The Largest Event That You Haven’t Heard Of—Yet

February 5, 2018 § Leave a comment


When online registration coordinator Toni Bieser invited me to the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza, held annually the last weekend in January, I thought, “Central Minnesota in the dead of winter? What could be better?”

Naturally, I accepted the invitation.


I do not fish, ice or otherwise, so I had not heard of the Ice Fishing Extravaganza before the event became a SignMeUp event registration client in 2017. Turns out, the moniker is appropriate; the multi-day event truly is an extravaganza.

Held annually since 1991, the competition is the largest charitable ice fishing contest on Earth, drawing more than 11,000 participants. The weekend includes a Friday evening kick-off party (cocktail hour, plated dinner, raffle, and live entertainment), a Youth on Ice Olympics before the main contest on Saturday morning, a “Catch of the Day” prize giveaway, and a random drawing raffle.

Most impressively, it is organized entirely by volunteers, and since its inception has donated $3.3 million to local charities.

Gull Lake is 10 miles north of Brainerd, which is a more or less two-hour drive from Minneapolis (unless one inputs the wrong destination into one’s GPS, which I might have done—in which case, it’s a four-plus hour drive).

Stopping for lunch along the way, I happened to meet two Minnesotans who also were heading to Brainerd. They revealed the worst-kept secret about the contest: only a tiny percentage of contestants actually catch a fish.

In fact, so few catch anything that those who do are virtually guaranteed to win one of the 150 prizes. The two men confessed that neither one of them, or anyone in their group of 10 friends, had ever caught anything. Yet they returned year after year.

On Saturday morning—contest day—school buses started shuttling participants to the site before 8:00 a.m. Contestants eventually populated the ice to choose their preferred spots and to test the water depth.  Being only a spectator and noting the frigid air, I arrived at Gull Lake about 30 minutes before the fishing began at noon.

To set the scene: Picture a 15-square-mile, snow-blanketed frozen lake, pock-marked with fishing holes and crawling with ten thousand Yeti-like fisher-persons.

Add tents with vendors hawking cheese curds, funnel cakes, fur-lined hats, fishing gear, souvenirs, and various alcoholic beverages. Position a stage with a leaderboard and an enormous American flag somewhere close to the center. It is quite a sight, especially to a city-slicker like me.


Initially, I was puzzled by the strict rules. For instance: contestants are not allowed on the ice before 8:00 a.m.; they cannot drop a fishing line until noon; fish must be alive when weighed; the fishing hole must be clearly visible.

Then I learned the reason: The grand prize for the heaviest fish was one of the new Ford or GMC pickup trucks parked near the weighing station! The event organizers must have learned, probably the hard way, that it is awfully tempting to try to sneak in a big fish caught elsewhere.

Despite the appearance of chaos, the event was extremely well organized and seemed to go without a hitch. The winning fish was a 3.1-pound Northern Pike. Although the final tally for 2018 is not ready, the event raised $200,717 in 2017. That’s worth a day on the ice.

I highly recommend that you attend the event in 2019. Click here to register.

SignMeUp makes online registration easy for any type of event—ice fishing included. Start for free today or contact us to learn why we’ve been trusted with event registration for the last 20 years.

About the Author

Diane Goldring, Director of Customer Support, has been with SignMeUp since 1999. She enjoys adventuring to meet clients all across the United States. This was her first time in Brainerd, MN.

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How to Create an Event Satisfaction Survey

January 29, 2018 § Leave a comment

Picture this: Your event just wrapped up. You feel like things could not have gone better; You woke up to find the sun shining brilliantly on the event’s big day, your registrants were smiling both during and after the event, and there was not a problem in sight.

Sound like something you’ve experienced before?

While this may have been the case—and a huge high five to you if it has been— remember that there is always room to improve, even if you don’t immediately see it. As an event organizer, it is important to know any behind-the-scene situations that may have hindered the event’s overall success.

The best way to do this is to create a satisfaction survey. It’s a common practice that makes a positive impact on the future of your event, particularly because your event’s success of relies on learning and improving from past mistakes.

Send a survey to your list of registrants from SignMeUp’s online registration software post-event.  Make it brief, but include questions that ask how satisfied a participant felt within three main areas: communication, the event registration process, and overall event satisfaction. « Read the rest of this entry »

Part 2: The Event Planner’s Guide to Dynamic Social Media Marketing

January 4, 2018 § Leave a comment

hamburger with bacon, lettuce, ketchup, and tomato

Why It’s Not as Simple as Posting the Same Content on Every Account

(In the first part of this series, we talked about which platforms are good for event marketing. Review it here so that this makes sense.)

Last week’s cheat meal has something to teach you about promoting events. We’re big foodies, so hang in there for 30 seconds: Dynamic social media marketing is like a really good burger—every layer has its own function, purpose, and altogether makes something really awesome. You can use each ingredient, each social platform, on its own, but it doesn’t have the same result.

What is effective? Picking social channels with their individual strengths in mind and tailoring your promotion to the audiences that exist there.

As you know, the purpose of promotion is to communicate to your ideal customer about your event to entice them to participate. Even more so for paid or fundraising events. The question you want to answer is, why should they care?

The key to answering that question is to frame social marketing through a storyline. « Read the rest of this entry »

11 Fun & Easy Winter Event Ideas

November 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

woman at winter event with Christmas lights above

It may be cold out, but the fun doesn’t have to stop! The winter season is a great time to enjoy the most festive time of year. Use one (or as many as you like!) of these ideas to get your community together for your winter-inspired event. If you need help putting together your online registration form, contact us! « Read the rest of this entry »

The Gift of Promo Codes

November 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

sales promotion sign

Don’t let the weather fool you—the holiday season is here. You have a great opportunity to increase registrations for your event by giving the gift of promo codes to participants.

Promo codes are a great marketing tool that help gain exposure to your event and bump up registration numbers. Create holiday-themed promo codes, and share your codes through email, social media, or on your website to let participants know about your upcoming deals.

Here are a few examples of how you can incorporate promo codes in your event marketing this holiday season: « Read the rest of this entry »

The 6 Top Tips to Create Effective Event Sponsorship Levels

October 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

Reaching out to sponsors can be a nerve-wracking experience. To be persuasive, it’s crucial to have a complete and effective proposal document to give to your potential sponsors. Here are the 6 top ideas to consider as you decide your sponsorship levels and dollar amounts:

1. Determine the funds you will need in order to produce the event.
That is usually the best total to shoot for when creating different buy-in amounts for your sponsors, particularly if it’s a charity event. A charity 5k that anticipates spending $5,000 to produce the event should aim to get a Presenting Sponsor to cover the full amount. That way, all additional sponsorships and registration revenue will go back to the charity cause.

2. Create a list of sponsor benefits and deliverables that you can provide.
These are things like: « Read the rest of this entry »

SignMeUp Offers RaceIT Migration Assistance

September 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

SignMeUp is pleased to offer assistance to race organizers who have been displaced by the shutdown of the RaceIT race registration platform, which is scheduled for November 15, 2017. We invite you to join the SignMeUp community to take advantage of our industry-leading support and online race registration. « Read the rest of this entry »