Based on the phantasmagorical fairy tale by Erin Morgenstern, “the circus arrived without warning, no announcements proceeded it. It was simply there, when the day before, it wasn’t.”
Two weeks before the big day was set to arrive, a mysterious fellow dressed in a black tuxedo, top hat, and red flower tucked into his pocket appeared at the BioWare Edmonton Studio. He made his way quietly from staff member to staff member, office to office, pulling out small cards from his briefcase and handing them to people as he passed them by. No words were spoken but the cards said it all. A surprise pop up appearance prior to the event was planned to get everyone excited about the event and to drop small hints as to the theme of what was being planned.
This magical event saw Hall D at the Edmonton Convention Centre (formerly the Shaw Conference Centre) transformed into a delight for all of one’s senses. All event staff, as noted in the book, wore red bow ties and black and white outfits. Guests were encouraged to wear red, white, and/or black to compliment the event theme.
On the evening of the event, as soon as the clock struck 7:30 pm, the circus came to life and the lights scaled out on the guests in the Foyer space. Guests checked into the event at the themed ticket booths and were met by our mysterious “Gate Keeper”. Guests were invited to enter the experience that awaited them through a dark tunnel that featured a custom-made light up marquis sign and included ice spilling at their feet as the smell of hot buttered popcorn delighted their senses. When the curtains parted on the other side, the circus was a tantalizing sight to behold!
Dark, vintage circus music played at event start time and a color palette of black, white and pops or red from the book flowed throughout the space. Vintage black and white circus footage projected onto the walls throughout the space. Custom fabricated striped tents were hung from various heights throughout the space. Each tent featured on-theme activities for guests to enjoy. These activations included a make-your-own perfume station, an airbrush tattoo tent with custom stencils, a tarot card reader, a fortune typewriter and a listening lounge, where guests could listen to curated excerpts from the novel. Activity stations were all decorated with white, red, and frosted florals held up by a white porcelain hand, which was an homage to visuals from the book.
The dim lighting and hazers in the space helped create the mysterious feel the author often referred to. Sparkling white cedar and white roses hung from truss framing in the three distinct areas where aerialists performed throughout the event. Custom raised circus platforms were staggered throughout the space for the stationary performers, such as the contortionists, magicians, creature bags, jugglers and acrobats, each of them staggering their performances throughout the evening to keep up the excitement. All performers were adorned with customized face painting to match the theme of the event. All elements – the tents, the hanging foliage, the aerialists, the raised platforms – all created dimension and visual cues throughout the space and helped to frame the large room.
The photobooth area featured a black and white carnival-scape backdrop with old fashioned face cut-outs guests could pull in front of them to have part of their photo. Whether guests wanted to transform into magical beasts, octo-persons or a trapeze duo, we had them covered!
Since no one likes an empty dancefloor, we alternated DJ Thomas Culture and The Barkells so that the music played throughout the evening appealed to a broad audience.
Based on the circular reference throughout the book, every effort went into ensuring that the circular theme was incorporated wherever possible into the event elements. As we were not able to get a circular dancefloor, we had a custom gobo made of a vintage circular graphic that rotated and shone over the dancefloor so as to give the impression of a circular shape.
The stage was set up in the middle of the room to immolate the life source of the event (another reference to the book) from which everything stemmed from, we wanted to again create a circular effect. To accomplish this, we had custom ice shards of various shapes and heights placed in a circular perimeter around the top of the stage. Surrounding the ice formations were white roses, sparkling cedar, and foliage (which matched the foliage in the truss). The ice was incorporated to pay homage to the Ice Garden featured in the book.
What would a circus be without food? Taking a tour around the room didn’t leave a person hungry. There was a flavour infused popcorn and cotton candy station, a paint-your-own chocolate truffle station, a miniature carnival food area, a fish and chips action station, a beef action station, a mushroom action station and a pretzel wall to name a few. All food stations were signed with on-theme signage, which matched the activity station signage, with a revered color palette to create differentiation.
Carnival benches were scattered throughout the space featuring key snippets from the various chapters and pivotal moments of the book. Soft seating and cocktail tables were placed for guests to gather with one another.
Tired of the ole’ wine, liquor and beer options? No problem! We have a craft cocktail bar for that, which featured custom decals and signage. Four signature cocktails were created for the event pulling from the flavours, character names and colours of the book. Guests chose their cocktail, received the liquor base from the bartender and then proceeded to the side stations that were set with recipes, ingredients and garnishes to pull together their custom concoctions. Cocktail options included the “Magician’s Apprentice”, “Tsukiko’s Tonic”, “César de Rêves”, and “Widget’s Watermelon Old Fashioned”.
Additional standard bar clusters, featuring custom decals, were set up in the space and adjacent to aerialist performers. This was purposefully done so that there would be entertainment provided to anyone waiting in line. The standard bars were set up in a triangular formation so that they could be approached on all three sides mitigating any long waits and potential bottle necks. This also allowed for efficient service times and overall a better experience for guests.
At 10:44 pm sharp, the music dramatically stopped. Clock chimes were heard ringing through the venue. Confused guests started looking around the room, not knowing what awaited them. Suddenly a procession of 10+ performers, lead by a fire thrower walked through the space, parting through the crowds of guests towards the windows of Hall D, overlooking Edmonton’s river valley. As the last clock chime rang out, the performers lined up, centered along the large windows. With a sharp pivot to face the audience, they parted and just as this was done, a surprise pyrotechnics display was set off from the patio, just outside of the windows. People gasped and ran over to the window to watch the display. As it concluded, and people started to head away from the area, a show-stopping firework show was set off just across the river and exploded into a big, beautiful red burst at eye level. The fireworks display to follow featured red, white and silver delights as people clapped and cheered them on.
Most everyone stayed into the early morning hours dancing the night away, partaking in all the activities and enjoying the bites and bevies that were all just steps away from them at any given moment.
You know what they say, life is a circus ring, with some moments more spectacular than others, and this was indeed one of those spectacular moments.
Client: BioWare, a division of Electronic Arts Inc.
Event Planner and Stylist: Tycoon Event Planning & Promotions
Activity Providers: Andrea Yacyshyn (Fortune Writer), Dair Dezines (Airbrush Tattoo Artists), Fork+Farm (Truffle Painting Station), Infusion Scent Bar (Scent Creation Station), NEAT Photo Booth , The Urban Mystic (Tarot Card Reader)
AV: Production World
Event Photography: Leblond Studio Inc.
Florals and Foliage: Vienna Intention Floral and Event Design
Gate Keeper: Joshua Wolchansky
Graphic Design and Illustration: Sarah Jackson Creative Inc.
Ice Sculptor: Ice Works
Magician: Sheldon Casavant
Music: DJ Thomas Culture and The Barkells
Pop Up Performance: ACME Circus
Printing: Burke Group
Pyrotechnic and Firework Displays: Aerial Fireworks
Rentals: GES and Special Event Rentals
Roving and Aerial Performances: Firefly Theatre & Circus
Venue and Catering: Edmonton Convention Centre