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An arts-centered wedding reception

Event Production, On the Job, Project Briefs | June 1, 2013 | By:

Chattanooga Tent Co. meets logistical challenges for a wedding reception at the Hunter Museum of American Art.

An arts-centered venue with stunning natural views is an inspired and inspiring choice for an upscale wedding reception in Chattanooga, Tenn. For the March 2013 event, Chattanooga Tent Co. created a seamless transition from the Hunter Museum of American Art to its terrace overlooking the Tennessee River—but not without a few load-in and ballasting challenges. “We had about six months to plan,” says Mike Holland, president of Chattanooga Tent Co. “The time was sufficient but the job did require a considerable amount of logistical planning.”

Points of access

Although there were three points of access to the installation site on the terrace at the back of the museum—stairs, over an 8-foot glass wall and a freight elevator—each provided a different challenge.

Not only was it difficult to hand equipment and the 25-foot-long tent beams over the 8-foot wall, the crew needed to take care not to damage it in the process. They built a wood cover to protect the glass while they worked over and around it.

For ballast, the installation required 38 2,000-pound blocks. The crew used the freight elevator to bring the blocks to the terrace but there was an additional 500 feet from the elevator to the tent site. To protect the terrace pavers the crew laid 70 sheets of ¾-inch plywood over which they transported the blocks on electric pallet jacks. To lift the blocks onto the ballast plates, and stack them two high, they designed a rolling gantry crane with a two-ton chain hoist, making sure it met the door’s clearance height of 6 feet, 7 inches.

Careful setup

Once the load-in challenges were successfully met, installation began—also requiring extra care. The main tent was constructed over a 32-by-8-foot stainless steel work of art that also functioned as a skylight. The crew connected the main tent—a 15-by-40-by-3-meter clearspan—to the museum by two canopies, one 7-by-30-foot and one 14-by-24-foot, and installed 131 feet of glass walls so the guests could enjoy the river view. Event Drapery Inc. of Atlanta, Ga. installed a custom liner to mask the structure beams.

A 20-by-40-foot food prep area and two 16-by-16-foot storage tents were in the original plan to complete the tenting needs. However, a change in weather required additional tents for the two outside bar areas. Temperatures during installation hovered in the normal range for the area—40s and 50s Fahrenheit—but for the day of the event the forecast was for the low 30s and a chance of snow. To be sure guests were comfortable the team added two 10-by-20-foot bar tents—a good decision because snow fell on the day of the event.

To give the decor team from Bold American Events, Atlanta, Ga., ample time to deck out the event, Chattanooga Tent completed installation—including a 20-by-40-foot black-and-white dance floor, a 16-by-32-foot stage and seating for 300 guests—nine days in advance.

The event was a stunning success. During dismantle, however, the freight elevator stopped working for five days. “Thank goodness that didn’t happen during the install,” Holland says. “Or we would have needed to crane all that heavy equipment in.”

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