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Galas: The Big Chill

An event producer goes underground to create a party for all ages

WHEN A CLIENT picked Whistler Resort in Whistler, British Columbia, as the site for a New Year's Eve party for 150 of his closest friends and family, event producers Rare Indigo and Eclipse Productions, both of Vancouver, British Columbia, knew it would be a challenge to secure a venue.

"It's the most popular ski resort in North America," Rare Indigo creative director Deborah Upton says. "Whistler Resort has a residential population of 10,000 people; on the night of the party, they had 50,000 visitors."

With no available ballrooms and no other space big enough to accommodate the group, the search was on. And the answer came from below. Rare Indigo proposed holding the party in a defunct family amusement facility that had featured virtual games such as golf simulators and interactive video games, as well as a 30-foot-high climbing gym. "It provided a shell in which we could build an infrastructure and afforded us an opportunity to do what we wanted," Upton says.

With three months to plan, Rare Indigo and Eclipse Productions set out to transform the run-down space into an underground ice cave.


An entrance foyer and coat check were decorated with Persian carpets and Art Deco light sconces to make the guests think they were entering an upscale restaurant. A surprise awaited them inside.

They entered an "ice cave" glowing with blue fluorescent light, provided by Westsun International of Burnaby, British Columbia. An 8-foot ice table mounted on carved ice pillars was lighted from beneath; ice crystal turrets held pale blue and lavender resin bowls filled with three types of caviar. Another ice sculpture served as a martini bar. Ice even made an appearance on-screen with images of icebergs projected onto a white vellum screen positioned on an ice wall.

FM Systems Westcoast of Vancouver provided whale sounds and a nature music track. Overhead, mesh triangular sails draped the ceiling to create a weblike surface that completed the transformation from building to cave.

At 8 p.m., the doors to the "time tunnel" rolled open to invite guests to the next phase: dinner.


The client wanted the dining room to look contemporary, Upton says. To create the look, Upton picked a silver, white and cobalt blue color scheme: "We chose silver to fill in with the ice cave look." Tables were covered with white, floor-length linens with silver-striped satin and organza overlays. Gunsmoke crinkle silk organza covered the chiavari chairs. Table Trends and Pedersen's Party Rentals, both of Vancouver, provided linens. The striking decor package won a nomination for the event in Special Events Magazine's 2000 Gala Awards competition.

The tables featured custom-made, triangular charger plates with a brushed metal finish. Beaded votive holders added a glow to the room, as did the lighting. "We did a lot of pin-spotting," Upton says. "We really wanted to take the attention off the ceiling. We focused the lighting coming down, at the eye level."

Throughout the evening, images of nature and historic scenes from the 20th century were projected on a 30-foot-tall video wall.

Rare Indigo called on Major the Gourmet of Vancouver to cater the seven-course dinner, which included ostrich medallions and lobster Napoleons. "The menu was designed to showcase some of the best food in the world," Upton says.

Despite the challenging menu, the venue had no kitchen facilities. "We had to run the whole facility off of generator power, all 16,000 feet of it," Upton says.


Because the guest list included 56 children, Rare Indigo and Eclipse Productions created a children's dining area. The whimsical, festive centerpieces featured toys and confetti-filled acrylic wands. Neon Slinkys were used as the napkin rings.

After dinner, guests worked off their meal in the futuristic techno bar, which offered a multimedia presentation of lasers and video projections by Toronto-based Laserlite FX.


The partygoers welcomed the new millennium quietly. "We released glitter confetti and handed everyone a lit candle, and they had a moment of silence," Upton says. "The client wanted them to reflect on their respective families, world events and how special and magical it was to come together. We live in such a fast world, and I think he just wanted to remind people that being quiet and reflective can be equally powerful."

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