Thursday, October 26, 2017

Procurement: Behind the Scenes of the October 6 Bicentennial Celebration

On October 6, 1817, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison attended the ceremonial placing of UVA’s first cornerstone. On October 6, 2017, a date chosen to commemorate the placing of the cornerstone, 20,000 students and alumni attended the launch celebration of UVA’s Bicentennial.

The crowd enjoyed performances by Leslie Odom Jr., Andra Day, and the Goo Goo Dolls, were wowed by a re-enactment of the Rotunda fire of 1895 (achieved via digital mapping technology) and listened to words from Katie Couric, Rita Dove, and Ralph Sampson. A partnership with University Arts, the event featured over 800 student and faculty performers. From start to finish, the kickoff celebration was packed with talent and amazing acts.
Don't worry, this time it's a virtual fire.

It was a monumental event celebrating an incredible 200-year history. What does it take to pull together a sweeping event like this, to bring in big-names and dazzling effects, to arrange for staging and sound and lighting and seating and all of the other myriad details?

First of all, says Jody Kielbasa, UVA’s Vice Provost for the Arts and “Producing Director” of the evening’s events, it takes a massive team pulling together: the Bicentennial Staff, Facilities, Safety & Emergency Preparedness, University Police, the Office of Special Events, just to name a few.

Also working behind the scenes to orchestrate a great event? Procurement & Supplier Diversity Services, namely in the form of the dedicated service of Kevin Crabtree, Senior Buyer.

“Kevin has countless hours invested in this event,” said Kielbasa.

“Many times, I’d call him on my way in to work, clarifying details, seeking his advice, adjusting plans. He was involved with the celebration every inch of the way.”

Crabtree’s responsibility was to negotiate and purchase everything from effects such as the Rotunda “fire” to video screens and staging, to the entire slate of over 800 performers (this includes managing all of their particular needs, including maintaining the correct temperature for the dancers to perform and handling all the rider requirements for the big-name talent).

The Martha Graham Dance Company was just one of the many
performances brought in for the kickoff event.

“Supporting the purchasing needs for this event for the past year has been one of the most challenging projects that I have been involved in,” said Crabtree.

“For the year leading up to the celebration, we were continually negotiating contracts and resolving contractual issues. There were so many moving parts and everything changed as we progressed. With every tweak we made, there was a waterfall effect,” he said.

An example of that waterfall effect is the addition of extra screens on stage. It seems simple, but that addition changed the allotted setup/breakdown time on the Lawn, and impacted the budgeted technician hours, the rehearsal time, and even meals to be provided to the technicians.

“It was a continual cascading of negotiations on every decision we modified,” said Crabtree.

And those modifications were frequent, said Kielbasa, due to the size and scope of the project.

“There were so many unknowns,” he said.

“A year out, we had to develop a budget and look down the road and try to anticipate all the challenges that might arise. We were working with two sound stages, hundreds and hundreds of performers, and two site locations, the Lawn and the John Paul Jones Arena as a rain site,” he added.

With all of the incredible complexity of the event, Kielbasa says Procurement’s help was invaluable.

“There is no way we could’ve done this without them. Their work was absolutely necessary. They helped us with challenging negotiations with our vendors and made sure we stayed reasonably in budget. They were with us the entire way.”

For Crabtree’s part, he was happy to be a part of the process, but also relieved that the initial event has come and gone with success. He offered this advice to anyone else on Grounds planning purchases:

“Get Procurement involved early in the process. We can provide easier paths to solutions that we might not have if we’re pulled in later in the process.”

See photos of the Bicentennial Launch Celebration

Read more about the Bicentennial Launch Celebration

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