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Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party
Quail Hollow 50th


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 Light Jockey

 
A Hundred Thousand Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow Country Club
 

City Lights in Country Nights
Designing the 50th Anniversary for Quail Hollow
Visual Dialogue by Jack Kelly | Photography by Jack Kelly
Quail Hollow Country Club | Charlotte NC

Partners: John Lupton - Elements Design Company

Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party

Lighting Equipment
139,200 Incadescent White String Lights (1392 Boxes of 100)
32 Chauvet COLORdash Par
8 Chauvet Colorado 3
50 Elation Opti-30
4 Elation DP-415
1 Elation Stage Setter
1 Martin Light Jockey
1 Global Truss 5m Circle
4 Global Truss Chain Hoist
10 Swivilier Dual 8" Extension
30 Swivilier Single 8" Extension
100 Accu Cable Cube Taps
80 Accu Cable 10' Power Cables
40 Accu Cable 25' Power Cables
20 Accu Cable 50' Power Cables

Production Team
Jack Kelly- Designer
Eric Winkenorder- Design Consultant
Brian Barker- Team Leader
Jesse Poreca- Team Leader
Stephen Rogers- Lead Technician
John Lowder- Lead Technician
Alex Miano- Technician
Donald Harris- Technician
Kenneth Owens- Technician
Rauben Behrands- Technician
Ryan Barringer- Technician
Rory Holder- Technician
Nathan Nicholson- Technician
Llyod Puckett- Technician

Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party

Looking for 140,000 twinkle lights in May with 25 days notice was a greater challenge than I had anticipated. My usual source needs 4 weeks to manufacture and shipping from China is very expensive unless it is sent by boat. I googled “Christmas lights” and called every major retailer in the US and Canada. Fifty phone calls later, I learned that everyone gets their Christmas shipments in June. No one had enough matching lights. My hands started to sweat and my brain was shutting down. This will be the biggest private party we do this year and failure would be political suicide when you are dealing with one of Charlotte’s most respected families. I called my friends that work for other lighting companies and ask if they had any ideas. Every one of them said they would have called me. CRAP! One day, two days, three days passed. I am getting returned phone calls every day with the same responses. In a moment of brilliance, I looked for other production companies. I googled “party rentals” and anything else I could imagine. Logging in almost 20 hours on the phone, I got a break. A rental house had over 180,000 lights left over from Christmas. Purchasing sideways, I conquered the first challenge of the Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party.

The Wachovia Championship ended 4 days before the 50th Anniversary Party for Quail Hollow. We were asked to start on Monday and be ready for a light check on Wednesday. Load out for the Championship in the past was two weeks long. They needed to be out by Wednesday. The pressure was on. Parking schedules, load in, load out, lift drops, and time tables needed to be coordinated between two completely different teams and a plethora of venders. Thank God I was not the event planner. Plus on Monday, God scheduled a thunderstorm. The steady flow of rain turned out to be a blessing. Everyone but us took the afternoon off preferring to work at night without rain. My team is accustomed to any conditions and all demands. Without skipping a beat, we threw on ponchos and pressed forward. Without any disruptions, we were able to exceed our scheduled goals for the day. The storm assured our work was uninterrupted.

Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party

The event designer, John Lupton, is my favorite designer in the south. His clear communication with me was key to the success of this event. The taste was traditional. Money was no object. No was not an option. I have not had the opportunity to work with someone who knew exactly what they wanted. It turned out to be a very pleasant experience. Communication and interpretation is easy when working with natural leaders. In a room full of powerful people, a tuned ear is all that is required. My dad always told me to repeat what I heard. Keeping communications short, clear, and confirmed; I relayed everything I heard, repeated it through email, and met communication breakdowns before interpretation. The result was in the client’s word was “a home run.”

For the basics, the event had two dinners in the ballrooms. Every floral centerpiece was lit with a pin spot. The floral came to life. Every event should pin spot centerpieces. First it doesn’t cost very much. Also, if you put the focus on the people, you have created nothing more than a glorified house party. If you put the focus on the features, you have created an event. I often say “people are a lot like bugs they are always drawn to the light.” By making the center pieces brighter than the rest of the room, the eventscape is immediately noticed. A lasting impression is made when the guest first enters the room, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. The moment of “awe” is the success of event design. If the first thing they notice is the walls or the wardrobe then the event design has failed to exceed the value of its natural environment. Walls and wardrobes are always present and shouldn’t receive attention. For each of the three days, we used Swiviliers to extend and focus the recessed lighting as the room morphed each night. Highlighting the unique event highlights, emphasizing the changes, and focusing the guest attention; we brought value to the event design and a greater return on the décor investment.

Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party

FYI, the twinkle lights were only for the final night. Using traditional incandescent twinkle lights upon the client’s request, the power demands exceeded 580 Amps. The largest tree required four 20 amp circuits with a continuous power draw of 58.8 amps. All the branches of nearly 40 trees were tightly wrapped. The largest tree had 140 strings of lights for a total of 4667 feet of twinkle lights spaced 4” on center for a total of 14,000 lights. A combination of ladders, scaffolding, lifts, and tree climbing skills helped the team reach every branch. Only 3 incandescent string lights can be linked in series for a maximum of 100 feet of string lights. Power stations made up of cube taps or power strips were strategically placed throughout the tree to make sure we could reach all locations. Once the power was run, we started wrapping from the bottom around the power cabling which was zipping straight up the trunk. Twelve individual runs came from the bottom of the tree swirling around the trunk. Two guys climbed in the tree, one at the base, one on a ladder and one on the lift. The largest tree took all three days to complete. Every night we would turn on the lights and make notes for additions and fixing any odd looking areas.

Common misconceptions about string lights are to cover the bushes. For the 100 or so bushes, we zigzagged through them. If you lay the string lights on top the lights look like they are trying to cover or hide the bush creating a conflict between foliage and technology. But by simply pushing the string into the bush a couple inches, magic is created. As the light disappears and reappears as the leaves dance in the wind, the twinkle brings memories of fireflies and forest magic prominent in modern fantasy environments. By exposing the cable, the unnatural technology invading the bush conflicts with the fantasy. The other mistake is creating too much symmetry. By creating a grid an industrial feeling will make the design contrived. Never create lines. Organic string light placement is most easily achieved through seemingly random placement. If the lights are perfectly spaced, the look is unnatural. By quickly placing the lights without forethought creates organic design. By looking at it at night and filling the obvious week spots and clusters, I have found the most natural and balanced look can be achieved. Through mild inconsistencies, the design contains crescendos and decrescendos, fortes and pianissimos. The two step process, rush and repair, gives the overall look a musical quality that intrigues and seduces the viewer.

Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party

I don’t like covered trees either. My first inclination is to add wraps around the outer perimeter of the tree. I always regret it. By highlighting the skeleton of the tree and not the leaves, the viewer gets a chance to peer into the trees soul. The trunk and branch system is the architecture of the tree. Highlighting the architectural lines is common practice in commercial lighting. Why would trees be any different? The seductive nature of the winding branches as they twist and weave into the air is hidden by the leaves. In the winter, the romance of the exposed branches has been the inspiration for countless poems and paintings. Through lighting we can capture both the inspired life of leaf and the romance of branch. Much like a strip tease, the audience cannot stop watching in anticipation. By wrapping the branches, the meandering lines glow. Even the subtlest movement reveals another branch and greater understanding trees structure. The process of discovery is thrilling. Even with a passive audience, the interest remains. They may not know why they liked it but my guests always comment on the beauty and power of lighting.

Now I would like to say exactly the opposite. Truth is always contextual and lighting design is no different. I love symmetry in symmetrical environments. In a geometric garden, grids look great. For the round tent we perfectly spaced 102 string lights attached to a center truss extending to the outer perimeter. Pulling out the tape measure we achieved a seamless canopy of lights. The truss was round but the tent was a hexadecagon (16 sides). So the distances between the truss and the sides varied. With the power of Zip ties, we twisted each zip tie to achieve a same amount of lag in each string. The shelter of light glistened over the event romancing the air.

The 72’ round tent was beautiful and unique. With 16 beams arching towards the center, the elegant lines are truly and architectural achievement. The covering was clear, giving the event a feeling of freedom. But, one cannot light clear. Using the same concepts from the trees, we illuminated every arch to create a magenta overtone to the structure. The spatial quality to having stacked ceiling grids was stunning. The magenta glow of the steel arches combined with the clear visual to the dazzling sunset and starry sky made a complimentary landscape for white twinkle lights below.

Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party

To really make tables clothes POP, the magic is in color matching. Objects only reflect the colors in their substance. A red object only reflects red light. A green light or blue light will make the red object dark. A white object is the summation of all colors so it will reflect any color. Yellow can be slanted to red or green but goes dark when submersed by a blue light. In this case the table clothes were magenta. By putting a magenta light on a magenta object, the object will look flawless. Anything not magenta in color will not reflect the magenta light. Flaws and blemishes will disappear. I learned this while I was lighting older exhibits at museums. If the giant tongue was scuffed, I would focus two lights on the tongue one in white one in red. The red spike truly makes the object look great . . . well better. During the event if someone spilled a drink or got food on the table, the unforgiving magenta would wash out the undesirables. The tables had a radiant glow as if the tables themselves were back lit.

The second tent was intended to be more functional than dynamic. The décor was tasteful and undemanding. The ice sculptures were the primary focus. Each night the sculptures changed and the tables were redecorated. Each night the color changing LEDs were refocused to bring life to the ice and the Narrow pars were focused on the tables with or without centerpieces. The consistent execution was difficult only because we were focusing during the day in the sunlight. We would place our heads on the tables and try to focus the light into each other’s eyes. The result was flawless and the reward was a burnt retina.

The buzz from the event is still being echoed in the Charlotte market. Although the concepts were not new, the scope and fusion of the ideas provided a unique visual experience for the guest. The ever changing décor of the three day event built anticipation towards the final evening for the twinkle light reveal. Using good lighting technique, all the trades received their due praise.

Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary PartyTwinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party
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Twinkle Lights for Quail Hollow 50th Anniversary Party