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Problem-solving helps tent company execute extravagant event

Tents | July 7, 2009 | By:

A private party that required every piece of equipment to be craned onto the property showcases a tent company’s problem-solving skills.

Most tent installations have one challenge or another to overcome—but when Leavitt and Parris Inc. of Portland, Maine, took on an installation for a private party at a Boston-area residence in September 2008, the company found itself facing a laundry list:

  • There was no access to the yard, so everything including a grand piano had to be lifted in via a crane over 80-foot-high trees.
  • The installation had to incorporate two trees into the tent, and the property’s extensive landscaping could not be disturbed.
  • Three-quarters of the tent was over a deep, two-tiered pool that couldn’t be drained and was too wide for truss. (On this point, it helps when one of your vice presidents is a certified diver!)
  • A change in plans required two sets of custom stairs to be built on-site: a finished set for the guest entrance and a second set for party staff.
  • Every stake had to be approved by the property’s groundskeepers to avoid damaging the wiring for extensive landscape lighting.
  • Once installed, the tent had to be covered for three days up to the Saturday evening party to avoid a greenhouse effect when temperatures surpassed 90F (32C) with high humidity.
  • There was no give in the two-day installation timeline. It would happen rain, sleet, snow or sunshine.

Maybe the one challenge the company didn’t face was with the budget. The only request from the client was “an absolute ‘wow’ factor,” says Leavitt and Parris vice president John Hutchins IV.

The original request called for a tent in a different area of the property. However, the space was not large enough, so Leavitt and Parris suggested the pool area.

“The client had purchased and converted a separate lot behind the main residence and converted the space into a beautiful landscaped area with a two-tier pool and a pool house,” Hutchins says. “We told them that we could build over the entire pool area and do it in two days, and I think that’s what won the project for us.” (It was Hutchins’s brother Jason who would be in the pool with another diver, installing the bracing and scaffolding to support the floor.)

The client did not want to give up the pool the weekend before the event, and the installation needed to be done by Tuesday night so that lighting and decor work could begin in earnest on Wednesday morning.

“Two days isn’t bad for tenting, flooring and carpeting, but when [the structure] is over a pool and the only way to get the equipment into the yard is with a 100-ton crane, then it can pose a few issues,” Hutchins says. “Nothing could be overlooked with the timing of this project.”

Most of the space measured just more than 40 feet in width, with the pool house being 132 feet from a row of trees.

“Even though the space did fit a 12-by-40-meter structure well, we did have to incorporate a tree into the roof of the structure as well as a short but stout tree into a wall section of the structure,” he says.

The police closed down the adjacent road at 6 a.m. on the Monday of installation, and building began while items continued to be craned in. The craning was done by 9 a.m., and work continued through 8 p.m., and then from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

“The piano was craned in through the roof of the tent,” Hutchins says. “We removed a roof panel to do this. Once the piano was in we reinstalled the roof panel.”

The main tent was a 12-by-40-by-3.4-meter clear top Losberger structure, with all clear tops and walls manufactured by Leavitt and Parris. Installers also erected a 5-by-3-by-3-meter custom bump out structure for production use and a 5-by-9-by-2.4 meter structure on top of a subterranean garage for the caterer for plating dishes (cooking was done in a finished showpiece garage).

The tent was divided into three sections using a drape transition wall. The first section that guests entered was for dinner and dancing (40 by 60 feet), the second was for the performance and lounge area (40 by 55 feet) and the last was the back-of-house and production area for lighting and sound (40 by 16 feet).

Bil-Jax® was used to construct the entire floor, with black carpet in the dinner and dancing area, white carpet in the performance area and white mesh to skirt the floor.

“The black and white theme with the amazing colors of the floral worked so well together,” Hutchins says. “Plus the constant change with regards to the LED lighting and the drapery just finished everything off perfectly.”

Hutchins says the client was amazed with the speed of installation and seamless workmanship, and can’t wait to have another party. In the hopes of doing more events at this location, the company has investigated having a custom truss built to span wide widths to avoid scaffolding into the pool. Hutchins says he would also beg for another day, but was otherwise satisfied with the outcome.

“The event showcased our capabilities and our ability to work with very unique landscapes and technically difficult projects,” he says. “We definitely learned a lot and would love to do another event at this location.”

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