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Corporate Executives Go Wild!

SIXTY EXECUTIVES FROM a Fortune 500 firm were trapped in an intensive three-day conference. A company vice president was wise enoughto realize that these button-down types could go ballistic without some R&R. But how to offer food, drink and entertainment in a scant 3 1/2 hours?

Distinctive Design Events of Atlanta knew it's all happening at the zoo. The firm transported the managers to the Atlanta zoo's new Action Resource Center for a "constant bombardment of music, food, games and themed decor," says company owner Tim Lundy, CSEP.

The journey from business to monkey business began with a coach ride, complete with cocktails, from the airport hotel to the zoo. Guests were greeted with hors d'oeuvre, then whisked to a one-hour cyclorama presentation about Atlanta and the aftermath of the Civil War. They then returned to the zoo's resource center for an island-themed dinner buffet and the calypso rhythms of a steel band. After dinner, the guests enjoyed casino-style games and a striking island dessert. The catering budget was $110 per person.

The decor was inspired by the zoo venue and the island-themed menu, Lundy notes. Custom-designed linens from cheetah prints to zebra patterns covered the spandex-draped dining tables. Miniature Jamaican baskets filled with oncidium orchids, protea and tri-colored ti leaves decorated the tables. The buffets were swagged with animal print and batik fabrics, while ambient light from wrought-iron candlesticks created a texture balance between fabric, floral and food.

Hammered tin, pewter and copper chafers and platters along with wood serving pieces provided visual richness to the buffet. The china carried out the zoo theme with its cheetah pattern. The newly completed facility had no artwork or plants to provide a central focus, so Norristown, Pa.-based Current Events washed the walls with varying light-can patterns to create an ambient space.

Opulent buffet florals-6 feet wide by 9 feet high-featured African protea, New Zealand banksia, ti leaves, flax, bells of Ireland and a variety of long-stemmed orchids.

The biggest hits of the evening were the courses served in martini glasses: both ceviche and bananas Foster, Lundy notes. These vivid presentations contributed to the "sensory overload" that greeted guests, he says.

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