By Jamie Swedberg
The road to the clients’ property on the Potomac River wasn’t actually a road at all; it was a narrow path with a steep slope on one side, surfaced with garden pavers. It was the sort of road that is perfectly navigable with a truck, but substantially less so for a massive forklift carrying a 30-ton air conditioning unit.
There was another problem: the party the clients were planning involved a well-known band and a large audience. When Greg Huyck, general manager, HDO Productions, Rockville, Md., surveyed the property, he honestly couldn’t figure out where he could fit a tent with a footprint large enough to serve as a concert venue. “I spent several days designing tents that could fit on their tennis court, maybe go over their pool, possibly use the lower grounds,” Huyck says. “That was the one area that was possibly large enough. But that would mean there would be no staging area for the band, or restrooms, or generators or any of the other things that were needed. Or air conditioning—this was an August event in D.C., so no way you could have an event inside a tent in August without air conditioning.”
Huyck and his crew ended up wedging in the 66-by-88-foot Röder Zelt- und Veranstaltungsservice structure directly behind the house, on a slope so severe that two-thirds of the tent was more than 20 feet in the air. (To make lemons out of lemonade, they added a balcony so the guests could enjoy the view.) That wasn’t such a big deal, he says, since he’d done plenty of golf tournament installations where the tent sat on scaffolding.
What was hard was getting in there in the first place. “When you’re approaching a very difficult installation with very limited access, it’s incredibly important to tell the client exactly what’s going to happen,” Huyck points out. “I had to let them know, ‘This is going to be an invasion. The entire front of your property, your driveway and your turnaround will be completely consumed with equipment for several days before and several days after the event.’”
He also managed the clients’ expectations about probable damage to the property. They took it seriously, booking a landscaping company to come in right after the event—and it was needed. The heavy trucks did as much damage to the paver-road as Huyck anticipated and, despite protective plastic flooring, some of the landscape beds were obliterated. But because the clients were braced for the impact of such a large production, they weren’t fazed. “They were so pleased, I got called back for several more jobs in other venues,” Huyck says. “They have been a client of mine ever since.”