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Event organizer considers tents and turf for festival

Project Briefs | October 1, 2008 | By:

A food and wine festival organizer weighs the benefits and potential challenges of two location options.

When he first came up with the idea of organizing a food and wine festival, Jeff Hocker thought the first golf course of Palm Springs, Calif., would make the perfect location. The west side of the historic greens ends dramatically at the steep San Jacinto Mountains: a postcard setting.

But the private O’Donnell Golf Club wanted $10,000 to host the March 2008 event. Hocker opted to save the money on his inaugural event and instead transformed a casino parking lot into a “garden” with artificial turf and potted palm trees. He had to pay only $250 to the Native American tribe that owned the property in order to close off a street for a few days for setup.

When Hocker met with a casino official to discuss the 2009 festival, he was told the lot was no longer an option, as loss of its use in 2008 had hurt casino business. Instead, it was suggested, he could use an unused overflow lot. Both parties agreed it presented advantages: it was three times as large, providing ample staging area; it was landscaped with trees; it was on a main thoroughfare, offering better exposure; and it was equipped with an electrical box and lights for evening hours. Although light poles could limit the size of tents that could be used (the largest used in 2008 was 50 by 60 feet), the upper portions of the poles could be removed and the bases covered with strategically placed tables.

Hocker subsequently met with the organizers of a concours d’elegance to discuss the possibility of combining the two events. The concours — which also debuted in March 2008, on the O’Donnell golf course — will bring a fleet of high-end classic cars competing for attention from the judges and attendees.

The goal of the concours, the executive director said, was to “create an afternoon of lingering on the lawn,” with more emphasis on food and drink, as well as tents where people could relax. Tenting for the 2008 event was minimal (mostly 10-by-10-foot pop-ups and a few 10-by-20-foot tents for vendors); in fact, concours organizers met with the tent company on Tuesday for a Saturday event. Although the golf club disallows structures on the greens, the manicured “rough” offers room for both the concours and the food and wine festival. Whatever is decided, the greatest challenge will be time — both for setup and for the event itself — since the golf club board is reluctant to limit its members’ access to the course in high season.

Janice Kleinschmidt is a freelance writer based in Palm Springs, Calif.

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