arrive and seat them.

Mark off the dig site with rope or flags to let people know specifically where to go. Arrange for a plastic drop cloth pathway if the site is muddy to prevent damage to participants’ shoes.

Make sure that all participants in the dig have a hard hat. Be aware that such hats may be necessary for all participants if the ceremony is taking place within a designated hard hat area.

Conducting the Ceremony

Make certain all participants are in their assigned places before the ceremony begins. Be sure they understand their parameters and the amount of time they have to speak.

Call participants to order before the ceremony begins. Welcome everyone to the ceremony and introduce the first speaker when it is time to begin. Outline any logistic requirements such as the refreshment site or location of restrooms.

Take pictures of the event as needed. Another option is to arrange to get copies of photos taken by the press.

Maintain the flow of the program from beginning to conclusion. If necessary, step in and extemporaneously speak to keep the program on track or to cover for any missing participant.

Take care of cleanup once the event is concluded. Make sure that all trash is picked up and that the site is returned to the condition it was before the event began.