Friday 2 November 2012

Hosting the Perfect Party

Who loves a party? Everyone, it's fact. That is, if its directed at the right people, well thought out, organized and catered to the guest's needs. Here's a few considerations when hosting the perfect party.

"Woooo! This party is going to knock the house down!"
 "I wonder who planned it all out."

Plan in advance
Giving yourself plenty of time to think, organize, confer with friends and confirm details with any caterers or suppliers can prevent any forgetting anything. Caterers and suppliers too, depending on their busy seasons may require an advance of months to reserve. Consider your guests too. As a general rule of thumb, the more formal your event, the more advance. Formality generally means more effort, money and complexity; all this takes time on your part, your guests and companies you may deal with.

Party Committee
For large events where guest counts exceed the tens it doesn't take long for a one-person committee to get overwhelmed. Managing a whole crew of helpers to designated tasks will lighten your technical involvement, freeing up time for oversight. Also, having a diverse group of reliable people can bring creative solutions and a fresh perspective to the table when problem solving or if you find yourself in a rut. Be sure to enforce that your decisions are trump, you have a purpose to fulfil.

The first discussion your party planning committee should have distinguishes  the purpose of your party. Are you trying to raise money for a future wedding? Are you showing appreciation for your employee's good efforts? The purpose will largely determine your entertainment, theme and layout, it is the guideline to designing your party. Once the purpose is set, most frills will fall into place.

There doesn't seem to be too many times when doing your homework is a bad thing. Thoroughly done, it can bring realistic ideas, costs and the nitty gritty details. Relevant keywords in any search engine quickly draws up an infinite amount of ideas.

Just remember to keep any ideas relevant to your purpose. Mechanical bull riding is an entertaining attraction to have for a cowboy party, but you may find it takes away from the Christmas theme of your corporate lunch.

Start with your purpose and let it guide you to your theme. If your purpose is a Buck and Doe to fund your upcoming wedding, then to make the most possible money would be good. How can we gear our theme for guest charity? Well, casinos make a lot of money and playing games can add an element of fun before they donate their winnings. Creativity will bring out the best in your party. So be sure to spend some time tossing ideas around.

Now if you've got a theme. You're definitely going to need some decorations. If  you have the decorations already, Great! If you do not then don't forget the problem with seasonal or one time decorations, the storage space all other 11 months of the year. So take a hard look at your storage capabilities. Not enough room for more junk? You should probably think about renting decorations or finding a decorator that already owns what you need.

If I had my way, every party would be a costume party. I'd be constantly building a new outfit for the next big throw down. Unfortunately, my Dracula costume didn't bode well at the last Thanksgiving. Remember there is a time and place for costumes. Themed parties are great for costumes. Also, not everyone enjoys dressing up as much as you do. It can take quite a long time to prepare a good costume and not everyone has that time. A great way to entice people into high quality costumes is attractive prizes for best costume, team costumes, scariest costumes and funniest costumes.

Consider a few variables with respect to event location:
 Its nice to be close to your event location. A quick commute and you're already familiar with local business that you may be relying on. This will shorten the time you spend picking up decorations and food supplies. A further location may complicate transportation if you need to do multiple trips or heavier delivery fees (should you choose that avenue).
When deciding the location, consider the capabilities of the venue. Amount of bathrooms, square footage and hall width will affect guest capacity and limit layout.
Foot traffic implications are always good to hold in mind. High volume attractions like kegs don't belong at the end of a narrow hall, it will seize people flow right up. Thirsty people eagerly want a refill. Those sipping on full drinks can't understand why there's a line to get out of the line. You can see how attitudes differing over line etiquette and invasion of personal space could irritate guests' mood and dampen party's atmosphere. So when you think about how you want your tables laid out, where the bar should go etc. Think about how people will get where they want to go.

How many guests you pick is easy. Start with your space requirements, budget and remember to look at the type of party your having. How much money do you want to spend on food and beverages?
If dinner and drinks are your only expense per guest:

Budget = $500
Location: My backyard, seats up to 30 people comfortably around card tables
Dinner and Drinks= $20/person
$500/$20 = 25 People
25 People will fit comfortably, easy!

The hard part will be deciding which friends to invite. Which friends will mingle and get along, which ones may cause a ruckus if you've decided on the open bar. If it is a work party then you're already committed to inviting everyone at the office. If you've narrowed your crowd down to a specific theme, it can make choosing your entertainment easier.

Now that you know who is coming to your party, you can find suitable entertainment. If your guests are similar in any way, this should be easy too. Bachelors party with all guys? Think scandalous. Baby shower with only girls? Think cute baby outfits and videos of kittens. Work party with all the employees? Maybe a comedian with material based on workplace interactions. Wedding? A band with style and a set list of songs that make you want to jump and celebrate!

Facebook invites are not always enough. As you're probably well aware, most people individually mail out invitations for formal events like weddings. The perfect opportunity to ask questions to all your guests. Questions like "Turkey, Fish or Veggie?" "Wine or beer or both!?" are common in RRSPs. Getting as much info as you can simplify or change your plans (hopefully for the better).

Outside help

When you've got the space, but your Tupperware wont cut it for your wedding reception it may be time to think about some outside help.

Your local rental store can help you out here. Tables, chairs, plates, cutlery, and glassware are common items. Your outdoor event might need a tent and heater. Each rental company is different and you must speak with them to see what they have to offer.

You can skip the rental companies by calling event planners and caterers. Planners and caterers often prefer certain companies and will deal with their preference for you.

Catering for some is a luxury, others, a requirement. Use your purpose and guest list as a guide. Consider that even caterers have their markets. Some specialise in smaller venue, casual meal. Others in the finer plates that don't come with a side of fries. Don't be afraid to ask them what their preference is, in the long run they would be glad you did.

Being a good host and managing the crisis
When it comes to the big day of your party, you're all set up and guests are arriving. The fun doesn't end there. You have to be a vigil overseer, an effective manager and a pleasant host. If something goes awry, you have to be there to be crisis management. Thinking on the spot, solving the problem quickly to the best of your ability could keep your party from falling apart. Its a delicate balancing act, because you must tend to your guests as well. Make an appearance or speech, find some way to give your guests some acknowledge them, as groups and as individuals. At the very least, greeting and thanking your guests for coming can make a guest really feel they belong.

Your event wont last forever. It will come time to begin cleaning up after the guests have left and the music is dulled. To vividly remember the day hire a photographer to capture all the memorable moments. You can upload the pictures to your computer, print them off, show them on Facebook, send them to your friends, whatever you'd like. You don't have spend big dollars either. Disposable cameras strategically placed around the party for anyone to use could mean fresh perspectives on a lower budget. Evidence of the night will serve as a friendly reminder many years down the road.

Clean up.
The clean up is a part of the process we cannot avoid. Its far from my favourite pass time, but I like to think of the process as returning to the status quo. Its a good reminder that we can't spend every night doing crazy eventful things and we must return to life's normal speed so we can appreciate the next chaotic happening. Cleaning up might be as simple as taking the table cloths off and returning the fine china to the cabinet. It could be as disturbing as peeling dried vomit from the floor (Eww). Whatever your clean up, there's always a reason to enjoy it for yourself, is up to you to find it. The same should be said about your party as a whole.

With thorough planning, good organization, appropriately used creativity and a passion for social gathers your well on your way to hosting the perfect party. I expect if you attend to these processes when planning your party, you will also find more enjoyment when it comes to the big day.

Have fun and happy planning.

Friday 28 September 2012

Renting a Tent: Frame or Pole?

It's all fine and dandy that you want a tent. Unfortunately, tenting is not as simple as picking tonight's dinner. You must be prepared to plan well in advance, few tents will work out on their own the way you envisioned.

The best way to start is by asking questions. What type of event are you hosting? How many people are coming? When will it be? What is your budget? How much space do you have? Where do you plan to hold it? All questions a solid rental company is sure to ask and you should be prepared to answer.

Cost and Companies. The following graph shows Happenings pole and frame prices (non-exhaustive). Walls are included in this figure, but add-ons like lighting, dance floors and heaters are not. (Your rental company of choice will have similar pricing trends.) You can clearly see the differences in price between tent sizes and types.
Happenings Tent Prices
Putting a dollar value on options helps ease the decision process. Lets say I want a 30x30 tent, but I would prefer an aisle down the center of my tent so my bride will be able to walk gracefully to the alter. The pole tent is cheaper, but the center pole will sit right on top of my aisle. And unless my bride plans to swing  around the poles on the way to the alter, this may take away from the ceremony. So now I can ask questions like "Is having center pole gone worth $300 to me?" or "How badly do I want a center aisle?"

Take a look at 20x20s of each type. Virtually the same in price, I can base my decision on aesthetics or availability. Be sure to compare across multiple tent companies pricing, services and products. Try to find out what your dollars are really buying.

Know your company. Inexpensive tent companies can afford to be cheaper by investing less in inventory updates and maintenance. Cheaper tents will be rented more often, and tents, like anything else, wear and tear over time. Ask around, check the webs, even call them up and ask about the specifics of their products and services. Playing only the price game can be risky. Company A may be cheaper than Company B, but company B may be leagues better in quality and service. Research now can prevent leaks and drips from dampening the fire on your dance floor when rain pours down on your dime-deal tent.

Aesthetics and the Crowd. 
If the only time anyone will be looking up at the tent is if your guests are stumbling to their back after their latest keg stand, then your money might be better off spent on an extra keg or two. Generally, a pole tent is your best option here. They are easy to transport and assemble. Thus, cheaper for the company in labour costs, translating into more space for your dollar. They also have a reasonably attractive interior and exterior for the bare bones (no add-ons).

Arching vinyl tops

A look at the vinyl interior
If your party is catered, open bar, and a formal event. The pole tent may not provide the prestigious look your aiming for.

Frame tents skip the view-blocking center poles by reinforcing their vinyl with an internal metal structure that shapes the vinyl top into a boxy look. Alas, the frame allows for more customization. Installing a liner will clean up the interior with a puffy, cloud-like addition (not available for pole tents).

No liner, metal frame.

Nice liner and pole drapes!

Our customers tend to use this expensive liner for up-scale corporate events and elaborate weddings. When price has little influence over the ideal event as the fee can be quite hefty.

Size. Most tents are determined by event attendance and the nights festivities. Is there a lot of guests? Is there a dance floor? Two or even three bars? Is there a seated dinner? Is dinner a buffet? Every yes to the above questions will push the size of your tent wider and/or longer. The determined size requirements of your event may then restrict what style you can get.

Locally, the smallest pole tent you can get is a 20x20 and at Happenings the largest frame you can get is a 40'x110'. So if you were planning smaller than 20'x20' or larger than 40'x110', then you've already pigeon-holed yourself to frame or pole, respectively. Check your company of choice ahead of time for tent sizes.

In rural Ontario, it's always a good idea to remember that event rental stores are limited by inventory and work load. A company may only have 2 tents of each type without involving other local companies. This means competition can be fierce when it comes to tent preferences, especially during the busy season. Further, in busy season you can count on the rental company to have their labour force booked solid for consecutive weeks or months. They may be able to squeeze you in, but there may be extra costs involved. You can bypass these issues by ordering as soon as possible. Procrastinators beware this will likely mean planning out your entire event equally well in advance.

Below and around your tent. Is your event on a tennis court? Is it on bedrock? Is the lawn congested with septic beds, water lines and hydro? If you answered yes to any of these, its likely that your going to have to go for a frame.

For a pole tent to maintain its tension it is strapped to stakes pounded around the tent's perimeter. Each stake, 3.5 to 4 feet long tent, is graded for about 2000lbs of weight and placed 5 feet from the perimeter (see below). In cases of loose soil or sand, screw anchors can be used to accomplish the same goal.

However, penetrating the surface can be undesirable. Tents on pristine golf course lawns, laid brick, new asphalt or unmarked yards packed with underground utilities cannot be staked or screwed. Instead massive concrete blocks must be used.

This 30x45 Navi-Track Frame is belted to 1000lbs blocks at each fitting. At half the weight of what a stake is graded for, and in spite of their bulky size, I would be paranoid about tightening and securing a pole tent with only these. If for whatever reason spiking the ground is forbidden, you'll likely find yourself under a frame on the big day.

Luckily for rental companies, outside companies can be hired (free of charge) to mark out underground utilities. With accurate measurements and clearly marked ground, stakes can be easily placed in safe zones without problem. Note that locates does not cover sprinklers, sometimes septic beds and other privately installed underground services. When the tent guys show up the day before your event, know your back yard.

Above your tent. It's not leap of logic to realize that putting tents under power lines is dangerous business. I would never recommend it. But non-fatal height restrictions can be eased with the use of a frame tent. They have much smaller peaks so they can squeeze into the same space with more room to play than their pole tent equivalents.

Now lets say you wanted to put a tent inside your school's gymnasium. A frame tent is perfect, while a pole is impossible! Frame tents use their internal metal structure (not stake weight) to lift the vinyl, and since you don't have to worry about wind, you can skip the stakes all together. Your welcome, your fort party just got easier :).

Organizing a caterer, decorators, inviting your guests, balancing funds and having a good time can be a manager's nightmare. A rental company that cares about maintaining your vision will ask you detailed questions about your event, the guests, the property, your budget and your expectations. The better you can translate your situation, the better they can accommodate you. When it comes time to decide on your tent be prepared so your rental company can help make your vision a reality.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Harvest Tables

Earlier in the year we had numerous questions, "Do you carry harvest tables?"

We had to turn them away, "Sorry, we don't carry those. We DO have the standard 8' table. They're 30" wide compared to the harvest tables' 42"." But the all wooden, stained finish tables of our customers dreams just couldn't be replaced by our in-stock tables.

We took the hint.

We checked out costs and availability of tables from a variety of outlets. Ran the numbers of what we hoped to have them priced to see if stocking them was feasible. The phone rang off the hook for these tables, we hastened our efforts. These tables were sure to be a hit of the summer.

We came to the conclusion that it was best for us to have them home made, built in-house. We hired a carpenter, ordered some white pine and began production.

After the early american stain and a semi-gloss finish, we were near completion. We priced and sized out legs to hold these sharp tables off the ground. A flat black folding leg held up our first prototype. We proudly displayed it in our showroom.

Customers came and went, naturally we asked them what they thought of our newest inventory addition. Many people liked the prototype, but felt it could be brought together as a whole with more appropriate legs. 

Again, we took the hint.

The thin folding legs did seem out of proportion to the bulky width and thickness of the table top. We swapped the legs for another home-made product. A thicker, stained wooden leg that could be secured to the table with a long bolt and nut on each leg. Success!

We are so happy to present the harvest tables. It's one thing to provide rentals to our customers and help them make their events memorable. Its a whole different ball game to provide rentals that our customers helped build.


Without further delay. The finished product:


Tuesday 1 May 2012

Ode to Happenings

Ode to Happenings
By Cheryl

It was late in the day when my wife made the call.
For an early morning party with no warning at all,
But Mike reassured her she was not alone
Though the store was now closing he stayed on the phone.

I laughed as I listened thought there is no way
Of planning a party this late in the day.
She hung up the phone and ordered me out,
Clean up that lawn she started to shout.

There’s a tent on the way and we’ve no time to spare,
We’re holding a party, let’s do it with care.
We raked and we tidied well into the night
When the lights of that Happenings truck came into sight.

Out climbed Mike and ordered his men about.
I did what I could though I still had my doubts.
I watched with amazement as that big tent went up.
They unloaded the dishes with matching tea cups.

There were tables and chairs, a dance floor and stage,
Ice buckets, linens and games for all age,
Wine glasses, a fountain; is there no end!?
My wife is real happy and now Mike’s my new friend.

Happy Birthday.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Creemore Home and Garden Show & First Big Tent

Busy, busy weekend. Good indicators of Summer being well on its way.

This weekend if you had explored the “Get Growing” Home and Garden Show in Creemore you may have found yourself bombarded with free popcorn from Happenings.

Amongst the tractors, trailers, solar panels, and temporary garden and landscaping booths, we stood sheltered under our 10’x10’ frame tent. We connected with other local business owners, discussing the show, economy and marketing strategies. We spoke with passerby’s, handed out our new inventory, price list brochures and pens baring our name and number.

The popcorn was a hit. Kids put out the fire at our fireman carnival game, while adults looked over (what we could fit in the booth of) our linen, table and accessory inventory. Collections were donated to the Tree Society of Creemore, a volunteer organization “committed to preserving and promoting beauty in [their] tree-lined streets”.

Thanks goes out to anyone who came out to visit.

During the show we also had a crew in Hillsdale for Geoshack, our first decent sized job of the year. The winds were tough and the ground was denser than diamond, though we still managed to raise a 30’x30’ Navi-Track Frame and four 10’x10’ frames. Props to the boys who spent their Sunday to 3-man-wield the gas pounder just to get the stakes to stand on their own.

Completed tent site.

Tent surroundings appeared to be some sort of  massive-ant city.

Some sort of gigantic ant party?


Wednesday 18 April 2012

The Matra Spring Training Trip

        March 27, 2012 the Happenings guys attended Matra’s second annual Tent Renter’s Spring Training session. Mike Carleton, owner; Chris, Ryan and Ed, well seasoned staff; dragged themselves out of bed the Monday of the 26 to get an early start to the 10 hour trek ahead of themselves.

        The destination, Elmsford, New York.

Taken during Ryan's bathroom break.

The guys housed themselves up in a hotel in Elmsford for the night and rose the next morning eager to absorb all the contents of their day.
            They arrived at PartyLine Tent Rentals at 8 am. Coffee, tea and breakfast was served while attendees registered and were given name tags to pin on their shirts. Between registration and 9am the boys wandered the shop, observing Kenny Puff of Party Line’s warehouse organization storage in a paced free-for-all.
                Seminars filled the remaining morning block of the day. The first presenter discussed the hazards of improper tent anchoring. The audience cringed as a multitude of torn, collapsed, imploded and upside-down tents flashed on the screen. A setting of un-stake-able anchoring was common throughout the slideshow.

Tent chewed up and spit out by high winds.

         The solution? Concrete blocks as the heir to the tired and time consuming water barrels.

Happenings downtown on Porche's rooftop, concrete blocks.

         However the practical hurdle embedded in their weight; 500lbs blocks are not simply be dollied around (efficiently). The presentation went on to analyse experimental modes of transportation from onsite forklifts and flatbed trucks to some very unusual contraptions.

1 guy, 1 block. Genius.
        The second seminar discussed the execution of newly implemented methodology from the president down to the labourer. The speaker also urged the use of cues that predict customer influx to help determine where businesses should be allocating their resources. It was very informative and led to the development of in-house surveys to better understand the customer and deliver on their needs. Our crack marketing committee came up with this:

There wasn't much in the budget for it.

          The final seminar was by the author of PartyCAD software himself, Hank Hufnagle. He demonstrated live, how the new PartyCAD12 could be used to draw event layouts quickly, noting the improvements since PartyCAD10. Marvel at a sample drawing we offer to our clients.

PartyCAD12 Sample

         Lunch Followed.

         After lunch tours were given by Kenny Puff around the warehouse. More informative than the free for all tours, Kenny highlighted solutions to tremendously increase practical efficiency and productivity around the warehouse. Here are a few snaps.

Pulley system hung from cable.
Chivaris stacked with individual bags.
A peek inside the kitchen trailors.
No staples in the tables!
So many tops.
Kenny Puff addressing the crowd.
Plate carrier 2.0?

        For the remainder of the day attendees gathered in the tent adjacent to the main building. Kenny presented the industry owners tough questions given various scenarios. “What do you do?” spurring a chatter of solutions. It was settling to see others in the industry struggling with the similar matters and how they adjust.

         After a few goodbyes, the boys piled back in the half-tonne truck and set the GPS to Collingwood, Ontario, Canada, 45 Sanford Fleming Drive. Driving straight through the night, they arrived back at home base at 2am. Early enough to have a brief nap in the tarps before clocking in on the Wednesday, 7am.


Thursday 12 April 2012

Look what came in the mail!

The CRA is a not-for-profit association that raises the standard for rental organizations in today’s market. They support community networking, leadership development, professionalism and integrity in the rental industry and its members.
The CRA Ontario offers many educational workshops and seminars, newsletters with up-to-date Ontario information and events that help promote useful products, practices and connections in the industry. Further, they provide tangible recognition for the most outstanding companies through their comparative feedback surveys and annual awards. Recipients can be proud of their yearly efforts and others can make goals to work towards.
We are proud to announce Canadian Rental Association (CRA)- Ontario has presented Happenings Party Rentals the Party and Special Events Image and Innovation Award for 2011. Awarded to the Party Rental store/organization that best exemplifies the highest standards of the Party Rental industry on the following criteria:
·         Attractive exterior and interior
·         Well maintained equipment
·         Innovative ideas
·         Excellent customer service
·         Good house keeping
2011 was a good year for us at Happenings, we can be sure of that after receiving this:

Truthfully, this was no cake walk. Hard work and overtime went into this merit.
Our warehouse underwent a massive reorganization during the early months of the year in order to optimize delivery loading. Even the most seasoned crew members found themselves needing directions to the new center pole home (Until they warmed up to it).
It was our greenest crew in years, trained them from scratch to be content with only the best. We committed to the new company logo and a fresh crew uniform to match. The boys are looking quite dapper now with their collared shirts.
New asphalt laid deeper into the parking lot shouted professionalism at our customers picking up their orders. A shed was added adjacent to the main building for more convenient storage.
            Brand new Kedar tents were added to the inventory. A 20’x 40’ and a 30’x60’. Their tops simply slide into and remain in the frame, always staying tight and sleek without lacing or tightening maintenance.
There was a score of unique jobs too, all requiring problem solving and some serious tent knowledge. Tents were slung high above trees, overhanging off 8 foot decks and perched on large rooftops; just to name a few. Locations ranged as far as Kincardine, Bracebridge and downtown, Toronto.  We really should have taken more pictures.
Always working to prevent the unavoidable was standard during all the new additions to our company.  Things like remembering the proper equipment, repairing it as soon as it fails, maintaining order and cleanliness, and always putting the customer first. Firming up these routines keeps everything about the company young.
We deserved this one. We worked hard last year, helped a lot of people, made significant improvements and are excited to see how far we can drive ourselves.
A big thank you for anyone who had a part in it all.