Setting the scene | News, Sports, Work

-Messenger photo by Brandon Brueschke

Workers set the stage Friday for the Downtown Country Jam concert.

A lot of work goes into putting on a Downtown Country Jam, whether that involves planning the event, booking artists to perform, or physically setting up the stage.

Jim Reed, president of Shellabration Inc., emphasized the amount of time and energy it takes to put on events like tonight’s concert.

“It’s a multi-year process from start to finish,” he said. “And I like to tell people that nothing we do is rocket science. There’s nothing that requires an organic chemistry degree or, you know, a physics degree. It’s just a lot of work. All daisies linked together. “

Reid said the planning process for this event began about a year ago with finding a workable date and getting the artists together to perform. When speaking about the event’s organizing team, Reid said, “We have a board of 16 unpaid volunteer board members who serve as leadership and they are committed. The crew we have, I would put up against any special event. They’re detail-oriented, professional, reliable, and what’s great is, so because we have this core of volunteers, but we also have assignments, it’s harder to find people or a skill set to do lighting, staging, and similar things. So what you see here as a cross between contractors, volunteers doing what they can, and then also people who have a skill set to do, you know, lighting design and things like that.

The team was quickly putting together the stage for Friday’s event. They worked together as a smooth working team. They connected support beams to support the stage while others unloaded the equipment.

-Messenger photo by Brandon Brueschke

Workers set the stage Friday for the Downtown Country Jam concert. Many of the people involved are volunteers.

“What’s unique this year is that we’re using a hydraulic step as opposed to a support rod where everything is built up and bolted together with cam bolts,” Reid said. “It’s much easier this year. This hydraulic stage will literally cut off probably four hours because we usually build everything one piece at a time. Once that trailer was parked, the roof started to go up and the stage came down and then we just added to it. So you see the year where it’s much faster and more efficient than it would have been in any previous year. And this is the first time we’ve used a hydraulic step.”

Reid went on to describe the physical setting as “the un-sexy dark underbelly of producing.”

To elaborate, Reed explained, “So when people come, you know, we dress them up front, but when you look under the stage, all the things that are buried moving boxes, boxes, you know this and that, if you actually came and looked from behind the stage it’s not pretty, but in the evening when it gets dark and the lights are on it looks so beautiful. It’s such a dichotomy between behind the scenes and what the audience actually sees.”

Another aspect of assembly that Reid discusses is the materials used. Reid introduced all the fencing, tents and lining mechanisms, along with larger infrastructure such as generators and light towers.

Ted Bodensteiner, Vice President of Shellabration Inc, joined the conversation to talk more about the systems they have in place to create these shows.

“I certainly take into account all the little nuances and play the Yin to the Jim Yang when making decisions,” Bodensteiner said.

Bodensteiner and Reid began to discuss ways in which they could incorporate the experience of running these events to improve future ones. One particular thing Bodensteiner highlighted was working on an event in Nebraska where they lit up portable toilets.

Reed expanded on this by saying, “I’m going to focus on porta potties, as crazy as that sounds. So he saw an idea. We plagiarized it, we did it here. And in the feedback we get on Facebook. We’ve actually had a number of women comment on the fact that they feel safer and cleaner because our pots light up.’

“No detail is left untouched,” Bodensteiner said. “It’s all in the details and we try to get the details right.”

Reed called this evolutionary process as “continuous improvement” and said this “Every time we do something, we always look at it, you know, at a detailed level, and that’s the attention to detail.”

They pointed to the way they mark the terrain with the distance available for people as another detail they’re trying to perfect. All this also showed how many aspects of these events they had to take into account. They must focus on the entertainment of the audience, the needs of the artist and not forget public safety.

While talking about safety, Reid said, “We’ll have 12 uniformed officers on the network, we’ll have six Fort Dodge fire and rescue emergency teams, and we’ll have law enforcement officers airborne in each of the two buildings.”

Reed added, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s a fun, enjoyable and safe environment for people.”

Bodensteiner and Reid added that they are putting up concrete barriers to block cars from the crowd.

One aspect of this show that differs from some of their others is the location. This central street location adds a level of ease when it comes to setup. Bodensteiner explains this “It’s easier because the liner is easier to wash or rub off in flight, while it’s much more durable on the pavement. And we have to worry less about messing with the grass.”

Bodensteiner also stated how buildings do less work when it comes to putting up fences.

One aspect of organizing these events that plays a major role is that of community, according to Bodensteiner. These events would not be possible without the support of the community and the volunteers who choose to physically help. These events take a lot of hard work throughout the year, but it’s all worth it to give the community a wonderful evening.

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