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How to Launch a New Festival in Cleveland: Recipe for Success

The founders of BorderLight had an ambitious artistic vision driving them since before they founded their non-profit in 2016… to create a 4-day cultural festival where they could present visionary international theatre and build cross-cultural understanding. They did their research, wrote grants, built a base of support, attracted a passionate board and advisory council, and established an impressive list of artists to present. They had all the ingredients to bring their festival program to life. Or did they?

With their 2019 festival launch less than a year away, the small but mighty BorderLight team needed to identify who could support them in bringing it all together. Site visits, contracts, permits, special events, staffing and volunteer plans, and overall festival logistics were some of the items on a growing list.

Palmer Event Solutions was hired to help “bring their vision to life” and we knew it was a colossal undertaking with a compressed timeline, but we were up for the challenge and prepared to engage our core values:


Our team had to be more than collaborative, we had to be the champions of collaboration. We often found ourselves encouraging those involved (venues, vendors, volunteers, paid staff, marketing teams, and more) to work together in new and exciting ways.


We help good people plan great events! Being ‘happy’ to help is a state of mind that makes each obstacle feel smaller, and each challenge easier to solve.


It’s great when the answer is… “yes, you can do that.” But sometimes the answer is… “no, that’s not feasible.” Being able to speak the truth, even when it wasn’t what our client wanted to hear, helped us keep pace with a fast-moving timeline. Offering transparent pricing from all our vendor partners also helped us, and them, move through the long list of financial decisions that had to be made.


We wanted to know them, their vision and what drove them. It helped us figure out how to best support BorderLight – and connect them with the resources essential to success. No database? No problem. We have a solution (or two) to show you. No event insurance company? Easy – and required!


There were a lot of meetings with long lists of work to be done. We always brought our fun energy to the table to help make the work more enjoyable.


Every detail matters to someone! We’re talking about big details, like knowing the run time for every show and how long it takes to flip the audience in each venue when we were planning the festival schedule. We’re also talking about small details, like planning ahead for enough clipboards, pens, and granola bars to empower your volunteers each day of the festival.

  • 4,000+ Ticketed Attendees
  • 10,000+ Attendees Festival-Wide
  • Visitors from 26 US States + England
  • 267 Artists from 8 Countries and 11 US States
  • 90+ Staff and Volunteers
  • Numerous Sold-Out Shows
  • 45+ Media Stories and Reviews
  • Over $450,000 invested in the local economy, including $200,000+ directed to local artists and arts organizations!

The inaugural results certainly point to success, but our biggest indicator is that BorderLight will be back in July 2021!


BorderLight International Theatre + Fringe Festival


Playhouse Square
Public Square
Old Stone Church
Hermit Club at Hofbrauhaus
Privato at Cibreo
The Union Club
Parnell’s Irish Pub


July 24-27, 2019


Courtesy of BorderLight

About BorderLight International Theatre + Fringe Festival

Founded in 2016 by Dale Heinen and Jeffrey Pence, BorderLight International Theatre + Fringe Festival launched its debut 4-day festival in late July 2019.

“There are festivals that entertain you for a day, and then there are festivals that stay with you long after the production trucks roll away.”

The inaugural festival included 100+ performances from around the globe, multiple indoor and outdoor stages in venues from Playhouse Square to Public Square, 4 festival parties, and a procession of ‘Creatures’ through downtown Cleveland. Shows featured top-flight performers from abroad, world premiere and regional premiere collaborations between Cleveland-based theatre companies and international artists, and a ‘fringe festival’ that drew performers from Northeast Ohio’s vibrant theatre community – and from across North America.

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