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Preparing tented events for Mexico celebration

Project Briefs | June 1, 2010 | By:

Grupo Serna readies for a year of tented events celebrating Mexico’s bicentennial and centennial.

Mexicans officially kicked off their 2010 bicentennial celebration in September 2009 with a “Grito de Independencia” (“Cry of Independence”) bash in Mexico City’s famous main square, el Zócalo. For tent rental company Grupo Serna, the event was the beginning of 16 months of tenting of historic proportions.

Grupo Serna, of Mexico City, began as a political marketing and advertising business in the early 1980s. Owner Miguel Serna noticed the lack of quality tents for large events in his country, which led to a change in the company’s focus to the Mexican tent rental market.

“A few tents and years later, we were standing in 2009, facing the bicentennial of our independence and the centennial of our revolution,” says son, also Miguel Serna.

One of Grupo Serna’s clients, Mexican entertainment company Grupo CIE, was awarded the government contract for all of the year’s official federal celebrations. Through this client and others, Grupo Serna will provide tents for hundreds of events nationwide. The country’s bicentennial committee has planned more than 500 initiatives, and as of the end of March, Grupo Serna had already supplied tents for dozens of different events, including the New Year’s Eve celebration “Angel de Independencia,” attended by more than 15,000 people. As will be the case for many of the celebrations held in public spaces, installation and takedown times are limited—for this event, the company installed more than 30 tents in 12 hours and took them down in 10.

All of this work began with proposals dating back to 2007 and included forming strategic alliances with professionals in the United States and Canada. Serna attended trade shows and networked through the Tent Rental Division of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) to find both suppliers and potential rental partners.

To bulk up its inventory, Grupo Serna has purchased new tents as well as white and clear tent tops, double doors for clearspan tents and solid white doors and glass sidewall. Serna predicts more purchases as events escalate toward the September bicentennial and November centennial.

Additional preparation involved doubling its crew size from 40 to 80, forming one team for bicentennial events and one for the company’s other jobs, and making sure that all installers were up-to-date on their training.

“We promoted internal education, as there is a lack of tent setup education in our country,” Serna says. “Our team leaders must make an extra effort to do all the setups we have. We believe we will hire more people as time goes on, and in September to December we must have [more than] 125 employees.”

Tenting requirements for many of the events are somewhat fluid—in some cases, planners wait for weather forecasts to determine the extent of their tent needs, Serna explains. Grupo Serna crews must be ready for last-minute calls, and employees have been issued special cell phones for situations requiring emergency setups.

For one event, a client contacted Grupo Serna at 8 p.m. on Feb. 25 requesting a 30-by-24-meter tent in Litibu, a town that is about a 12-hour drive from Mexico City, to be installed by 8 a.m. on Feb. 27.

“We loaded the truck that night, sent the tent with two drivers and flew all the crew to Puerto Vallarta, the closest town to Litibu,” he says. The tent arrived at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 and was installed by 1 a.m. on Feb. 27.

“One thing is for sure, we have to be ready for any kind of request,” Serna says.

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