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Tented gala on a runway

Project Briefs | December 1, 2008 | By:

Two Chicago firms team up to pull off a fabulous tented gala on a new runway.

After School Matters (ASM), a nonprofit organization benefitting Chicago teens, needed to raise the bar in order to raise funds at its annual gala, where event tickets sell for $1,500 per person. Tents set up on the newest runway at O’Hare International Airport were just the solution. To make it work, ASM called on the veterans at Event Creative and Partytime Productions.

ASM needed tents for a reception, an art gallery, a performance and a dinner to accommodate approximately 2,500 guests at its gala. Sean Cannon, a director at Event Creative, Chicago, Ill., says one of the biggest challenges was a significant change in the event’s size. “The event increased in size about 30 percent a week before,” Cannon says, noting that the team had to add frame tents and move tents around to accommodate the extra guests.

The sheer scale of the event would have been challenging enough without having to deal with the numerous issues involved with tenting an airport runway. This particular runway was new and undergoing testing, leaving the team only six days for production. The specific timeframe was non-negotiable, says Jim Gallagher, CEO of Partytime Productions, Addison, Ill.

Logistics were another concern. “All workers needed to be cleared and approved by Homeland Security in advance of any access inside the O’Hare property,” Gallagher says. “Additionally, all workers needed to have security escorts to and from the secure runway. All workers and vehicles needed to be checked in daily, which caused time delays.”

Cannon says the team really stepped up. “We had no options, so it had to work, and it did,” he says. “It was really impressive. Partytime was on top of their game. We came in right where we were supposed to, sometimes actually ahead.”

Gallagher says the experience was educational, and he credits senior account executive John Kittermaster for helping to land the job that turned into such a success. “Working on one of the highest profile events of the year for the city of Chicago was truly an honor for all of us at Partytime.”

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