Outdoor Spaces & Events

By: Jennie Tis, in Mid Atlantic Events Magazine:

Full Article:  Mid Atlantic Jan/Feb 2016

In today’s world multi-tasking is a must, and this is true for not just an event attendee but also for the location that is chosen to host.  Ballrooms are blank canvases for full transformations and restaurant private rooms are their menus personified, but what about outdoor events?  Outdoor locations serve as a beautiful backdrop, while also allowing guests to be outside, a welcome change for convention or meeting attendees who have been inside all day.   Additionally, if you add in a unique outdoor venue showcasing a Philadelphia sight-seeing destination you are achieving a trifecta of multi-tasking; creating a unique event, giving guests much needed outdoor time, and showcasing a regional must-see attraction.  So how does one set out to achieve such lofty goals?  How about concerns over weather?  Should the risks outweigh the beauty of the outdoors?  We’ve got you covered with pointers from catering, planners, and location experts.

Independence National Historical Park is a breathtaking backdrop for an event, and also on everyone’s must-see list who is visiting Philadelphia, so we caught up with Cinda Waldbuesser of the National Park Service.  Hosting private events on the grounds of Independence National Historical Park can be done through Special-Use Permits she points outs, although many events would fail to meet the criteria, which includes not taking away from general visitor experiences.  The best way to showcase Independence National Historical Park, Waldbuesser suggests, is through two key partners within the park- The National Constitution Center and Independence Visitors Center which both have indoor and outdoor space available.  Both the Independence Visitors Center and National Constitution Center offer grand views of Independence Hall whether inside the grand halls or outside on the terraces, and since both have indoor spaces they can offer you a weather contingency plan.

Washington Crossing Historic Park also provides indoor and outdoor event rental opportunities.  Joe Capone of Washington Crossing Historic Park highlights that while many locations offer water views, no other venue can offer a river view where George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Night, 1776.   We asked Joe to provide some common problems people can expect and tips on avoiding them.  Joe stated that “Most event planners and rental suppliers have a unique solution to every challenge.  But the hosts should expect weather – and not just rain.  Consider wind, cold, heat, and especially insects!  Getting your supplies to and from the event site should be considered and the weather a few days before the event should be considered.  If you are expecting precipitation a few days before the event, consider constructing your tenting or marquees before the weather turns bad so your interior flooring is dry.  Also consider what issues you may have getting materials in and out.  If the site is a bit removed and requires a number of heavy trucks to bring in materials, you may be looking at additional fees to repair turf or lawns if the vehicles sink.  Stay in close contact with your planner and the site where you are holding the event, they will guide you.”

Basics such as power and water have to be thought through and coordinated.  Joe Capone of Washington Crossing Historic Park adds “If a generator needs to be rented, be sure it is a silent variety with enough power to handle your restrooms, tent lights and the caterer’s equipment.  Consider how you will get portable water for bar service if you are having it.”   Joe also suggests hosts think through “How far from the eating area will your restrooms be – be sure you have lighting to light the way of you are hosting an evening event.  Also consider having flooring within your tented area as formal or dressy footwear is often difficult in grass or uneven surfaces.”

Center City District now offers three spectacular locations right in downtown Philadelphia.  We spoke with Sarah Anello who coordinates the rental space at Dilworth Park, Sister Cities Park, and John F. Collins Park.  Sarah highlights each of the parks,

“Sister Cities Park is positioned between the beautiful backdrops of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul and Swann Fountain on Logan Circle and is a popular location for an interlude in the park between the wedding ceremony and the formal reception.

Dilworth Park is our newest and most popular, located on the west side of City Hall, has joined the ranks of the city’s most desirable venues offering flexibility to accommodate every need including large capacity events.  The trees around the park insulate it from the sounds of the street and the great lawn adds a swath or green in the center of center city Philadelphia. In the Spring, Summer and Fall the programmable fountains can be left on in sections or turned completely off for your event.  In the Winter there is a festive ice rink and winter cabin.  Dilworth Park is Philadelphia’s most iconic backdrop for events.    It is steps from the convention center and located over a major transit hub so it is easy and convenient to get to.

John F. Collins Park is a pocket park at 17th and Chestnut, it is a hushed landscaped hideaway tucked within Center City’s bustling business district.  It is truly an oasis and private haven in the center of Philadelphia and features a sculpture fountain and at each end stunning iron gates.”

In addition to reiterating the power and water sources that Joe Capone pointed out, Sarah also suggests not overlooking the little things “like bugs, sun burns (or frost bite depending on the season!), allergies, stings, tripping hazards caused by things like uneven terrain or ice.”

Rob Carachilo of Roberts Event Group has some insight from a planner’s perspective, suggesting to have a plan B & C for outdoor events in case any extreme weather threatens the fun.  “Rain insurance can be used to protect event expenses when tenting just won’t do”, but he adds that many “Rain or shine events are held successfully with tenting, umbrellas, and the right attitude”.

Vicki Pohl with Garces Catering had some other tips for successful outdoor events, “Party crashers can be difficult to control at some outdoor locations, but if you establish points of entry and sufficient detail, this can easily be monitored properly. Being conscientious of noise ordinances, also plays a big part in the success of an outdoor event.  Cover your bases, know the rules, plan accordingly, and play nicely in the sandbox.”  Being playful outside is of course part of the charm at many of the new and trendy outdoor event spaces.  Garces Group can be found at Dilworth Park, Spruce Street Harbor Park & SummerFest/Winterfest locations , where combines you will find everything from  a river with boating activities, an amazing landscape with existing interactive décor, photography opportunities galore, and guest activities such as roller skating / ice skating / life-sized games.

One thing is for sure, everyone does not have the guts to risk doing events outdoors, but for those of us who are willing the rewards are abundant.  Sarah Anello points out that “being outdoors is proven to improve mood, boosts creativity and concentration as well as gives a boost of vitamin D.  Taking advantage of the weather is something everyone likes to do, so incorporating the outdoors into an event can be a great way to set the mood. Guests enjoy the fresh air while they celebrate. Instead of looking out from an echoing, stuffy banquet hall at the cool breeze ruffling the trees, guests can relax and concentrate on the reason they came to celebrate. Even in colder months, outdoor events are an excuse to enjoy weather that some people might not usually take advantage of, as long as they are advised to dress appropriately.”. Rob Carachilo adds that breaking from the norm of an indoor event leads to lasting impressions for event attendees.   Vicki Pohl agrees, adding, “The benefits are that they offer unique experiences that an indoor space simply can’t … natural beauty, opportunity for larger crowds in many cases, and spontaneous challenges associated when working outside of a controlled environment.  Some people might cringe at that last one, but I think it makes for a fun and memorable event!”  The uniqueness and flexibility are what Joe Capone highlights as key incentives to outdoor events, “outdoor sites can be out of the ordinary and new.  The location can give you visually stunning surroundings that will allow for less decoration of tables or in the tent.  The environment can become the focal point and décor.”  Joe continues, “Interiors often have height restrictions, size restriction, etc,”, but “outdoors, the sky is literally the limit.”

Jennie Tis is Director of Business Development at Roberts Event Group.  Jennie@RobertsEventGroup.com

Full article: Mid Atlantic Jan/Feb 2016