by Morton D. Rosenbaum | July 01, 2004

Inside an Echelon Events tent
Inside scoop:
Some dramatic tentwork from
Echelon Events Inc.

What’s the peg for a story on tents? The consensus of a number of savvy planners can be summed up in one word: novelty. “Tents are amazing,” enthuses Ria Bruns, president of Classic Tents & Events, an Atlanta-based supplier. “There’s really nothing like them.”
     Indeed, along with their unique versatility, tents can lend a breezy, earthy elegance to any event that few ballrooms can replicate. But tents also can cause quite a flap for the uninitiated planner, who might have to scramble to keep an event from collapsing sometimes literally.
     “Tent events do put you through the ringer,” confides Gregory G. Sullivan, owner and special events producer of Boston-based Echelon Events Inc. “There are about five times as many hoops you have to jump through.”
     M&C canvassed planners and suppliers alike for tips on getting through every step of the process of tenting an event, from site selection to cleanup.

Go with the experts
The one piece of advice planners and suppliers are most emphatic about is to choose a tent rental company carefully. “These people will be your greatest supporters in the days leading up to and including the event,” Bruns notes. “They need to be the most reliable workers out there. We’ve seen situations where the company shows up late, and everything’s fairly close to ruined. The tent has got to be there when it’s supposed to be because, unlike with a ballroom event, you can’t even begin to set anything up until the tent’s erected.”
     Bruns and others say the safest bet is to rent from members of a professional organization, such as the American Rental Association (800-334-2177; or the International Special Events Society (800-688-4737;

Watch the weather
While the wonders of climate-control technology have made comfortable tenting possible almost year-round, there are some weather conditions to beware.
     Heavy wind and rain remain undefeated bullies in the tent arena. Rain can act as a particularly wet blanket at an outdoor event. “You can position a tent’s gutters to whisk away the water,” says Gregory G. Sullivan, owner and producer of Boston-based Echelon Events Inc., “but eventually water will settle in the lowest spot, which can very possibly be inside your tent.”
      It’s a good idea to stay away from areas and/or seasons notorious for their rainstorms. Several planners and suppliers offer the hard advice of booking a back-up indoor venue, no matter when and where the event is held. It can be costly, certainly, but so can the fallout when an event has no dry place to go.