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Kentucky Derby Festival features 241,149 square feet of temporary structures

Projects, Tents | August 21, 2009 | By:

Providing temporary environments for ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports’ required creativity and attention to detail.

Each year, for the past 135 years, people have flocked to Louisville, Ky., to sip mint juleps, enjoy sumptuous southern fare, cheer as some of the finest horses in the world race to the finish—and make a wager or two on the outcomes. The race itself is a small part of the two-week-long festival of events, and for the 2009 Kentucky Derby Festival, Classic Party Rentals, McCook, Ill., provided 241,149 square feet of temporary environments.

A team approach

In past years, Classic Party Rentals provided the food service equipment for the festival, which included refrigerators, hot boxes, caves, bakers’ racks, tables, chairs and umbrella tables for the hospitality area. This was the first year the company was also awarded the tents/structures portion of the event, resulting in an installation that took place over a four-week period of time—removal involved another two weeks, with crews for both installation and removal ranging from 12 to 60 people each day.

Delays due to high winds, heavy rain and lightening challenged the timeline—as well as the fact that the installation schedule had to be planned around the horses’ exercise and training sessions. Despite the delays, the event was installed on time and the festival was a success. The temporary environments accommodated many activities, including a black tie gala sponsored by the Derby Museum, corporate hospitality areas, private parties, vendor concessions and a dramatic red carpet runway and spectator viewing from the casual Infield Club to the upscale Millionaire’s Row.


Among the venue improvements was the addition of a new seating area for the Derby Museum. Classic Party Rentals participated in designing the extension of the Derby Museum Cafe, a place for guests to enjoy the cafe’s fare while enjoying the racing festivities. The company also assisted in the reconfiguration of the Infield Club, which was typically an open area where guests could enjoy the Derby atmosphere at at a reduced rate, in a picnic-like environment. The transformed Infield Club offered guests a more upscale experience by creating a series of smaller tents along the backstretch.

Timing is everything

During the two-week festival Classic Party Rentals had four major clients that required various equipment and service needs simultaneously, requiring the company to set up and remove equipment during the entire time. One such request that affected all of the clients necessitated removing 41,725 square feet of tenting, which housed a gala for 825 people, immediately after the event—and have it reset in less than 48 hours. The reset encompassed 24,000 square feet of tenting, flooring, AstroTurf®, fencing and furniture.

The magnitude and coordination of the variety of equipment from Classic Party Rentals’ various offices (the nearest of which is more than 300 miles from the event site) along with logistical challenges required a strict timeline. For the rented equipment Classic Party Rentals used a single rental company, which streamlined the process and made communication and coordination more convenient.

Organization and precision were key elements to the success of the event—an event where the time-honored traditions of the Kentucky Derby were upheld amid an impeccable arena of various activities for the guests to enjoy.

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