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Overnight install leads to successful white-tie gala

Project Briefs | August 1, 2007 | By:

A mid-winter, overnight tent project on a bustling road in Philadelphia leads to an event fit for a prince.

On a cold night at the end of January, EventQuip loaded up its carefully ordered trucks and headed for downtown Philadelphia. The white-tie gala EventQuip was preparing for was the 150th anniversary celebration of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Prince Charles would be among the guest list of local and international dignitaries. After numerous meetings with the police, city officials and the fire department, it was finally time to close down what some consider the busiest street in Philadelphia—Broad Street—and begin the overnight setup.

The street was closed at 11:00 p.m. Friday to accommodate setup of the 40-by-145-foot Aztec frame tent, says EventQuip’s Ed Knight. (The tent width had to be modified to allow fire truck access on Broad Street.) The installation had to be complete by 9:00 the next morning, including the main tent with clear mids over the dance floor and band area, a catering tent and a tented restroom trailer.

“We spent more time loading the trucks and coordinating the efforts than we did on the installation,” Knight says. Each of the 11 truckloads was loaded in a specific order for the different crews to attack their portion of the project. The team prearranged the drive downtown so that each of the trucks would arrive in order according to where it needed to park on site. Setting specific crew responsibilities and strict timing also helped the team work efficiently.

“Floor crews were chased down the street by a tent crew that built a tent on top of the floor as quickly as they could,” Knight says. “When the floor was finished, the flooring crews then assisted the tent crew with legs and tops.” All this activity took place while other crews built walkways, a catering tent and a building connector.

Since the event was held in January, Knight needed extra staff to help his reduced winter crew. “We went to another local tent rental company and subcontracted some of their key installers for the weekend,” he says. “Altogether, we had 32 installers working through the night.”

Tent crews are accustomed to working overnights on lucrative events, but an added trial for the EventQuip team was the cold winter weather. “It was 12 degrees and breezy all night long,” Knight says, “and we were thankful the weather was that nice, as we agreed to get the job done in that time frame regardless of weather.”

Cold weather can pose potential problems for finicky tent fabric. Knight and his team tried to prevent any disasters by rolling the tent tops onto tubes, much like carpet, to make them easier to unroll and pull on the frames in the cold. The tops were kept in a box truck heated with a 170,000 BTU heater.

“Tops would come out of the truck and be pulled into the keders while two men supported the tops as they unrolled,” Knight explains. “Despite these efforts and additional Heat Cannons directed upward at the clear tops for over the dance area, we still watched two tops shatter before they made it to the other side.” Luckily the crew had brought some spare clear tops for the dance floor area, and didn’t need to use the white tops that were brought as a last resort.

In the end, the cold weather and tight installation time couldn’t prevent EventQuip from doing the job well. The finished tent, dubbed the Broad Street Ballroom, was warm, beautiful and fit for a prince.

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