Matthew David Events turns a run-down stadium into a field of dreams for a company picnic BLOOMBERG, a New York-based financial company, turned a run-down stadium into a colorful theme park with the help of local floral and event designer Matthew David Hopkins, owner of Matthew David Events. The event was a family picnic in July for 7,500 of Bloomberg's New York and New Jersey employees and guests.
As the guests arrived at Downing Stadium on Randall's Island, a bright rainbow banner encircling the 400,000-square-foot venue, as well as a 100-by-30-foot banner stating "Bloomberg Family Picnic 2000," greeted them.
Hopkins says providing support for the heavy banner was a challenge. "The fabric in the banner weighed 800 pounds. We had to bring in two 80-foot boom cranes and a hundred feet of trussing at the top and bottom to support it."
Along the rainbow boundary, Hopkins interspersed 12-foot-tall inflatable orange and pink neon stars with whimsical Woody Woodpecker and other character inflatables.
Using an installation crew of 150, he carried the bright color scheme throughout the park. To distinguish the different areas, "each feature was marked with a sign 15 feet long," Hopkins says. To help traffic flow, he color-coded activities and services using directional signs. Blue signs indicated activities such as game shows and totem pole painting; green signs led the way to dining; and yellow signs stood for sports-related events including softball and "Olympic" activities.
REAL APPEAL At a family picnic, the entertainment and activities must appeal to guests of all ages and backgrounds. New York-based Linda Kaye Birthdaybakers Partymakers provided more entertainment than a three-ring circus.
The company's "Circus School" taught children acrobatics and juggling. Kids created sand castles, decorated totem poles and made fabric art. A Ferris wheel and merry-go-round provided more fun.
For adults, Hopkins worked with Edwin Lashly of Atlanta-based Metallic Design Studios to create a 15-foot cow sculpture covered in moss. Matthew David Events stocked 3,000 flowering annuals, allowing guests to decorate the topiary cow.
"The activity was very New York-specific," Hopkins says, referring to the "Cows on Parade" art exhibit, a current installation of painted cows on display throughout the city.
In the "Olympics" area, CEO Mike Bloomberg opened the games by carrying in a torch. Mini-competitions, such as a three-legged race, were held throughout the six-hour picnic.
REST AREA Two elaborate lounge areas provided relaxation in the adult area. Matthew David Events draped douppioni silk in rich orange and green from the ceiling of the 12-by-24-foot tents. "Generally the color choices on the event were bright, fluorescent colors," Hopkins says, "but [the lounge] is where people come to rest, so the colors needed to be richer." He also draped blue, red and yellow silk from his inventory over benches and pillows.
The lounge tents were just two of the 110 tents used throughout the stadium. Northeast Tent Productions of Stamford, Conn., provided the tents. Party Rental Ltd. of Teterboro, N.J., provided buffet tables, chairs and linens.
PICNICKERS' PICKS Caterer Liz Neumark of New York-based Great Performances worked with seven other area vendors to provide a variety of foods for the diverse crowd. In the adult area of the sta-dium, offerings included pizza prepared in clay ovens built on site, crab legs and 30 pigs roasted on the spit. Children's food stations featured carnival treats such as ice cream, cotton candy and even McDonald's.
Hopkins estimates that 500 people were brought in to staff the food stations. The caterers also had to provide water and propane to the outdoor venue.
RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY The weather was less than cooperative. "It rained for the whole week of setup," Hopkins says. "We were basically working in mud for a week. I had to bring in a company to cover the whole field in hay and mulch before Northeast Tents could lay down the portafloor and Astroturf." Northeast used 250,000 square feet of artificial turf as carpet.
To combat rainy skies on the day of the picnic, Hopkins ordered 7,000 ponchos for the guests. Although the skies were gray, rain stayed away.
COLOR ME GLAD Hopkins says his goal for the picnic was to create visual interest on many different levels. "One of the things that I feel most accomplished about is that there were beautiful little vignettes everywhere."
And what did the Bloomberg company think about Hopkins' work? "He made it absolutely gorgeous," says Janice Slusarz, a Bloomberg employee who worked on the picnic team. "The visual was incredible. It was colorful and fun and summery and fit the event so perfectly."