For its December holiday party at One Market Pavilion in San Francisco, ProBusiness of Pleasanton, Calif., envisioned a Winter Wonderland theme complete with falling snowflakes and a magical snow queen.
Because San Francisco is more accustomed to dealing with earthquakes than snow, event producer Isabelle Zimmerman of Extraordinary Events brought in Los Angeles-based Selwyn Medin, The Snowmaster, to play Jack Frost. "We had two snow-making machines aimed at an outdoor gazebo, so guests would walk through the gazebo and a light snowfall as they headed toward the entrance," says Larry Swartz, senior producer at Extraordinary Events, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Once inside the venue, guests were greeted by the "Snow Queen" decked out in a white and silver ball gown and silver hat. Sprinkling fairy dust, she presented each woman with a white rose. "I always believe in a personal greeting," says Zimmerman.
OMINOUS FORECAST Though the evening flowed flawlessly for partygoers, staging the event brought plenty of challenges in the planning, which began last July, according to Swartz. Accommodating the large crowd-more than 800 guests-was a major concern, he says. "We had about 20,000 square feet to work with, so we planned the layout with 15 square feet per person."
In order to obtain enough space, Swartz included the concourse hall in addition to the atrium, which created another problem. "All of the people couldn't fit in the atrium where the awards presentation and dancing would take place," Swartz explains. "During the presentation, we had to keep the overflow of guests entertained in the concourse."
Swartz and Zimmerman worked with Burlingame, Calif.-based AEC Entertainment to provide caricaturists, magicians, tarot card readers, numerology experts and strolling musicians to keep guests amused.
Another potential problem was One Market's existing holiday decor, which could not be moved for the event. "They had giant wreaths, Christmas trees and white minilights lining the concourse hall," says Swartz. Fortunately, the white and green props worked in sync with the winter theme, he adds.
WINTER SPLENDOR Lisa Pykkonen, manager of trade shows and corporate events for ProBusiness, a provider of payroll and benefits administration services, says the winter theme was a bright idea. "With all the white decor, it's simple and clean," she explains, "and you get a fabulous look."
She adds that the theme worked well with the budget, which was a little more than $200,000 to cover location, decor, entertainment, food and beverage, and production.
To create the snowcapped look, the Extraordinary Events team draped 30-, 36- and 48-inch round tables with white crushed velvet table linens and topped them with white lily and silver beargrass flower arrangements surrounded by white candles in clear glass holders. Fishbowls atop each arrangement held three white roses.
White chiavari chairs with white cushions in the concourse area and silver chiavari chairs with white cushions in the atrium completed the tables. Specialty Linens of Newbury Park, Calif., supplied the table linens and Lyal Nichals of San Leandro, Calif., created the event's floral design.
"We ended up with seating for 400-450 people," says Swartz. "When you are doing an event, you shouldn't always provide seating for everyone. Otherwise, people will sit down and not get up. We want people to mingle."
Giant pearlized, silver-banded white fiberglass urns filled with white-frosted wood branches, covered in twinkle lights, atop wood pedestals complemented the tables in the concourse. Wrought iron trees with silver-painted leaves and twinkle lights brightened the atrium. Floor lights covered with blue gels projected blue lighting onto the urns and trees.
Finishing the look, Belmont, Calif.-based Deko provided blue velvet drapery to cover the perimeter of the atrium. The linen drapery also served as a canvas for falling snowflakes created by gobos. The images were also projected inside the atrium's large gazebo. Brite Ideas of Irvine, Calif., created the lighting.
STATION BREAK Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, based in Emeryville, Calif., warmed up the winter crowd's appetite with a wide range of food stations.
After the awards presentation, waiters circled the pavilion with tray-passed hors d'oeuvre including Japanese vegetable sushi and mini beef carpaccio crostini, while the catering team set up the various food stations.
"With so many people in the atrium, we couldn't load the food stations until after the awards presentation, when it cleared out a little," says Swartz.
Food stations included a carving station, seafood and Asian stations with Asian noodle salad served in Chinese takeout miniboxes, a savory tarts station, a pasta station and a dessert buffet.
After visiting the dessert buffet, guests were lured to the dance floor by the disco and funk sounds of the Cheese Balls, provided by San Francisco-based Innovative Entertainment.
SNOWBALL EFFECT When it came to planning the event, Zimmerman says her client was hands-on. "It helps the entire final product when you have your client with you and she expresses her desires to you," she says of Pykkonen. "You find out right away if she wants the lights green or blue. It's much better than being disappointed right before the party starts."
Extraordinary Events 13425 Ventura Blvd., Suite 300 Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 818/783-8957