Get to Know Special Event Organizers In Order to Snag Special Event Sweeping Contracts

Take a parade. Add a row of food trailers or maybe a car show. Like Ferris wheels? Why not include a half dozen amusement rides, too?
Communities throughout the United States attract thousands of people each year to special events, whether the event is a sports celebration, a founder’s day anniversary, summer carnival or church festival.

While the reasons for the events vary, the results never do: trash and lots of it. Paper plates, confetti, cigarette butts, food wrappers, scraps of paper—and, if the parade included horses, add a few dozen piles of manure to the mix.

Cindy and Lawrence Doty of Just Better Cleaning, Inc., in Margate, Fl., have built their ten-year-old business around special event sweeping. The company does other sweeping, too, of course, and has a nice business servicing parking lots, condominium complexes and other conventional areas. However, Cindy Doty, who is the company’s vice president, said that special event sweeping and cleanup comprises the bulk of their business.

The company owns twenty “backpack” blowers that can be carried on workers’ backs, plus fifteen Isuzu trucks that sweep up debris. The family-owned and -operated business has built a solid reputation in the Broward County, West Palm and Miami-Dade areas of southeastern Florida, and Doty said that business dropped only slightly during the recession. The company was able to ride out the worst of the economy, thanks to long-standing and long-planned special events such as car shows, flea markets and carnivals that are the bread-and-butter services of Just Better Cleaning.

While the company’s equipment is straightforward—the usual blowers and trucks that are part of most commercial sweeping operations—its marketing is slightly different from other operations. Doty explained that getting the company’s name out to the public is the biggest factor in a successful special event sweeping business.

For example, Just Better Cleaning belongs to all the area Chambers of Commerce in southeast Florida. Either Doty or her husband, Lawrence (the company president) attend the monthly meetings, get to know other business owners and—most important—meet the folks who plan special events. Advertising is also important, especially in publications or in places that will reach event organizers.

“It takes a whole lot to build up your business,” Doty shared. “Basically, you have to go out there and advertise. Go to the Chamber of Commerce meetings once a month. Go to where (businesses or groups) have ribbon cuttings. Hand out your business cards and brochures. Just show your face so they know who they’re dealing with.”
“The business isn’t coming to you; you have to go to them. You have to put yourself out there,” she added.

Doty said sweeping contractors who specialize in special events really do not require different equipment or strategies from other sweeping contractors. The only difference may be in the constraints that a community may place on the sweeping company. For example, most special event sweeping is done between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., after the event is finished but before local noise ordinances kick in, which is usually around 11 p.m. If a noise ordinance is not an issue, a city or town certainly will want debris cleared by the time people begin to go to work or when downtown stores open for business.

“No two events are alike, even when it comes to sweeping up the aftermath,” said Debbie Jacketta, owner of Jacketta Sweeping Service, Inc., in Salt Lake City, Utah, and another contractor involved in special event cleanup. Her company has seen its share of cleanup work after special events that range from festivals and parades to college football tailgate parties and the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Established in 1968, Jacketta Sweeping Service started out sweeping parking lots. The company now operates a fleet of ten sweepers and provides such services as scrubbing, power washing, catch basin cleaning, striping and snow plowing.

When it comes to sweeping after special events, timing and execution are crucial, stressed Jacketta, who agreed with Doty that when you sweep is as important as how you sweep.

“You don’t want to be sweeping right after the event ends, or you’ll be dealing with traffic, congested streets and crowds,” she explained. “On the other hand, you shouldn’t wait too long after the end of the event to start the cleanup.”

Jacketta stressed the importance of coordinating with other cleaning crews on the timing of street sweeping. “We usually sweep after cleaning crews on foot have already picked up the larger debris, but in some cases, we’re also working with water trucks and dump trucks.”

After a football tailgate party, for example, Jacketta’s company sweeps the parking lot, which is inevitably littered with cans, bottles, paper, cups and other leftover items. Her company’s preferred machines for special event cleanup are the Crosswind regenerative air sweeper, the Road Wizard and the Broom Bear mechanical sweepers from Elgin Sweeper.

“The Crosswind does a great job cleaning large, flat, paved areas such as streets and parking lots, and the Road Wizard and Broom Bear both have dumping action, so waste can be easily disposed into dumpsters right there on the job,” Jacketta said.

Plan ahead in terms of getting access to the venue and the timeframe required by the sweepers to do their job. According to Jacketta, it generally takes her crew about three hours to sweep up after an event like a tailgate party or festival. “Be patient and plan on taking some extra time for sweeping after an event,” she cautioned.

While it is always easier to clean during daytime hours, Jacketta said many event sweeping jobs are done late at night or early in the morning when it is dark. It is always important to be aware of the surrounding area while sweeping, especially when lighting is limited. Jacketta also recommended having at least one extra operator available on the job to help out during sweeping.

Another expert, Bill Burkhardt, who is the street sweeping foreman for the city of St. Louis, Mo., has managed his share of sweeping projects after the city’s numerous parades. For him, the key to effective sweeping is to do it early enough after the parade has ended.

“We send our sweepers in right at the tail end of the parade,” Burkhardt said. “We treat our sweepers like they were just another float in the parade, even to the point of dressing the machines up to match the occasion, so they fit in. We have sweepers painted and decaled for every parade from Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day to celebrations for the Cardinals’, Blues’ and Rams’ sports teams.”

Burkhardt said the city operates a fleet of about thirty Pelican sweepers from Elgin Sweeper. For cleanup after a parade, Burkhardt assigns a Pelican to each side of the street to pick up debris like cups, cans, bottles and confetti. While sweeping, the Pelicans perform some unique weaving and zigzag maneuvers on the street.

“Since our sweepers bring up the rear of the parade, I expect my operators to provide some entertainment for the spectators along the parade route,” Burkhardt said. “We’re proud of our Pelicans, and we like to show off the performance features of the sweepers while we’re working. We put on quite a show.”

Burkhardt said that it generally takes his crews about four hours to completely sweep up after one of the city’s parades.

To summarize, here are a few tips for special event sweeping:
* To get the contract, make sure the people planning the events know who you are.
* Be mindful of noise ordinances, after-dark lighting and other constraints you may not expect.
* Allow extra time. Crowd dispersal after a special event varies depending on traffic, weather and the event itself.
* Bring extra help.
* Have the right equipment for the job. Large sweepers are perfect for a wide parade route. Backpack-style sweepers can reach into small spaces.
* Join in the fun. If your sweeper is bringing up the rear of a parade, make sure the equipment is parade worthy. Show off your equipment and your business in a fun, festive way.

Story by Marie Elium