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Financial News is a Wild Ride for Special Events

Financial News is a Wild Ride for Special Events

I've never flown in a stunt plane making loop-the-loops. But reading newspaper headlines last month covering America's astonishing economic news makes me feel that I have.

One week in September saw some of our most venerable financial institutions on the brink, only to have the federal government step in with a colossal bailout plan.

And for special events, this means …

Well, no one knows yet.

Predictably, stories are already appearing about the jitters being felt by the jewelers, yacht salesmen and other luxury-goods suppliers whose biggest clients are the — formerly — high-flying Wall Streeters. Also predictably, some 60 percent of respondents to the online poll we have on our Web site at press time are forecasting a dip of more than 10 percent in their corporate holiday party business this year.

Our cover story this month is our annual look at the top event rental companies. These businesses supply tables, chairs, tents — the basics of a special event. As a result, they are good barometers of the health of the event industry as a whole. And as always, their performance in this year's edition reflects financial, social and even environmental forces at play.

This year has been packed with mega events — the Summer Olympics, U.S. presidential campaigns, the pope's visit to the U.S. The result has been a steady stream of business for event rental companies. Indeed, as we compiled the data for this story, a couple of rental companies were hard-pressed to speak with us because they were so busy providing structures and other support for hurricane relief in the wake of Ike and Gustav.

Despite showing 8 percent growth over last year, our top rental companies point to rougher waters ahead next year. (And I should note, these interviews took place before the week of Sept. 14, when news of the federal bailout and its potential price tag broke.) To learn what's on the minds of some of the best minds in event rental, turn to page 31.

Our business — like any business — must adapt to the realities of the marketplace. But special events mark the landmarks of our lives. Our staff has been logging in Gala Award entries for this year's competition, and the array of wonderful weddings, anniversary parties, fundraisers and corporate events has my heart doing more loop-the-loops.

My years here, which included the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, have convinced me that it's a sense of confidence more than anything else that prompts people to keep hosting events. If the sea change in our economic structure gives people faith in the future, then we will find our way to solid ground.

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