Convention Opening Party Re-Creates Cheers, Harvard Gates, and Quincy Market

By Brendan Spiegel June 29, 2010, 1:14 PM EDT

Photo: Aviran Levy for BizBash

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The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is holding its 39th international convention in Boston this week, welcoming union members for a week of meetings, workshops, and recreation. The biannual event is held in a different city every two years, so organizers wanted to kick off this year’s convention at Sunday evening’s opening reception with a touch of Boston flavor.

Several thousand members attended the reception, many with family members, bringing the total attendance to 7,000. Kathy Sens of Freeman, who oversaw production, brought on Boston-based Art of the Event to help with decor and large props—including the 12 oversize vignettes representing iconic Boston sites that filled the venue, floor A of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

A replica of the Harvard Gates, assembled from more than 2,000 handmade bricks, stood near the entrance to the venue. Inside, tables were spaced out among the other Boston vignettes, such as a reproduction of South Boston’s L St. Tavern (which made an appearance in the film Good Will Hunting). Guests could walk around the 12- by 20-foot replication of the bar’s exterior and then make their way to the re-created interior for a drink at one of two copper-top bars.

Gayle Gilberto, president of Art of the Event, said that in addition to paying homage to the event’s host city, the vignettes helped break up the oversize room. “Because the room was so large and because we were dealing with so many people, the client didn’t want everything around the perimeter,“ Gilberto said. “So we did a lot of them in the round, which made the room fun for guests to explore.”

Tables and buffet stations were incorporated into the design, with a seafood station set up next to the Boston Lighthouse, Chinese cuisine served at the Chinatown vignette, and hamburgers and hot dogs at picnic tables for the Fenway Park prop. The whole evening was free-flowing, with guests able to wander from station to station or head over to the dance floor, where the band Catch-22 performed.

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