Industry Events Heat Up the Summer

Summertime, and the livin' is easy? Hah! June of 2004 — for many a time to begin pondering long afternoons in the hammock, or at the very least a chance to leave the city and work in a bucolic festival setting — proved to be one of the busiest this industry has seen in the last decade, at least from my side of the table. The month began with the arrival off InfoComm, held June 9-11 in Atlanta. The show is attempting to expand its reach beyond its core A/V presentation reach by incorporating an all-new pro lighting and stage pavilion; this year, approximately a dozen lighting and staging entities, ranging from Rose Brand to High End Systems to ESTA, participated. Attendance for the entire event was announced at over 20,000; how many of those actually spent time in the lighting and staging pavilion is unclear. For manufacturers, it presents the same old dilemma: the oft-heard complaint of too many trade shows, coupled with the desire to find new markets. It will be interesting to see if InfoComm can expand and grow this pavilion in the years to come.

Just as that show was wrapping up, many lighting industry types, including myself, consulting editor Ellen Lampert-Gréaux, and Lighting Dimensions editor Marian Sandberg-Dierson, were descending upon the town of Middleton, WI, for the grand opening party of ETC's new offices. The joke going around at last year's PLASA about this project was that CEO Fred Foster was channeling Charles Foster Kane and the new space was his Xanadu (a la Citizen Kane), but I have to say that Foster's vision and attention to detail on this new space is quite stunning. The “town square” common area of the space, with its nod to Edward Hopper (replete with a replica of the famous “Nighthawks” diner) and its impressive theatrical stagecraft (Duane Schuler's lighting of the space is particularly effective) proved the perfect backdrop for the party, which attracted a stellar array of lighting luminaries. The rest of the headquarters — springy floors and lots of light in the factory, no windows and concrete floors for the executives (Fred's office even has a garage door) — is a shining and welcome example of corporate culture with a decidedly populist bent. Kudos to Fred and the ETC team on both a fun party and a great new space.

Ironically enough, even as the industry's key US journalists were winging it to Wisconsin, the summer's biggest news story fell out of the sky. That Friday, June 11, as you may remember, was also the day that PRG's Jere Harris and VLPS' Rusty Brutsche officially announced their intention to merge. The rumor that no one believed could be true had in fact become a stunning reality. I had put a call into Harris' office after checking into my hotel in Middleton; he and Brutsche were kind enough to call me back — just a few minutes before the ETC press conference. Even though we missed the announcement (ETC had purchased the dimming manufacturer IES), and even though the merger was a hot topic at the party, ETC still won the day, and that can be explained in two simple words: open bar.

And then, of course, we had to get in on the whole, let's-make-June-as-busy-as-possible act. I'm referring, of course, to the annual Broadway Lighting and Sound Master Classes and EDDY Awards, held June 16-20 at John Jay Theatre in New York. Despite all the challenges we've faced here in the last six months, and despite losing essentially two months in the planning of this yearly event, I think we pulled it off. The response from attenders, sponsors, speakers, and winners was overwhelmingly positive. I could talk much more about it, but we've been filling your bandwidth on this topic for months now, and besides there's two full pages of information and photos beginning on page six, so I'm going to do the sensible thing and hit the hammock. Wake me up for PLASA.