Written by Kat Thomas, Rick Winquest and Slade Thompson

If you’ve ever been a part of producing an event on the National Mall in Washington DC, you know that it is more than a little complicated. There are strict guidelines about what can and cannot be done, which areas are available for event use, how long the public’s access to some of our country’s best known landmarks can be interrupted, and countless government and law enforcement agencies with whom to coordinate.

Planning and producing “The Concert for Valor” – HBO’s free, live music and television event with hundreds of thousands of spectators – in a very short period of time, may sound difficult if not impossible. Luckily we love a good challenge and we were honored to be selected as the site management team. The concert was a salute to America’s veterans and aired LIVE on HBO – Veterans Day 2014. It was an amazing line-up of all-star performers and celebrities paying tribute to America’s finest. We thought we would share with you a bit about our experience from this awesome event.

Everything from site infrastructure to rolling street closures had to be planned and executed without mistake in partnership with countless interested parties. By the time the HBO logo went live on the video screens at precisely 7PM, there were thousands of people being managed, handling everything from moving talent to the stage to collecting trash.

Facts & figures

  • Building the event took nine days (seven of those we worked around the clock).
  • Tear-down took three and a half days.
  • The site covered more than 138 acres (or 104 football fields).
  • Machinery included 17 forklifts and a pair of hundred-ton cranes.
  • 62 golf carts and utility vehicles.
  • Over 69 semi-trailer loads of specialized equipment .
  • 24 RVs for performers’ dressing rooms.
  • 2,245 portable toilets (side by side they would measure over a mile long).
  • 35 Light towers.
  • 55 generators from 3200 Watt to 2500 kVA.
  • Bleachers to seat 2000 VIP Military personnel.
  • Over 10 miles of fence and barricade.
  • 16 portable offices.
  • Over 200,000 square feet of flooring to protect the grass on the mall.
  • 30 versions of the site map were produced.
  • Permitted and prepared for up to 800,000 attendees, 15 Video screens and 13 sound delay towers covered the one mile plus long event site.

Things you didn’t see on the HBO Live presentation:

  • A single Event 360 employee. While the show was happening we were all backstage monitoring operations. Thankfully things were so calm we were able to catch bits of the broadcast on our laptops.
  • Multiple daily safety trainings and briefings were held to ensure we were all working safely and were aware of each team’s goals for the day.
  • Midway through set-up we had to take a break to accommodate another non-profit’s previously permitted 5k walk. Having been on both ends of that situation now, we greatly appreciate their cooperation.
  • Coordination with DC Metro was required to ensure sufficient train service for attendees.
  • Most events of this scale on the Mall use a similar traffic/public access plan known to locals as “The 4th of July Plan” which helps residents and those going to work anticipate street closures and security measures.
  • Eleven check points to enter the Mall were set up over night before show day and ready 12 hours before the show. At that time, the entire mall was vacated of people. Staff & attendees alike had to be screened by law enforcement before being allowed back into the site. Security was of utmost importance.
  • The stage included a turntable so while one band was performing another could set-up behind the video wall that bisected the stage.
  • Several elected officials (and their security teams) were in attendance including Vice President Biden.

What we’re most proud of:

  • Thanks to some great weather and the great care of everyone working on site not a single blade of grass had to be replaced after the event.
  • Returning every single one of the 498 rented production staff radios.
  • Amazing partnership of 30 vendors including, turf consultants, stage team, sound, video screens, satellite trucks, live video production, RV/trailer vendors and other equipment providers.
  • Working with 100s of contacts from DC Metro Police, County Sherriff, National Parks Police, Capitol Police, Secret Service and EMS groups to ensure participant safety and security.

Events of this scale are few and far between, and this was by far one of the most impressive and safest events that we have ever helped produce. We were truly honored to provide our skills to this successful event and more importantly to honor American veterans and their service to our country.

Kat Thomas found her niche at Event 360 in 2010. As the Programs & Participant Support Manager for MuckFest MS she spends most of her time working with volunteers and connecting with the community.

Rick Winquest specializes in site scouting/layout/design, event flow, site mapping, infrastructure, logistics, audio/visual, on-site management and execution. He works directly with venue management and jurisdictions assuring that all jurisdictional needs and technical issues have been addressed in a timely fashion.

Slade Thompson has been with Event 360 for more than 11 years and has played a role in planning and executing more than 100 events ranging from a 5K for a few hundred people to multi-day events for thousands of participants.

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