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New York bar mitzvah embodies tradition and elegance

Project Briefs | December 1, 2009 | By:

An extensive backyard—and front yard—party helps a family celebrate a time-honored religious rite.

Take a historic New York City neighborhood with strict guidelines for licensing and permitting, a narrow lot with elaborate landscaping, a family planning to celebrate its son’s bar mitzvah by hosting six events over a two-day period, for up to 800 people at a time—and you’ve got a spectacular challenge to create temporary environments for a spectacular event. Classic Party Rentals, New York City, took on the challenge with help from its Chicago office, which helped design and provide the tents for the celebration.

Planning functional beauty

The event took place at the client’s home in the exclusive Long Island community referred to by historians as the “First Hamptons.” Planning for Classic began months in advance of the event, with several production meetings to ensure that the client’s wishes were fully understood and to determine if it was physically possible to create a layout that would reflect the vision. That vision was to create an extension of the house with a consistent covering to provide a uniform look while protecting guests from the ever-changing March weather.

Classic created the layout, for 18,699 square feet of structures, to work around the narrow lot and elaborate landscaping while the client consulted with an architect to ensure the design concept was structurally sound and to obtain the necessary village permits. In an effort to remove a minimum amount of landscaping, the crew raised the floor level and built flooring over and around hedges and shrubs.

Large trees in both the front yard and backyard presented more challenges. For the backyard trees the team designed and built two custom two-piece panels to accommodate the trees into the tented areas. The panel openings were larger at the top and gradually decreased in size to funnel rain through the flooring. For the front, Classic designed a 2,000-square-foot octagonal reception tent to fit between the existing trees and landscaping.

Building the vision

Classic’s Chicago office was instrumental in designing and providing the tents for the event, which included the octagonal reception tent, a 7,920-square-foot dining tent, a ceremony tent, a tent to accommodate overflow guests, kitchen tents, a restroom and coat check tent, a crew tent and several connector tents.

Cyndi Provenich, project manager for Classic Party Rentals, was on-site for about a month overseeing the planning and installation. “A lot of things changed while we were on site, like whether or not they wanted a walkway,” she says. “We got the whole driveway covered and then they decided they didn’t want the driveway covered. It was intense.” It was also important to the client that the tents align with the landscaping, house and other tents to create the look of a purposeful environment. The configuration of the tent located on the driveway, which led to the restroom tent, required the most effort to align because the tents ran parallel to each other with a five-foot hedge in between. The installation took 10 days and involved crews ranging from eight to 25 people.

Climate control

Once the tents were installed, the combination of clear tent walls and ceilings, and sun and rain, required particular vigilance to maintain a comfortable climate inside the structures. “The client wanted clear tents so it wouldn’t look like they had a bunch of tents around their house,” Provenich says, “but that made climate control tough.” When the sun was shining, the temperature would reach 120F. At night it would drop to 40F. “At one point during setup the flowers were starting to die. So I started to get to the site by 5am to open up all the walls before the sun came out,” she says. “Then we’d have to close it up just before the sun set to maintain some of the natural heat.”

To ensure the heaters were operating properly for the cool evenings of the event, the crew performed a heating test the night before. Then, on the days the event took place, rain was a factor. “Because of how the sidewalls sat, the carpet soaked up anything that dripped onto it,” Provenich says. “At first we had the sidewalls stapled to the flooring, and then we had to rip it all up.” By paying constant attention to the weather and acting quickly, the crew kept the guests warm—but not too warm—and dry.

The intense planning, coordination and attention to detail resulted in an elegant and meaningful celebration for the family and its friends. “It was kind of like giving birth,” Provenich says. “You complain about it and it hurts like heck but once it’s done—well, I’d do again in a heartbeat.”

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