Special Events

EDITOR'S PAGE: SCARY STUFF

IF YOU WANT samples of black humor, ask a Canadian.

In light of all the troubles that have hit his part of the world recently, one Toronto event producer has been circulating a cartoon showing a mad cow wearing a SARS mask while being bitten by a West Nile mosquito.

The special event industry has taken so many lumps in the past three years — from faltering economies to 9/11 to the war in Iraq to corporate scandals to SARS fears — that some event professionals must be daydreaming about the possibility of setting up shop in Neverland. (No SARS cases there yet!)

All this has got me thinking about how it seems impossible to go on when bad news dominates the news.

The 1994 earthquake that hit at 4:30 a.m. rocked — quite literally — everyone in Los Angeles. In the next months, we prepped for that inevitable Big One. My employer urged us to bring hiking boots to the office because, we were warned repeatedly, the Big One would break the windows of so many skyscrapers that eight feet of glass would pile up in the streets of downtown L.A. One of my staffers at the time spent the next full year sleeping on his living room floor every night, too terrified to get back into his own bed.

But, of course, the list of scary stuff goes back much further. We just tend to forget the bad times once the good times come back.

IRA bombings crippled London tourism in the 1970s. Parents in the 1950s were terrified that a visit to the local public pool could lead their children to contract polio. My grandmother was forever haunted by memories of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed nearly 40 million people. (By way of comparison, the current SARS outbreak has caused about 790 deaths so far.)

But tough times don't last, tough people do. (That from my dad, whose childhood was colored by the Great Depression.) Throughout the pages of this issue, you will find examples of how event pros are adapting to the new event landscape. When bad news turns our world upside down, it's time to turn our business life upside down and see what shakes out. That may mean new clients, new services, new ways of staging events and new alliances. As Toronto event pro Bryan Bell puts it in this month's “Guest Room,” “I think as long as we can work together as a whole industry in Toronto — and that goes for anywhere that a crisis touches — we can leave that behind and forge ahead.”

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