Time flies by in a fast and furious blur when you’re busy party planners! It wasn’t too long ago that we transformed the Please Touch Museum into a carousel of wonderment for Madison’s bat mitzvah.
[Photos courtesy of Charles Maring Visuals
The Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall was under construction when we started planning Madison’s bat mitzvah in early 2008. The majestic walls of Hamilton Hall hadn’t been painted yet and the 60-foot ceilings and glass dome had JUST been repaired. Even the renowned 40-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty Torch, assembled from toys collected by Philadelphia artist Leo Sewell, wasn’t completed, let alone installed as the dramatic focal point in Hamilton Hall. Indeed, there was much yet to be done in the museum and it appeared the building would JUST be completed a week or so prior to the mitzvah. But we happen to enjoy a good challenge when presented, and working off architectural drawings and “supposed to be’s” just makes it all that much more rewarding later when the production comes together!
The always over-the-top fabulous Vanessa Kreckel and her crazy creative crew at Two Paperdolls designed the save the dates and invitations using custom illustrations, hand made silk boxes, paper flowers and letterpressed papers. Although the whole invitation package was amazing, the thoughtful details like the brass ring and the painstakingly assembled paper flowers blew our minds! [Photos courtesy of Two Paperdolls]
Arriving on streets closed to the public and dramatically lit fountains, guests were greeted at the curb with the joyful sounds of carnival music and hundreds of candles lining the grand entrance steps. Liveried doormen opened the front doors, a trio of angelic harps floated in the middle of the South Foyer and costumed mimes offered assistance with seating assignments.
All 175 kids were escorted by chaperones to the”City Streets” on the lower level where they enjoyed a wide range of games and activities such as air brushed sneakers and photo crystals, as well as fun food and beverage displays that included hamburgers, fries and shakes at McDonalds, Pepto Shakes in the Hospital, a salad buffet in the Neighborhood Garden and Antipasto in the Italian Market. Traveling in the opposite direction down draped hallways and flower-lined pathways, 400 adults were invited into a cocktail reception that included a winding 40 foot iced sushi station that was designed to fit inside the existing “water pond” exhibit (the logistics of this proved daunting, to say the least!); a “beef and beer” food pairing at “The Cabin” exhibit; a giant ice martini bar offering the client’s favorite orange slushie martini; a pheasant and duck feast table in the Colonial Village exhibit; and lemonade, hot tea and tea sandwiches in the Alice and Wonderland exhibit. A costumed woodland fairy offered haunting violin music from the top of an existing tree.
As the kids were escorted to the Carousel to enjoy their own private DJ and dance floor area, the adults were welcomed into the opulent Hamilton Hall for an elegant seated dinner at long rectangular tables dressed with gray linens. As seasoned entertainers and regular party hosts, the client provided their starched white lace overlays and incredible collection of crystal stemware, custom designed china and mother of pearl flatware. Each dinner table held flower-covered carousel horses, creamy porcelain vases and crystal hurricanes. Whispy white drape hid areas not in use or spaces not to be seen, thematic lighting continued to move and change in time to the schedule, and silver chivari chairs completed the dinner table designs.
The client’s personal chef, Tony Clark, provided the menu and worked closely with the amazing Max & Me Catering Team to design the food and beverage for the event. Sometimes, working backward using the client’s preference for serving vessels as the inspiration for what was to be served in the vessel. Challenging to say the least! But the talented and resourceful Max & Me Team pulled out all the stops to make the impossible food plan come to life as the client imagined. The client’s own team of maitre d’s and sous chefs offered efficient and knowledgeable assistance throughout, down to supplying the delicious homemade challah bread served tableside and at the motzi. We love details, in fact, we can’t get enough of them at most events we produce. Over the many years we’ve worked with this client we’ve enjoyed finding new ways to bring personalized and thoughtful details into every last moment experienced by the hundreds of guests attending. Such as the tiny hand-painted metal books that held personalized menus at each adult place setting (as shown above). Even the traditional motzi table held the client’s personal collection of one-of-a-kind silver judaica handed down over many generations.
Other than the stunning carousel horse centerpieces, our custom-designed light up stage built at the base of the Sewell Torch served as the focal point in the adult ballroom. The stage was designed to raise up the orchestra but also to provide long wide tiers for the 50-person choir that would perform during the evening. Two giant video screens flanked the stage and allowed adults to watch both the montage as well as the live feed of the kids having fun in the carousel area.
The kids had their own dance floor, dancers, games and activities, walkaround entertainers (tight rope walkers, magicians, live monkeys, etc) in the Carousel. Of course, they couldn’t wait to ride the carousel time and time again! Dinner and dessert was served at various kid-friendly food stations and included Belgian waffles, “burger joint” fries and cheeseburgers, Asian take out containers filled with noodles and dumplings, sushi rolls, pasta bowls, cupcakes, cotton candy, caramel apples, popcorn and more. (yes, MORE.)
The older kids, aged 13 and up, had access to the VIP Lounge where a decaf coffee station and chocolate “bar” nestled amongst cool white lounge furniture. Blue lighting transformed the space from stark cafeteria into the clubby vibe the teenagers craved.
Then there was the AH-MAZING birthday cake designed by Truli Confectionary Arts. After studying the real carousel for hours, taking countless photographs and wrestling with the how-tos of turntables, the carousel cake was a true show stopper! The children sang happy birthday to Madison in the Carousel before diving into cake and ice cream parfaits ready and waiting. Then, of course, there was the ridiculous “candy store” display we rolled out for adults and kids to enjoy in the Cafeteria.
As each guest departed they were given a beautifully wrapped custom-made white chocolate box filled with personalized chocolate confections to enjoy at a later date.
We continue to thank and praise the amazing museum staff for their hard work and dedication to bringing the Please Touch Museum to Memorial Hall, and for allowing us the opportunity to produce the first social event within its walls. It was a doozy!