The Biggest Exposures to Insure in Festivals

Around this time of year, festivals are among the most popular of events. With the long days and warm summer weather, many people would love nothing more than to spend the day outdoors, listening to music or watching entertainment. And as we head into the fall months, autumn and harvest festivals are sure to come as well. It was recently estimated that 32 million people attend U.S. music festivals alone each year. That’s only considering music festivals: when you also consider religious festivals, food festivals, film festivals, arts festivals, and the countless other festivals that occur each year, as you can imagine that attendance number drastically increases.

However, each festival comes with a unique set of risks. Putting on a large-scale event like a festival requires managing a comprehensive set of risks, to the point where a 2011 Risk Management magazine article dubbed music festivals “almost uninsurable”. It is absolutely possible to insure a festival, but there are numerous risk factors that need to be addressed. Here is a look at some of the most common risk factors that come with festival events.

General Liability

General Liability coverage is the the cornerstone of insurance coverage, covering common claims such as property damage, customer injury, and product liability. However, while GL coverage is consistent across most industries, the special events industry is an exception to this rule. From insurer to insurer, GL coverage can come with a number of different exclusions, leaving the insured unprotected from common claims such as assault and battery. General Liability is an important coverage, but event organizers will need to supplement it with additional coverage in order to be fully protected.

Liquor Liability

When an event serves alcohol, special precautions need to be taken. Not only will event organizers need to consider the possibility of intoxicated patrons becoming injured, harming others, or damaging property at the event itself; if a patron leaves the venue and causes an accident, the festival that served them could be held liable for third-party damages. This type of claim will not be covered by General Liability insurance, so Liquor Liability coverage will also be necessary for organizers of events that serve alcohol.


As numerous recent events have sadly shown, large-scale public events such as festivals can fall victim to tragic, unforeseen events. Event organizers will need to escalate their security budgets and efforts at events, with a thorough risk assessment being the best course of action.

Risk Management

Today, many cities are requiring festival organizers to submit risk management plans for festivals that take place on city property. Even if it is not required, every organizer should undergo a thorough risk assessment and develop a risk management plan that includes the following:

  • Site Risks – These are all of the existing risks caused by the event’s physical site. This should consider any features of the event site that could cause potential dangers (such as unstable objects, bodies of water, and trip and fall hazards), the site capacity (compared to the expected turnout), and exit routes.
  • Event Risks – These are the liabilities brought about by the event and its activities. For a music festival, the heavy musical equipment could be a risk. Carnival rides are another potential risk. Anything that is brought onto the event site for the festival (such as vehicles, temporary structures, golf carts, and food and drink) should be assessed for possible risks.
  • External Risks – These are the most difficult for organizers to predict. These are the risks that have nothing to do with the event and cannot be controlled, but could potentially arise at the event. These could include inclement weather or acts of violence, among other things. But if these events were to occur, would the festival be prepared to initiate an evacuation and work with emergency services?

Cancellations/Inclement Weather

Whether the entire event is cancelled as a result of extenuating circumstances or one of the key parties to the event (such as a performer or food vendor) is no longer able to attend, this can create problems for the event organizers. They may be held liable for the cost of reimbursing customers, or they could completely lose the money that they spent on the event.

This has been a difficult topic for event planners because standard General Liability policies do not cover event cancellations and their associated costs. Instead, specialized insurance coverage would need to be held.

Festivals are common events with very unique needs and liabilities. In order to provide the best possible coverage for these events, you need to work with a specialist.

About Impact Programs

Impact Programs is a managing general agent (MGA) with unparalleled, industry-specific experience in the programs we manage. In addition to underwriting, we specialize in claims resolution and loss control for the entertainment and amusement fields, and provide flexible, tailored solutions to our clients’ unique needs. For more information, contact us today at (913) 218-3910 to speak with one of our specialists.