Special Events

Galas: Welcome to the Jungle

Employees take a walk on the wild side during their annual meeting

A FLORIDA BALLROOM was transformed first into a swampland and then a rain forest last June during BP Amoco's four-day meeting at the Amelia Island Plantation resort, Amelia Island, Fla. BP had suggested the theme Thriving in the Jungle to reflect the newly merged company's move to a new logo and name: BP.

A month before the event, the special event department at Amelia Island Plantation began considering how to keep the theme going over four days for the 225 guests. "It was a challenge," creative events manager La Vonne Christensen says. "I thought, `A jungle - that's great for one night, but how do I keep the concept fresh?'"

TOP TO BOTTOM

Even as members of Christensen's team thought up variations of the jungle theme, they knew that some of the decor, such as foliage and ceiling accents, needed to remain constant.

Christensen says she knew while surveying the 7,392-square-foot ballroom that she needed to do something with the ceiling to make the room come alive. "I took leftover acetate fabric in all colors that I've had for years and cut it into strips of all different lengths," she says. She stapled the fabric onto 8-foot slats of wood, which she then rested in the ceiling's lighting recesses.

To create a lush jungle perimeter, she brought in 400 plants as well as 12- and 16-foot palm trees from the resort's greenhouse.

SWAMP THING

The opening night event featured a Low Country Swamp theme.

Upon entering the ballroom, guests were greeted by the sounds of a zydeco band. A1 Tablecloths of Hackensack, N.J., provided table overlays in shades of khaki, rust and forest green. Dragonfly props, provided by Loose Ends of Keizer, Ore., were attached to small, dimly lighted lanterns that served as centerpieces.

RAIN FOREST FANTASY

On the second night, the special event department changed the ballroom from casual to formal for the awards show, A Rain Forest Fantasy.

As guests walked into the ballroom, dense fog rose from each table. Chunks of dry ice in a clear plastic plate served as centerpieces. Orchid sprays attached to curly willow branches sat in the dry ice.

Guests dined on black pepper tenderloin and grilled red snapper at tables covered in teal, peach and purple satin. Cloth Connection, Spring Valley, N.Y., provided linens, chair covers and ties.

To complement the tables, "we suspended oversize butterfly and dragonfly kites from the ceiling with fishing line," Christensen says. "They looked natural in their flight positions." Wizard Studios provided the kites. Butterfly and dragonfly gobos appeared to move throughout the room.

WILD NIGHT

The grand finale - A Walk on the Wild Side - featured live animals, exotic food and lively music. To get to their seats, guests had to walk across a swaying plank bridge before encountering a snow leopard and an 8-foot python. On a stage, three parrots sat atop carved tiki poles.

"That night we went with an African-style setting," Christensen says. "We made some tribal print overlays and put them over black, terra cotta and gold overlays. For centerpieces, I used carved animals." Mugwump Productions of Jacksonville, Fla., provided props and rentals. The gobos were switched from butterflies to giraffes and zebras to finish the look. During the closing session, an 8-foot volcano erupted, signifying the company's explosive future.

Even with the unpredictability of live animals, the conference went off smoothly. "We held meetings with all the different departments, and we had time lines," she says. "We knew what to expect, and that was critical. If you don't inform people of your expectations and what you're looking for, you can't meet the challenge."

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