Yesterday I wrote about the magic and wonder of the Keyano College Foundation Gala – a gala that is, undoubtedly, the premiere event of the Fort McMurray social scene. I wrote about the fun and the food and the friends and the music, but what I didn’t write about is what it takes to make such an event happen. I was very fortunate as Russell Thomas, Keyano’s director of marketing and communications, invited me to tour the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre prior to the event. I am one of those people who is always desperately curious about how such events are assembled, because I know the work that goes into them is staggering.
When I arrived at the SSWC on Wednesday morning they were just in the process of “loading in”. This means that they were simply bringing in all the items necessary to stage the event, from bar stools to a stage (borrowed from MacDonald Island, incidentally, and one of those things that warms my heart about this community – we share!). Some of the items were already in place, things like an astonishing beaded crystal decoration. What I hadn’t realized is that many of these decorative touches were made in the Keyano Theatre department, and that this year it was Keyano themselves that were handling the staging of the event. In previous years they had hired outside contractors to do much of this, but this year they took it on themselves – making an already difficult job even more challenging.
You see, planning these events happens not days, not weeks, but months ahead of time. In fact I bet that despite the fact that the 2011 gala has just been held they will soon be at work planning the 2012 gala. Every little thoughtful touch needs to be addressed, from the chandeliers to the candle holders to the crystals strewn on the cocktail tables. They need to consider draping and seating and tables for food. They need to think of every little possible guest requirement. And they need to make it seem effortless, too.
Why effortless? Well, people, one of of the most interesting things ever said to me came from Claude Giroux, former executive director of Events Wood Buffalo. I was talking to him about how much work these events take and how people just didn't realize it, and his comment was that "when you have guests attending an event you don't want them thinking about how much work it was - you just want them to enjoy it". I was actually almost speechless because, of course, he's right. I know that when I attended the Romancing the Stone Gala I wasn't thinking about all the work and effort that went into it. I was just having the most amazing time, and loving every minute - and that was true even though I'd seen a glimpse of the work behind it. That told me that the attempt to make it seem effortless had been successful indeed, as it seemed so right and perfect, and yes, effortless.
Here's the truth, though. It is FAR from effortless. It is back-breaking, tear-inducing, exhaustion-creating work to pull off an event like the 2011 Keyano Foundation Gala. It requires an incredible team of people working together. It requires a detailed plan, and it requires a lot of sweat (and probably some tears, and maybe even occasional bad words). It requires months of planning, weeks of attention to details, and then a few days of long hours, hard work, and love. When all is said and done, though, you have what I experienced Saturday night - an event beyond compare, a time and place where you make memories. You have the Keyano Foundation Gala. You have magic. And, the magic? It seems truly effortless. Well done, Keyano, on bringing "effortless" magic to Fort McMurray once again!