Special Report: Super Bowl Takes Over Jacksonville

Don Mischer Productions hired Tait Towers to create a dramatic stage with projected images and colorful lighting for Paul McCartney's half-time performance at Super Bowl XXXIX (Photo courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images).

Earlier this month, the city of Jacksonville, Florida began gearing up for what would be one of the biggest events ever to touch down on its soil—Super Bowl XXXIX. Several companies hosted Super Bowl-related events to promote their products to the masses of football fans in town for the game. Preparing for months prior to the main event, Jacksonville's NFL Host Committee helped organize these festivities, as well as the bowl itself. President Michael Kelly, director of special events Nikki Epley, and director of communications Heather Surface oversaw the creation and execution of the four-day fiesta that began Thursday, February 3, and continued until the wee hours of Super Bowl Sunday.

The NFL Host Committee and the Florida Times-Union hosted the outdoor Times-Union SuperFest in downtown Jacksonville, which ran all four days. A five-mile stretch of downtown was filled with live performance stages and hundreds of vendors. New York-based EventQuest surrounded the SuperFest area with 20 towers made of steel tressing and covered with white stretch fabric branded with sponsors' names. The towers also displayed signs for key venues and housed built-in audio systems, so public announcements and a live audio feed of music—from Top 40 hits to 70's funk songs selected by SuperFly DJs—could be piped throughout the area. Seven of the towers were equipped with lasers and situated on both sides of the river to project a bridge of green light over the river.

On Friday, Coors Light held its Super Bowl party. Diana Frank from Coors hired Hello Florida to create an icy experience inside the River City Brewing Company restaurant. The restaurant's wooden and nautical look had to be concealed to create an event that would feel cool and nightclub-like, and work in conjunction with the current Coors Light “Cold” campaign. Dance cages of ice made by Ice Magic, fog effects from Party Guys, frosty windows, and tables dressed in white crushed linens from Kirby Rentals helped create the appropriate atmosphere. In addition, machines supplied by Snow Masters blew faux snow in the restaurant, and Airstar Space Lighting employed blue and white lights for a wintry ambience. Models and dancers from Peyton and Day gave Coors Light distributors and other V.I.P.s something to look at while DJ Dou played tunes that kept attendees dancing into the wee hours.

Also on Friday was ESPN The Magazine's NEXT big weekend event. Festivities began at 9 PM, when the ultimate sports club atmosphere was unveiled at the Merrill House. To create the environment, Kim Willis, marketing director for the magazine, hired event planner Brian Gordon of Miami Marketing Group and production company Event Eleven to set up televisions, pool tables, video games, and bars in the historic house and former church. A red-carpet entrance was set up against an ESPN backdrop, and journalists and entertainment reporters waited behind velvet ropes to catch arriving stars like Alicia Keys, Tyson Beckford, and Nick Lachey.

Once inside, guests walked into a courtyard of Astroturf. A football goal post had been set up on one end, with bars and tables full of foods and desserts lining the wall. Duck quesadillas sizzled on the newest line of Weber grills, adding a touch of tailgate. TLC Lighting used the side of the two-story white Victorian house as a screen for the projected ESPN logo. The church-turned-lounge was transformed into a funky lodge with animal heads mounted on the walls, dim lighting, and flat-screen televisions showing images of burning fireplaces. Event Eleven transformed the 10-room house into a sports lover's playground, putting video games and bars in just about every room, along with TVs and framed ESPN magazine covers on the walls. There was even a separate room for poker. Downstairs, there was a barbershop, complete with a red, white, and blue striped barber pole. And all this was just the beginning: The main party was outside in a tent behind the house. White couches and bar tables lined one wall, lending a nightclub feel. The tent also had its own bar, which faced a stage that drew the likes of hip-hop artist Biz Markie, who jumped on the turntable. Guests grooved to the beat on the carpeted floor.

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