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Peaks of perfection: installations that wow

Tents and structures that dazzle, amaze and wow event attendees.

Feature | December 1, 2021 | By: Maura Keller

Stunning blue and white accents, along with dramatic fabric treatments and lighting, transformed the space into a memorable wedding venue for all. Photo courtesy of Party Reflections Inc.

If invitations create a first impression of an event, the tents and structures used at an event make a lasting impression. Here’s a look at four eye-popping tent projects that wowed clients, astonished event attendees, and had tent installation teams exclaiming “veni, vidi, vici!” 

Big demands, big rewards

At a recent wedding held at a posh country club in South Carolina, Party Reflections Inc., Charlotte, N.C., worked to create an event that the bridal couple and their 300 guests would remember. While the main tent was used for cocktails and the reception after the wedding ceremony, there was also a separate tent for the caterer attached to the side of the main tent.  

“We were called in less than two months before the wedding date due to the COVID-19 limitations placed on the couple from the country club where they had planned to have the event,” says Daniel Hooks, CEO at Party Reflections.

The couple needed a space for 300 guests for a seated dinner and cocktail area and while the venue had a main house with a large porch for gathering, the Party Reflections team was charged with creating a temperature-controlled tented environment to house the guests who were trying to escape the 90-degree heat on an August afternoon.

Unique lighting treatments throughout the blackout dance tent and reception dinner tent resulted in an awe-inspiring experience for wedding guests. Photos courtesy of Aztec Events & Tents.

One of the biggest challenges of the installation was the location of the structure. The venue had a grass lawn that was approximately 90 by 80 feet. The lawn was surrounded on two sides by a septic field for the venue, the main house was on the third side, leaving one side of the lawn for access to all equipment delivery.  

As Hooks explains, the problem was that it was a natural area with wildflowers and the dirt underneath was not very firm, which Party Reflections employees discovered when they took a forklift across it with the first load of flooring.

“A leveled floor also had to be created to support the structure on the lawn,” Hooks says. The floor went from ground level to almost 7 feet off the ground in one corner of the property.  

In order to accommodate the number of guests, dance floor, band stage, bars and cocktail hour, an 82-by-147-foot Losberger structure was installed on top of an 84-by-152-foot ring scaffolding engineered floor. The floor was covered with tan carpet for the cocktail section and a laminate rollout covering for the reception portion, resulting in more than 13,000 square feet of floor and covering overall, including a number of ramps for egress and catering. Party Reflections secured the structure to the floor through the use of eyebolts and straps staked underneath the structure.

In addition, a 20-by-40-foot TopTec FutureLite frame tent was used for the caterer. It was floored and connected to the main tent and Party Reflections also supplied various tables, chairs, staging and catering equipment.

“Due to other events going on at the venue and the decor needed, we were only given three days to install the floor, structure, and provide HVAC for the entire project,” Hooks says. “The main issue from an installation process was the location of the structure and floor. We could only approach from one side of the property and it was over 200 feet from the road being used to deliver the products. As we continued to drive through the natural area, our forklift began to create ruts over 3 feet deep even with the use of mats to drive on. It was basically a marsh.”

The Party Reflections team members continued to work with the ground underneath them until they completed the floor so the team could use it to disperse the structure and other equipment.  

“Since the structure had to be installed on top of the floor and we could not access the site except from one side, we had to raise the beams without the help of a forklift as usual. Instead, we chose to use large pulleys attached to the forklift with long ropes to pull the arches into place,” Hooks says. “On the day of the tent installation, it rained on and off all day, making the setup more than difficult, but we still finished the tent in one day to allow the decor team time to dress it up for the wedding.”

The result: Party Reflections’ client could not have been happier with the installation. Even though it rained on the day of the wedding, the floor and the HVAC provided a weatherproof solution.

“While the original plan was [for the couple] to be married and have the reception in the comforts of a beautiful country club, we created a unique venue for both, during the constraints of a pandemic,” Hooks says. “We were able to execute a very demanding installation under adverse conditions proving to one of our most valued planners why they do business with us. It also gave our crew some great experience with how to deal with adversity and a challenging environment.” 

This wedding reception dinner tent exuded a sense of refined elegance while enveloping guests in stunning lighting and flooring features. Photo courtesy of Aztec Events & Tents.

Precision, grace and patience

When the goal is to bring international art galleries to Los Angeles to sell their art in a bespoke curated space installed at a movie studio, you need a tent structure that really “wows.” And that’s exactly what 616GC LLC of Tempe, Ariz., provided.  

According to Andy Madura, vice president of business development at 616GC, the installation took place at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Calif., in a very tight parking lot that is typically used for filming outdoor movie scenes. Since the studios did not shut down for the project, the 616GC team had to work extremely precisely so as not to disturb the live filming that was happening in real time at the studios.  

“This meant truck deliveries had to be between 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., and we scheduled 10 trucks each day for the first three days of the installation,” Madura says. “Our team was tasked to install a 50-by-115-meter tent structure with hard walls, doors, translucent tops and lighting—all raised on a scaffold deck, in seven days. This meant that our team needed to work 24 hours per day to successfully meet the time schedule. We encountered rain, wind and lightning delays along the way, yet successfully met all of our timelines.” 

Specifically, 616GC installed a 164-by-377-by-13-foot custom clearspan structure (61,860 square feet), custom translucent roof covers, modified leg/arch struts and reinforced flooring system on system scaffold with elevations changes from 2 to 8 feet high. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic required the utilization of tent structures to safely house wedding guests, the tented environments were an inviting respite. Photo courtesy of Party Reflections Inc.

“Because of the strict guidelines set forth by the studio, the coordination of each element needed for the production was crucial,” Madura says. “This was handled with a very detailed timeline with milestones detailed almost hourly.”

And as the installation took place in a parking lot, the 616GC team also needed to have strategic places for each piece of equipment as the trucks were unloaded.  

As Madura explains, this was key so team members could keep the main area for the tented space open to continue the build without touching the unloaded material for a second time. “This proved very important, especially later in the build where the structure took up almost the entire parking lot space,” he says.   

One key challenge was that the parking lot was comprised of two sections. One of the sections was asphalt and the other section was concrete and 6 feet below the grade of the asphalt section.  

“The difference in surface types and the elevation changes caused us to be clever in our anchoring section as well as flooring selections,” Madura says. “In the asphalt section we used standard stakes. In the concrete sections we used custom concrete anchors.”

Due to the elevation changes between the two sections of the parking lot, 616GC team members engaged a scaffold system that allowed them to integrate the baseplates without positioning the baseplates on the top of the deck and it enabled them to utilize an integrated flooring system specific to the tent. 

The result: “As the event day neared and the interior took shape, the space came to life,” Madura says. “The project was visited by art collectors from around the world, by A-list and new collectors alike. The presence of this event in Los Angeles really solidified LA as a destination for all art enthusiasts.”  

Working with natural areas and accessibility constraints, the Party Reflections team needed to be creative with their installation techniques. Photos courtesy of Party Reflections Inc.

Social distancing parameters

Planning a wedding during a global pandemic creates unique challenges for caterers, designers and tenting companies alike. For Aztec Events & Tents, Houston, Texas, designing and installing an awe-inspiring tent structure on the bride’s parents’ property was paramount to keep the special day running smoothly. 

As Brian Olsen, sales manager at Aztec explains, the main tent was a 49-by-147-foot clear top and gables with black Keder and custom 10-foot sidewalls. 

“Unfortunately, the lawn where the main tent was situated was uneven in elevation. One part of the lawn was 3 feet lower than the area on the backside of the tent, so we used a scaffold system for the flooring with black floor covering,” Olsen says. “The lawn also had a very unique sprinkler system that required us to anchor with stakes and secure other areas with 500-pound concrete blocks with black covers.” 

In addition to the main tent, Aztec also installed 30-by-35-foot  connector tents with black flooring; a 30-by-20-foot sound tent with black tops, sidewalls and black flooring; a 49-by-82-foot dance tent that featured a clear top with black Keder and black sidewalls; catering tents that were 10 by 30 feet and 20 by 60 feet  with a 6-by-10-foot connector tent—all with black flooring; and finally 20-by-20-foot comfort station tents that featured black tops and sidewalls with double black French doors and black flooring. 

“The fear of COVID-19 meant that we had to push ahead to complete a tight buildout timeline,” Olsen says. “In addition, we had to figure out how to work as a team within safety distancing parameters. This was not just the Aztec Events & Tents employees, but also with other vendors and the clients.”

In addition, the home’s gorgeous setting meant that unloading and setting up multiple structures on a perfectly manicured lawn 250 yards from the truck unloading area made this an extremely challenging installation.  

The result: The team created a wedding reception backyard venue that blew away the wedding guests.  “The blackout dance tent with its incredible decor elements, along with the reception dinner tent with black vinyl, was over the top,” Olsen says. “While they were clients before the wedding, they will also be referring their friends and associates to Aztec Events & Tents.”

Big City Challenges

It seems apropos that for a conference celebrating technology, business, science and the arts, Leavitt & Parris employed state-of-the-art tent structures to house the numerous speaker engagements, lounges, technology displays, art exhibits and party space. 

According to John Hutchins, vice president of Leavitt & Parris, Portland, Maine, the client specifically needed a multifaceted event space on City Hall Plaza in the middle of downtown Boston. To meet this need, the Leavitt & Parris team installed seven different Losberger structures in a variety of sizes; 38 bays of 11-foot vertical glass walls; nine bays of 26-foot horizontal insulated glass walls; 15 bays of 13-foot horizontal insulated glass walls; and 15 glass door sets. In addition, 20,000 square feet of Bil-Jax® TF2100 flooring (with heights ranging from 16 inches to 14 feet off the ground) with perimeter skirting was installed, as well as 4,000 square feet of plywood and stringer flooring, 24,000 square feet of turf, custom stairs, railings, landings and Bil-Jax AS2100 ramps, and 355,000 pounds of Block and Roll® ballast. 

Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Calif., was home for this 164-by-377-foot tent structure that featured hard wall, doors, translucent tops and lighting. Photos courtesy of 616GC LLC.

“The biggest challenge is that nothing could be staked,” Hutchins says. “We had to secure all structures with ballasting—except for one that could be anchored into concrete. We also had to deliver 18 semi-loads of equipment into the center of downtown Boston, onto City Hall Plaza. 

Trucking into any major city is an issue, plus unloading onto a public plaza makes into even more difficult. Add on top of that the fact that we had to have all 16 trucks delivered in one day. So scheduling and timing all 18 trucks to come in, two at a time, and spaced appropriately so that they could be unloaded and then gone before the next two trucks arrived was definitely a challenge. Especially so, when dealing with maneuverability through the city, traffic coming into the city and timing of each unload.” 

The day before shipments came in, every leg post for the floors and ballast location was marked on the plaza surface, so when ballast blocks were unloaded most of them were immediately placed where they needed to be located so as not to clog up valuable surface space.  

“The client didn’t want to see the ballast, so they were all placed under the floors to hide them,” Hutchins says. 

In addition, part of the plaza has subway tunnels that run underneath, so there were weight limits in specific areas where forklifts or heavy equipment couldn’t travel. That made the order and method of how products were placed, transported and erected unique.

“There also was no storage for any of our shipping bins, racks or other transport products, so all of those items needed to be shipped off-site after the build, but before the event took place,” Hutchins says. “The lack of storage on-site didn’t become an issue until the build was happening, so planning to remove all of those items became a major issue. The client had assured us there would be room, but at the last minute they wanted that valuable real estate for event space. Moving all of that equipment around the site as the build happened definitely made for difficult congestion issues. The equipment was prepped in the middle of the site and removed between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. the night before our last build day.”

While the team had nine days to lay out, deliver and install everything, it only had five days to remove everything. 

For this state-of-the-art conference, Leavitt & Parris provided numerous tent structures to house exhibits, speakers, lounges, art exhibits and a party space—all within the confines of City Hall Plaza in downtown Boston, Mass.

“During the build, we only had five days without other vendors on-site, so the space became extremely congested when you throw in lighting, AV, party rentals, decor, container deliveries, performance stages, etc.,” Hutchins says. “It all comes down to sequence, timing and finite planning. There were definitely blips, but overall it happened on time.” 

The result: The downtown Boston event was a success, as there was a record turnout. “We definitely learned a lot about working in downtown Boston, as most of our work is on private property, so this was a new challenge, but one we overcame. In the future, for a project of this size and site challenges, instead of having the entire team work on the entire project, I’d split the group into two teams and treat the project as two separate jobs,” Hutchins says. “I think it would scale things back for the crew and help focus their to-do lists more efficiently.”  

Maura Keller is a freelance writer based in Plymouth, Minn.

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