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HOW FAST CAN you put together an upscale corporate press conference and reception for 250 guests? For Gary Baker, event specialist with Sausalito, Calif.-based Melons Events, the answer is 10 days. In fact, the client contacted the firm only 10 days before the event. The firm received client approval for the event only five days out and had but two days to execute the plan.

To give weight to the important-albeit yet unknown-corporate merger announcement, Melons secured the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as the site. However, the museum was still open to the public at the hour when the client's press conference began. Melons pulled off the challenge of loading food, hard goods, decor and staging in only 45 minutes.

After the satellite-televised press conference, guests entered the museum's atrium, which had been transformed into an energized party space glowing in chartreuse and shocking pink. Guests dined at stand-up or seated tables throughout the space, which featured spandex-clad human "sculptures" and walls washed with dramatic lighting by Impact Lighting, San Francisco.

With a catering budget of about $125 a person, Melons created a buffet of California fusion cuisine. The head of one of the corporations in the merger asked for a "vegan" station, a form of vegetarianism that avoids all animal-based products including eggs, milk and cheese.

"It's a challenge [to create a vegan menu], but it turned out to be the most popular," Baker notes.

After dining, the guests entered a theater for a concert, then returned to the atrium for dessert and a laser show. Melons changed over the

atrium to a lounge setting, complete with leather sofas set off by chrome and glass tables. Because the concert was going on, the changeover had to be executed silently.

The guests' reaction, however, was audible: "They gasped when they saw the room had been turned over so fast," Baker notes.

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