In Any Event 

It could have been a train wreck …

Solving Challenges
Planners know how to overcome any obstacles to pull off a great event.

As 2014 came to a close and 2015 got underway, we asked event planners to share their stories of challenges faced and obstacles overcome, and they delivered with tales of skunk removal and flyaway draping.

Enjoy this blog entry from hard-working event planners who apparently can fix anything.

Gay Lyons has years of experience planning events for all sorts of nonprofits, so she has encountered all sorts of situations.

When she knew an event could be disrupted by a passing train – with no idea of exactly when – she decided to incorporate the intrusion into the festivities.

 

 

Gay Lyons: The arrival of a big noisy freight train during the middle of your outdoor event is a challenge, but the creative planning team for a Woodstock-themed event to benefit Knox Heritage turned this obstacle into one of the highlights of the event.

Host Kevin Murphy warned us about the train and its regular but irregular arrival: sometime between 6 and 10 p.m. every evening. It was his idea to have a bit of fun with the train. Kevin created a spreadsheet listing every minute between 6 and 10 p.m. As guests checked in, each chose the train’s arrival time – with a prize going to the guest coming closest to the actual arrival. To add to the fun, we asked each of the bands to have a train song ready to play if the train arrived during their set. 

The train’s arrival – about 90 minutes into the event – could not have been more perfect. Emcee Todd Steed was making announcements; the next band, Jenna and her Cool Friends, were on stage awaiting their introduction. And then it happened: a long train whistle from somewhere off in the distance. Hundreds of guests yelled, “Train!” Jenna and her Cool friends broke into “Folsom Prison Blues” leading the crowd in singing, “I hear the train a’comin’; it’s rollin’ round the bend.” The official arrival time was not defined as when the whistle sounded but when the train came down the tracks on the edge of the Murphy Farm, so the suspense was heightened as we sang and waited for the train.

Holly Hock Stock was filled with many fun, memorable moments, but I think everyone there that night would agree that the arrival of the train added extra excitement to the event. The lesson behind this kind of challenge is: “If you can’t ignore it, embrace it.”

Bill Lyons with hosts Gay Lyons, left, and Holly Hambright, at Holly Hock Stock.
Bill Lyons with hosts Gay Lyons, left, and Holly Hambright, at Holly Hock Stock, as pictured in The Blue Streak.

Planners have to be prepared to react to anything. Michelle Henry, a writer for Moxley Carmichael, and longtime event planner in Knoxville, had agreed to help coordinate a friend’s wedding in May, a month when East Tennessee weather can be delightful or frightful. The weather was splendid except for one factor – the wind.

Michelle Henry: I once planned a May wedding in the Tennessee Amphitheater at World’s Fair Park. We arranged for all activities to take place under cover in case there was rain, and we reserved heaters to make guests more comfortable in the event of a cold snap. When the day turned out sunny and beautiful, it seemed that all was well on the weather front. We didn’t consider wind. The strong winds made it nearly impossible to hang the draping used to hide support wires and create a backdrop for the wedding ceremony. Dianna Glandon with Above the Rest Balloon & Event Designs had to wait until nearly the last minute to finalize draping and used weights to help secure everything.

The lesson learned was always be prepared for any weather conditions, especially if draping of any kind is used outside.

There is that draping from the wedding.
There is that draping from the wedding. A full account of the beautiful event can be seen in The Blue Streak.

Lyons had an outdoor challenge of a much different kind for an event in which the hosts and the host committee were slightly off with the exact details.

Mary Holbrook
Mary Holbrook at the Holly Hock Stock event.

Lyons: One Knox Heritage Summer Supper planning team showed up on-site a number of years ago to discover the hosts were not at home. Apparently, there had been some misunderstanding with regard to the date or the time. Here’s the host committee loaded up with picnic food, wine, tables, chairs, centerpieces and such. What to do? In this case, the party location was fortuitously located next door to the home of the now late Mary Beth Montgomery.

Committee chair Mary Holbrook knocked on Mary Beth’s door and secured her gracious permission to have a picnic on her lawn – in two hours! Except for the dead skunk that a couple of committee members were assigned to remove, the location was idyllic: a lovely, shady piece of ground next to a brook. The guests didn’t have a clue their supper took place at an emergency location. The lesson behind this kind of challenge is that “what happens behind the scenes stays behind the scenes.”

Unless, of course, it later ends up in EventCheck Knox’s blog. Keep those stories coming to us. We will publish some more in an upcoming entry, including how Mary Bogert and the Knoxville Convention Center staff saved a wedding cake and handled a request to have people fly through the ballroom. Great work, planners!

Maria Cornelius, a writer/editor for Moxley Carmichael, populates the EventCheck calendar. Despite the frigid weather, she still is more likely to attend your event if ice cold Miller Lite in the vintage bottle is available.

 

3 responses to “It could have been a train wreck …

  1. Oh how right you are about the wind at the WFP Amphitheater! That was the first time we had draped fabric there and though we had come in a few days before the event to be sure we knew what we were doing, we did not know how strong the winds would be there! Thank goodness my crew of “Macguiverettes” are excellent problem solvers! Not only did we fill piping with sand, use a multitude of various weights, but we also tied 250# mono line to the draping and then way up the steel guy lines of the Amphitheater to be sure everything stayed in place! Sure didn’t want fabric falling on the bride and her guests! The biggest lesson we learned was ALWAYS be prepared at the WFP for pretty strong winds, especially between the hours of 2-5:30–we’ve discovered it’s a wind tunnel! So to all planners out there, the WFP Amphitheater is an awesome well kept secret of an excellent venue, but ALWAYS be prepared for winds!!!!! Love the lessons we learned (and continue with every event)

  2. Thank you Dianna Glandon for the details! None of that is apparent from the photos – that is outstanding behind-the-scenes work!

  3. Thanks for filling in with more details, Dianna! You did a masterful job with the Amphitheater and handled the wind problem to perfection!

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