As with any outdoor event, an alternative plan is always necessary, even if the event takes place in southern California where, as the song famously says, it never rains.
The event was the U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow, the travel industry’s major international marketplace that took place in late April, 2012. The last time Pow Wow was in Los Angeles was 2004, before the development of the city’s major entertainment complex, LA Live. The newly renamed Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board was prepared to show off the best of the city with a series of events.
The closing night, “Hooray Los Angeles,” was produced by Janet Elkins and Ted Bowers of Eventworks. It drew 3,500 guests, and a few raindrops.
The original venue, California Plaza, was a sprawling complex with two levels, a water element, an existing stage and built-in restrooms and seating. As planned, the event would incorporate digital mapping, large-screen projections, hip-hop rock violinist Josh Vietti, DJ Roonie G, Nikka Costa, who performed courtesy of the West Hollywood Marketing and Visitors Bureau and Sunset Strip Music Festival, and a Grammy Museum-sponsored performance by the event’s headliner, Earth, Wind and Fire.
The event was designed to show off Los Angeles’ most well-known neighborhoods and southern California wines and their regions. A menu by Wolfgang Puck Catering was inspired by Puck’s signature Los Angeles restaurants—a meat and potatoes menu from CUT in Beverly Hills, pizza from the original Spago West Hollywood and gourmet Chinese fare from Chinois in Santa Monica.
Installation at the Plaza began on Sunday afternoon. The weather forecast had been in flux yet the producers were optimistic that it would clear up for the Wednesday night event. As the day progressed, that hope faded.
On Monday morning the client made the call and the move to the semi-permanent tent at The Event Deck at LA Live went into effect. A team of 15 representatives from all areas of the event crowded into a conference room and revamped the entire environment.
“It was like Event Planning 101,” says Sarah Bencivenga, vice president of catering sales at Wolfgang Puck Catering. “With only 48 hours until the event, we had to literally go back to the basics, and rethink every detail step-by-step.”
As did Eventworks. “The heartbreak for us was we had a lot of special features planned,” says Elkins. “There was to be a 70-foot LED wall that allowed interplay between the live performance and video that now had to be altered to fit a 40-foot screen behind the stage. Media had to change formatting and IMAG was added on either side of the stage.” Other hard choices included scrapping a custom 3D media show created by Monster Media for the side of the Omni Hotel.
On Tuesday, the 24-hour job of transforming the tent began. Foliage and décor were brought in as was almost everything that would have been an existing accommodation at the other site—more seating, restrooms, a smoking area, canopies and areas for VIPS, air conditioning and staging. And with the move came the need for a very fast electrical inspection and permit. “We had to stay dark until the permit was approved, even though we were installing lighting,” Elkins says, “The permit was approved on Wednesday morning with only hours left to focus the lights and do checks.”
It was a nail biter all around. Todd Roberts from Visions Lighting was halfway through an installation that took a crew of 20 when the venue change was made. And the new venue required a completely different floor plan and equipment call. “One of our guys started a new CAD right away and worked until 3 in the morning so when we began at 6 on Tuesday, we had all the right paperwork.”
Plus, ground-supported truss now would be needed to create a stage. “Our trucks from Coachella and the LA Times Festival of Books had just come back. Without unloading them, we just rerouted them to LA Live and sorted out the equipment on site.” And since the projectors for the media show had already been rented, Roberts and his crew made use of them, installing a 40-by-9-foot center circle projection screen in eight hours that functioned as a main focal point for the massive tent over a central bar area.
“We’ve all been through some crazy things before, but we’ve never done anything like this,” Roberts says. “I still haven’t fully recovered from loss of sleep. But the energy of the party was amazing.”
On this everyone can agree. While the event at California Plaza would have been beautiful and just as fun, the crowd would of been more spread out. In the tent, the people gathered around the stage, creating more of a concert vibe.
The lesson? Sometimes it takes the alignment of all the elements—earth, wind, fire and sometimes even a little rain—to make a great event.
Event Solutions magazine
Liese Gardner is editorial director of Event Solutions magazine and an industry consultant.
She also writes the blog, Fuel: Passions That Drive Us.