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Confetti: Out of South Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa-based The Event Co. knew there was a lot at stake in March when it created and produced a special event as part of South Africa's bid to host the 2006 soccer World Cup.

"We're often seen as a Third World country," says Karen Ashwin, owner/managing director of The Event Co. "So we wanted to create a 'First World' event using the local talent in our rural areas that doesn't get exposed to the big time."

Besides local talent, Ashwin and her team used African-inspired decor to wow the 450 guests, who included six members of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Associa-tion), which is responsible for picking the 2006 World Cup site, as well as sponsors and the South African Football Association.

The African theme greeted guests before they entered the venue. Instead of walking the standard red carpet, attendees approached the Vodaworld Conference and Exhibition Centre in Midrand, South Africa, on a 66-foot-long, zebra-pattern runner. Singing children from nearby townships wore "South Africa" emblazoned T-shirts and surrounded the entrance. A marimba and steel drum band beat out native rhythms on handcrafted instruments.

The exotic atmosphere continued inside, where sponsor logos were projected onto calico screens that had been dyed brown and stretched to look like animal hides.

The table overlays and tiebacks for the chairs featured zebra patterns. Centerpieces reflected a new-birth theme "because South Africa has become part of the new world," Ashwin explains. At each table, three ostrich eggs rested in a circle of salt, symbolizing rebirth. Zebra-striped candles rounded out the exotic decor.

To add drama, The Event Co. turned the stage into an African desert at night, complete with a star cloth of hundreds of twinkling lights and four 20-foot-long fiberglass tusks lit by torches.

The entertainment started with a 100-voice choir, which filed through the room to the stage.

A male dance group performed a pantsula dance, a raw township boogie that Ashwin describes as "Michael Jackson break dancing to an African beat."

Another group of male dancers performed a gumboot dance, which originated from the mining settlements of South Africa.

Additional entertainment included performances by South African vocalists Gloria Bosman and Vicky Sampson.

The program closed with a blast: Pygmy lights lit up sequentially to pyro and music, forming a giant 2006.

South Africa finds out this month if it will host the 2006 World Cup. -T.M.

The Event Co. P.O. Box 1255, Pinegowrie 2123 Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa +27 11 883 0470 E-mail: [email protected]

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