At its most basic level, a good party lifts spirits and makes people happy, especially in tough economic times. This is just what Philadelphia event planner Karen Pecora of Karen Pecora Events and tent rental specialist Ed Knight of EventQuip had in mind when they fought to bring back the annual black-tie gala for the Greater Philadelphia, South Jersey and Delaware chapter of the National Association of Catering Executives.
Declining attendance and a sagging economy had put the annual event on hold in recent years. Once they got the go-ahead from the NACE board, however, Pecora and Knight knew they had to pull out all their creative chops, starting with a venue that would support cocktails, a seated dinner and dancing for some 200 people. To help, Knight offered up his company's warehouse and a tent.
Knight and Pecora next assembled a team that included designer Brian Kappra from Evantine Design, caterer Scott Barnes from Stephen Starr Events, and lighting and sound engineer Brian Toner of Eventions Productions. Theme inspiration came during a walk-through of the warehouse, when Kappra learned that a roll of lilac carpeting set aside for a bat mitzvah could be used to cover the tent floor. Combined with jewel-toned lighting and accessories, Kappra created a “Bring Back the Glamour” theme for the dinner tent.
To turn the warehouse into a cocktail lounge, Kappra decided to highlight the raw elements of the space — tents, fittings, equipment, steel shelving and an industrial ceiling — by using dramatic lighting, fog machines and living statues. Forklifts became accent tables, storage bins decorated with tent fittings served as buffet tables, and tent beams backed a bar constructed of truss.
“While many elements contributed to the theme, the flooring configuration we came up with really brought the ‘wow’ factor into play,” Knight says. “After cocktails, guests exited our warehouse through one of our loading-dock doors, which started the floor off at a 44-inch height.” To create a smooth transition from warehouse to tent, the team used clear floor panels to create a dramatic entryway. Beneath the panels, the team created an enclosed, heated room where live decor — a girl in a white dress with white powdered wig lounging on a bed swirled with purple velvet linens — surprised guests as they “walked over” her on their way to the dinner tent.
Indeed, the loading dock height proved to be a design asset, as it also provided the team with an opportunity to make a triple sunken floor in the dinner tent. “The stacked U-shaped levels created a void, which was a natural place for the band,” Knight says. The entrance level of the tent featured clear, underlit dining tables dressed with silver lamé floor-length linens, lavender lace jeweled overlays and clear chiavari chairs. The intermediate level of the tent offered a bar and lounge area that surrounded the dance floor, which featured a cantilevered stage. Another floor was built under the stage, and was 6 inches lower than the dance floor. On this bottom floor, the team built a 10-by-21-foot, 6-inch-deep box, which was filled with water to create a disappearing-edge reflecting pond backed by square, beveled mirrors. Other glamorous details included jewels edging the stage.
The result, Knight notes, was one happy crowd: “This was a chance for the ‘party people’ to party as hard as they work.”
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KAREN PECORA EVENTS
STEPHEN STARR EVENTS