An Events Icon Pivots From Oscar Parties To 1500 Vaccinations A Day

Over the last 25 years, Hammond Entertainment has produced hundreds of successful events for a high-profile clientele. The company has organized celebrity golf tournaments for the likes of Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Anderson, and Michael Jordan, and other events including the ​Black Enterprise Women of Power Conference, events for Trinidad & Tobago Jazz Festival, the Ebony Pre-Oscar Celebration, and the Essence Music Festival. In addition to the golf tournaments, founder and president Bill Hammond has a long history of work on philanthropic events including Stevie Wonder’s House Full of Toys Concert and various benefits for the Magic Johnson Foundation.

When the pandemic hit, all event producers were forced to cancel almost all their business for nearly a year. Then one day Hammond got a call from Kaiser Permanente asking, “Can you handle 1500 vaccinations a day starting in two weeks for the next six months? Secure a location and run all logistics and operations?” His answer: Yes.

Live Design spoke with Hammond about pivoting from celebrations to vaccinations.

Live Design: Tell us about your business before the pandemic.
Bill Hammond: For 25 years, Hammond Entertainment has successfully produced hundreds of national and international musical events, festivals and private corporate events for a wide range of clients. From celebrity golf tournaments, corporate charity fundraisers, concert events to milestone celebrations, our team imagines, designs and executes events tailored to the client's needs. 

Bill Hammond (left) and Kyle Newport

LD: When did you first realize that live events were going to be shuttered? 
BH: March 5th is when I started to see the signs of the pandemic and knew that we would have to take a breather in the industry.
Due to the virus, over the past year 90% of event producers and promoters were forced to cancel their events in 2020, some 12 million jobs associated with live entertainment throughout the U.S. have been affected, many businesses shuttered, people laid off, jobs permanently lost. Hammond Entertainment lost 70% of its projected income in 2020. 

LD: How did Kaiser Permanente know to reach out to you? 
BH: For the last two years, Kaiser Permanente asked me to produce motivational events for 8th grade students transitioning into 9th grade (2019 KP Youth Summit Video Highlight  and 2021 KP Youth Summit)  by bringing in various professionals – athletes, executives, entrepreneurs – to share their success stories (and failures). With a dream, focus and a mentor, you can achieve anything!

LD: So when they called asking you to pivot to something completely different, how did you manage?
BH: I approached the Solano County Fairgrounds vaccination site in the same way as I have any live event production with great attention to detail and execution. What I (and my team) had to learn to understand is the nuances in healthcare and the pandemic. All of the rules and requirements that were mandated had to be built into the production (i.e. social distancing).I had lots of dealings with the county, city, and Kaiser Permanente Napa Solano hospitals to ensure all of the rules, regulations and guidelines were met. Given that my team specializes in logistics and operations, we’ve been able to make it happen and what a perfect marriage it has been!
The Solano County Fairgrounds vaccination site

LD: What time frame were you working with?
BH: When I got the call from Kaiser Permanente asking, “Can you handle 1500 vaccinations a day starting in two weeks for the next six months? Secure a location and run all logistics and operations?” I immediately flew up and looked at three locations and chose the Solano County Fairgrounds, a 140-acre plot of land. 
Ultimately, Kaiser Permanente hired Hammond Entertainment to run operations and logistics; Hammond Entertainment packed up and moved to the Bay Area, hired 6 “Road Warriors,” 12 leadership team members, and 170 local personnel to man the vaccination site, which officially opened on February 3, 2021, and is expected to run for 4-6 months.
Our goal is to vaccinate as many of the 409k within Solano County by June, or at the latest August, 2021.

LD: Were you able to find jobs for industry people?
BH: I’ve hired folks from parking staff to registration to a management team to oversee on-site operations. All of the individuals hired range from tour and production managers to business owners for some of the biggest acts in the entertainment industry.

LD: How did you combat "vaccine hesitancy" and reassure people?
 Word spread very quickly about how seamless and fluid our operation runs from the time one enters the fairgrounds parking lot to the registration desk and then from getting the vaccine to sitting in observation. It is critical that we treat everyone that comes through the fairgrounds with respect and kindness, especially during this time. Once individuals leave the fairgrounds, they are going home and telling their friends and family about their incredible experience, which has helped to further build trust in the community. Our sustainable blueprint is focused on running the site in the most efficient way possible. We’ve created a welcoming, warm, clean space that allows people who have fears and anxieties to trust our process and feel safe.
A staff member at the Solano County Fairgrounds vaccination site.

LD: When the pandemic is over, how do you think this experience will change the way you do events in the future? 
BH: For Hammond Entertainment, we have a much greater appreciation for perfection, awareness and relationships. This vaccine and pandemic experience is the biggest "star" that I’ve ever worked with, so much focus on humanity, health and well being. We must cherish our freedom and blessings! Sometimes we all need to take a step back and put things in perspective.

LD: When do you think the live event industry will return to pre-Covid levels and will you be ready?
BH: We’ve been ready! That said, time will tell when things will return to pre-COVID levels, but we are moving in a really good direction right now. Hoping that by the end of Summer we will be 60-70% on track, and by 2022 we will be back up to 90%+. With a foundation of credibility, exceeding goals and expectations is how we’ve gained the trust of our clients. We are excited about the future as we continue to produce events with precision, flair and professionalism.

LD: What has this project meant to you, personally, and to your team?
BH: Relationships, partnerships and trust have meant everything to us with this engagement with Kaiser Permanente Napa-Solano. I’ve been fortunate to work on many great charitable events for my celebrity clients throughout my career but putting together this site with Kaiser is by far my most gratifying. One, because they gave me the opportunity, which for a minority isn’t always a given. Two, because we’re taking care of an under-served community in an area, I grew up in. And three, this may be a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to personally contribute to a historic global effort. It’s without a doubt the biggest health immunization effort I’ve experienced in my lifetime, and we hope it will help return our world to some degree of normalcy. In these times, there’s no greater human cause!

Some of Bill Hammond's “Road Warriors”
Michael Droke, Alonzo Ward, Kyle Newport, Paul Raksit, Charles Sandlin, Dean Lawrence, Tracy Underwood and Jamie Everett.

The Project Leadership Team
Bill Hammond, Paul Raksit, Kyle Newport, Brytani Garnett, Dana Wasylenko, Jamie Everett, Kyle Newport, Alonzo Ward, Dean Lawrence, Michael Droke.

Vaccination Site Partners
The vaccination site was set up with the following partners: Solano County Public Health, Kaiser Permanente, North Bay Healthcare, Partnership HealthPlan of California, Medic Ambulance and Touro University California
From entry to exit, our team fosters a warm welcome and positive experience, which has resulted in positive commentary from those who visit the site, echoing it was a smooth process, from parking, registration to receiving their shots, and sending them off safely.  None of this would have happened without Kaiser Permanente trusting Hammond Entertainment to allow us to execute on our expertise. A huge thank you to Nor Jemjemian, Senior Vice President/Area Manager, Napa-Solano Area, for making the call to me based on our past working relationship with the youth empowerment summits.