If you have ever been to a school fall festival you are probably familiar with one of the biggest fundraising booths of the event: the cake walk. If you are not familiar with what a cake walk is, let me describe it for you. Participants purchase tickets or make donations to step inside a circle. Once each of the numbered positions are filled, the game attendant begins playing music and asks everyone in the circle to walk toward their left or their right around the circle. When the music stops, everyone is to stop. The attendant will then choose a number. The participant whose number is called is declared the winner. They then have the opportunity to choose a number to determine which cake they will win. Some allow the participant to choose any cake on the cake donation table. Then the process begins all over again.
A Cake Walk is one of the highest grossing booths at a school fundraiser.
Background: The previous year we had witnessed a particular church’s fall festival. The church had had a Christian school that had closed. Nevertheless, they had continued the tradition of conducting a fall festival. It primarily was for the church; no outreach effort was made beyond extended family members. Games were dragged out one hour before and were still being set up at the start time, including having to repair broken games. It was not well attended by anyone including church members. We were told that the money raised by the cake walk was to go into the mission budget. It was all too obvious that it was an “unofficial contest” between the ladies as to who could “raise” the most money for their cake. One family “won” SEVEN cakes!
The next year we were asked to take on the fall festival project. Remembering that the purpose of a church fall festival is an outreach into the community, we planned accordingly and we decided to make the Cake Walk free. We had many, many cakes donated. A few were brought by ladies whose business it is to make cakes (elaborate and themed); those cakes went on the door prize table to be given out throughout the night. The rest of the cakes, store bought and homemade, were placed in the Cake Walk booth.
As the games began, we had the game attendants cue the lines and fill in all the spots in the circle. No tickets were sold and no donations received. The game ran as it typically does with the winner receiving a cake at the end.
When the ladies began to see that their cakes were not the in the spotlight (read: THEY were not in the spotlight) they began to complain. “Why aren’t you charging for the Cake Walk?” “That bus kid stuck his hand in my cake.” (The child had won the cake.) “We raised money with the Cake Walk to reach the lost.” “I spent so many hours making that cake.” “The same people keep getting in line.” “My family hasn’t had a chance to win.” “Our church members aren’t getting to play.”
Not very Christian. Not very loving. Not very mission-minded. Was it?
What I haven’t stated yet was what was happening with those who had come that were not affiliated with the church. The guests began calling their friends and family, telling them that they “HAD to come up to _______ Baptist Church. They are giving away FREE cakes in the Cake Walk!”
This had not been our original intent. However, the result couldn’t have been better. Before the evening was over there had been 400-500 people unaffiliated with the church to attend. The following year we had to coordinate with local law enforcement for traffic. We also had people show up an hour before the planned opening waiting in line; we ended up opening early. It was AMAZING! The gospel was given to each person who came. I believe that is being mission minded, reaching across the street in lieu of raising money for missions.
I’ve said all this to say: if you have never had a free cake walk at your church fall festival you may very well expect the above. Be prepared for it. Pray for a giving spirit by the participants. Plan, plan, plan.
Here are some things we have learned over the years that might help you in your cake walk planning.
- How many cakes will you need? Each round of a cake walk should take about 5 minutes. If you are having a two hour event, you will need a minimum of 24; a three hour event, 36 cakes.
- How many attendants for the cake walk? You can get away with two, three is better, four is best. You will need someone to send people into the circle and ask them to exit after the round. You will need someone to start and stop the music. You will need someone to pull numbers for the winner and numbers for the cake to be won.
- Number each individual cake for the drawing. You may also opt to allow the winner to choose a cake, but that does tend to eliminate the best cakes early on in the night.
- Close off the circle so that random participants cannot simply walk into the round. Establish a clear line with separate entrance and exit.
- To make the game fair, all participants should exit the line after each round. This allows everyone who would like a turn a chance to participate, rather than a select few who continuously stay in the game without giving anyone else a chance to win.
- In light of food allergies, some of which can be deadly, have stickers available with “includes tree nuts” and “includes peanuts/peanut butter.” Do try to accommodate those with these allergies if they should happen to “win” a cake with something they are deathly allergic to.
- If you think that you will have an enormous uproar over a free cake walk, opt for a free cupcake walk instead. The kids absolutely LOVE this game… instant gratification because they usually scarf down their winnings before they leave the event. You could also designate the Cake Walk for the adults and the Cupcake Walk for the children; be sure to set an age limit. This would also help dispel any objections some may have about children winning cakes.
- A simple box cake mix and tub of frosting is perfectly acceptable for a cake. Those donating cakes do not need to create elaborate cakes. A simple homemade box cake mix is fine.
- Suggest to those donating to purchase a plate or cake holder from a dollar store. This will avoid anyone losing an item they hold dear through giving away a cake.
We hope that you do consider a FREE Cake Walk for your church fall festival. It truly is a great way to draw people into your event. Remember, the purpose for your church fall festival is to attract people to your facilities so that you can share Christ with them.
photo credit: photopin.com