New Orleans was a blast starting off with a meal of jambalaya and alligator po-boys. We popped along to the Fried Chicken Festival (the main stage of which, we noted proudly, was an SL250 set up by our friends at Center Staging). With full bellies, we headed off to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, where we promise we had a very quiet evening. That was all on our first day.
And for the real reason we were in NOLA – the annual conference of the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), which ran from September 26 to 28. Outsiders might look at that and wonder where the fun would be, but that’s because they don’t know staging, and they don’t know the needs of city, town, and community Parks-and-Rec departments all over North America.
Parks and Recreation organizations have varied roles to play, with community at the core. The mission statement of every Parks-and-Rec department is to provide places and events for the community to gather together for a variety of reasons—Theatre in the park? Summer concert series? Children’s concert? Mayor’s speech? National holiday ceremony? Street festival? Parks and Recreation departments are key to making those events happen in towns and cities across the USA and Canada, and because of that they are central to the life of the communities they serve.
At the same time, many are in the same business as us, and that means we understand one another from the outset. They’ve got important events of every shape and size, they need a stage, we’ve got the stages to make their events happen, and we each respect the value we offer one another.
The NRPA is a big deal for us, since we work with so many Parks-and-Rec organizations across a variety of states and provinces. We don’t just come to sell our product—we’re there to see our friends and colleagues and the people we’ve done business with.
Dolph Federico from Pelican Events brought in one of his five SL100s for the show. Dolph is very well known for having the ability and foresight to position his SL100s almost anywhere – he always finds ways to install his Stageline units in places that some would think impossible!
We were honoured to greet many extremely happy Stageline owners from all over the country. Many came to tell us how satisfied they were with Stageline’s follow-up process for owners, which we’ve aimed to make as comprehensive as possible to help introduce new buyers to mobile stage ownership. We know that cities, like every other owner, may have questions or require clarification about stage ownership, and so we work hard to keep in touch with new owners to make sure they don’t feel left alone with a new piece of cutting-edge equipment. After all, cities can go through complex bid processes to get to a purchase like this, so our goal is to try to make our end of the process as easy as possible. There’s no better advertising like a happy customer!
Parks and Recreation departments sometimes have little experience with staging because their domain doesn’t put them in contact with the sound and light industry on a daily basis. We’re always thrilled to meet Parks-and-Rec people at conferences for that very reason: they have problems that we can help them solve, but they don’t necessarily know that until we talk to them. Many have older bandshell-style stages, which are fine for what they are, but don’t offer the array of possibilities a mobile unit like the SL100 provides. People were excited to look at the SL100 we had set up on site—they were impressed by the flexibility and the ability to fully mount the stage and PA so easily.
It works the other way as well: often there are problems we don’t know we can solve, and talking with people from cities to learn what their specific needs are helps us enormously.
So the NRPA is always a good time because it means seeing friends and satisfied customers, meeting new customers who realize how we can make their lives a little easier, and doing business in a community of people we see every year.
The fact that this one was in New Orleans? We won’t lie, the evening events were a little more exciting than usual. But with a crowd of good, old friends, a night out anywhere is a good time. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again next year in Indianapolis.