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Event profile: Honoring Elton John at the White House

By Ashleigh Petersen

August 23, 2023

Photo courtesy of Arena Americas

Event: “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme” was held on Sept. 23, 2022, on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, D.C. During the ceremony, President Biden presented Elton John with the National Humanities Medal. Arena Americas, Oak Creek, Wis., provided the structure for the event and manufactured several custom components.

Challenges: The Arena Americas team experienced several operational and logistical challenges including a short turnaround time which left the company with three weeks to plan and staff the event, plus manufacture and ship all new custom clear and black tops.

Since it was a White House event, advance security screening of all products, trucks and equipment to be delivered on site was required. This process added an additional three days to the timeline.

“We overcame these [challenges] by working closely with the production company logistics team, U.S. Park personnel and the Secret Service who were all great to work with,” says Peter Stemmeler, national business development manager, Arena Americas.

Additional challenges included high winds during installation.

Photo courtesy of Arena Americas

Solutions: Arena Americas manufactured several custom components for the build including custom portal braces to provide specific security access points to the structure, clear vinyl tops with black colored vinyl framework to meet the design aesthetic for this evening event, and sunshades to protect the clear vinyl prior to the event and provide shade for the production
load in crew.

Stemmeler says one highlight of the event was, “Creating a solution to provide a comfortable work environment from the heat generated by having clear roof panels. We manufactured temporary fabric roof panel covers.

“These greatly helped reduce the temperatures inside the tent, making it more comfortable for the production team completing the build out. They were removed prior to the start of the event,” he added.

Another highlight for the Arena Americas team was, “Getting the chance to be on site and working on the South Lawn of the White House for such a high-profile national event,” Stemmeler adds.

Overall, the installation took six days — including the advance security screening. It took four days to tear down and remove all the equipment.

Main products used
  • 50m-by-50m-by-4m (164-ft.-by-164-ft.-by-13-ft.) clearspan structure with open gables.
  • Custom clear 50m tops with black colored vinyl framework.
  • Ten custom 5m-by-50m white fabric shade covers. These were used to protect the clear vinyl and provide sun protection during installation. The shades were removed prior to the event starting.