I’ve been working on this event for the Zoo for the last 10 years. I got involved when I was first starting out at PNTA. Since then I’ve seen the event grow and evolve into one of the best events in Seattle, and arguably one of the best group of people I’ve ever worked with.
The first year I worked the event it was an odd theme from what I can remember, it was China / other. I can’t really remember all that much about the event that year, but I remember the weather being alright, just a little on the cool side. I also remember the scenic company didn’t measure the tent correctly and built the backdrop too tall to fit into the tent.
The second year was African Savannah, which I had done a false ceiling in the main tent that took all night to rig and wasn’t the greatest looking but it did the job. Along with the tent ceiling we placed saw grass and other things all around the meadow to make it feel more like a Savannah village. This was the first year we tried to place a fake cover on one of the tents to make it look less like a rental tent and more in theme.
The third year the theme was a little odd again, being Brazilian shanty town mixed with Dr Seuss. Needless to say I was not all that thrilled about that year. We managed to make some pretty fun elements, the main entrance to the live auction tent had a jungle feel, we even managed to make it rain in the entrance and have a great, but wrong, water feature in the center of the stage.
The fourth year was one of the best I worked on, the theme being India. We managed to recreate the feeling and the energy of an Indian market, the weather cooperated, almost like we ordered it special for the event. It was hot and muggy, the perfect combination for the type of feel we were going for. We had hand dyed awnings made, and bells were everywhere, including one tied to my radio that I didn’t find for hours after one of my crew put it there. Since there were so many bells I didn’t notice that one was following me around until I took my radio off at the end of the day. I ended up leaving it on as I liked the joke!
The fifth and final year I worked the Zoo as a contractor was Australia. I thought it was a good theme and I think we executed an interesting and unique look for the event. We designed the backdrop to be five animals, which were art done by the creative person who had done the rest of the art for the event. We blew them up to 4’ x 6’ and sandwiched them between panels of plexi, we then hung them on in front of a section of lightweight white fabric, applied some color changing to the fabric and then applied some fans to the fabric to give it some movement. The final effect looked liked the animals were alive. The other effect we managed to pull off was a 6’ tall fire pit in the middle of the stage. We had some leftover high velocity compact fans that we used to create a large silk fire which was very realistic in the end. So much so that when we took it off the stage and placed it near the main entrance spectators thought the building we put it in front of was on fire!
I had so much fun working on the Zoo over those five years that I’ve been volunteering my time to them since. I always went a little above and beyond when I was working on the event, but I felt I had to. Besides feeling like I had to go above and beyond I liked it. It was one of the few events that I was able to throw myself completely into and design some fun looks. It wasn’t corporate theatre, it was actually an event that used my schooling. I miss those days where I could sit and design for events. Maybe someday I’ll be able to get back into that, but for now I’m happy doing what I’m doing and looking forward to getting down to business in October!