A ceremonial drumbeat signals impending doom. Six “natives” appear out of nowhere, nearly hidden by 6-foot-tall primitive masks. From the center of the group jump two Army officers, both dressed in Tarzan-themed outfits. Cheers break from the crowd. Startled by the wild display, they forget they're standing at the entrance to a ballroom in the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter hotel in San Antonio.
Paid for by the self-supporting Morale, Welfare and Recreation department of the U.S. Army, the jungle-themed celebration marked the end of a five-day training conference for more than 1,500 recreational professionals employed by the Army. The event provided entertainment as well as “an educational experience that highlighted the latest in … recreational ideas,” says Robin Donohoe, events business consultant for the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center.
Long Beach, Calif.-based Bravo! Productions designed the night's adventures, turning two large ballrooms into a tropical landscape complete with a 40-foot-long wood-plank suspension bridge. Flanked by two 6-by-5-foot masks, the bridge sat on risers, with foam pads sandwiched between the risers and the bridge so it wobbled beneath guests' feet. Strategic lighting and mesh netting camouflaged the floor beneath, giving attendees the sense they were higher than simply 5 feet off the ground. Quaking columns on either side of the bridge and a 20-by-40-foot backdrop of an erupting volcano added to the ominous setting.
“Many guests wanted to walk across the bridge again,” says Gregory Jenkins, partner in Bravo, but instead they were encouraged to explore the various jungle-themed areas awaiting them throughout the ballrooms. Once there, attendees danced in the Jungle Rock area and relaxed in the Leopard Lounge.
The event was “a great success for us,” Donohoe says. “It accomplished all of our goals.”
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