The day that Ben Folds came to play….The day that Ben Folds came to play…. From the Party Queen Files
A few years ago, in 2016, we received a call from a prospective client inquiring about our services to help plan her husband’s 60th birthday party. “Nothing big,” she said, “just some friends, some music and a bit of food at our home.” We scheduled a time to meet so that we could get a better sense of her vision and needs for the celebration. As we pulled into the driveway, little did we know that this would be the start of a wonderfully creative journey with an equally wonderful client.
The property in Newtown, Connecticut, was originally owned by James and Helen Brunot, early promoters and the first producers of Scrabble, the word game invented by a friend. The Brunots manufactured the game in the home’s barn, starting in the late 1940s. According to the current owners, Scrabble tiles were still popping out of the barn walls and around the garden some 70 years later.
After a lovely walk around to see the expansive fields, barns (complete with a petrified cat, we’ll get to that later), chicken coop and guest cottage, we sat down to chat. “Sure, no problem,” was my response when asked if we could design a party that resembled the infamous ones hosted by Freddie Mercury in the 80s. Well, not exactly, phew…
What they were trying to create was an atmosphere of something happening at every turn and total enjoyment for their family and friends. The ‘nothing big’ was going to include 100 guests camping out overnight, an aerialist in the tent, line dancing with an instructor, a DJ, an illusionary arts performance, glow-in-the-dark hula hoop dancers, dragon ice cream, a ghost story teller by the fire pit and plenty of food and drinks.
At some point in the planning process, we received a call from the client asking about adding a performance by the singer songwriter, Ben Folds. She and her son really enjoyed his music and had contacted ‘his people’. They had been optimistic since Ben Folds is ‘Capable of Anything’ (the title to one of his songs) but unfortunately, their request was denied.
Remember the petrified cat in the barn? Well, it was in the barn when the property was purchased and our clients believed that it brought them good luck, it was their special talisman. The cat must have been sending out good vibes that day, because it just so happened that at that very moment, the band leader’s manager was having lunch with Ben Folds in Nashville. Within 10 minutes time, we had a tentative hold on Ben Folds. However, after a few back and forth conversations, our client decided to wait on Ben Folds until her 60th birthday celebration the following year.
The birthday celebration was a huge success and it was only a short time later that we started a conversation about booking Ben Folds for the following year. Do you know the saying, ‘lighting only strikes once’? Well, that was the case in this situation. The contacts changed and it seemed like now, there were layer upon layer of ‘people’ between us and Ben Folds. Weeks turned into months, the client’s 60th came and went, but we continued the pursuit of the elusive Ben Folds.
Fast forward to the summer of 2018. Our son, a dockmaster in Noank, Connecticut, introduced us to an entertainment attorney who docked his boat at the marina. As we chatted, we casually mentioned the ‘had him, didn’t have him’ experience with Ben Folds. I felt like we were channeling the cat talisman again, because his first response was, “of course I know his people.”
From that day on and for the next nine months, we planned, negotiated, organized, discussed, and coordinated the logistics to bring Ben Folds to the client’s home for a private concert in their barn, for 100 of their nearest and dearest. When the contract was finally signed, the Party King commented, “I feel like I just birthed a baby.” Well, not really, but you get the drift. When we called our client, she was so ecstatic that we could feel the excitement jump out right through the phone!!!
“We can just do a pot-luck dinner,” our client chimed in when asked what she wanted to do for the long-awaited concert. She was so overwhelmed with the prospect of Ben Folds coming to her home, that not much else mattered. I gently suggested that having 100 guests bringing assorted casserole dishes might not be the best plan and that she needed to trust that we would come up with a great event plan.
The concert was going to take place in the large barn behind the house. It was actually more of a storage garage for their vintage vehicles, with high ceilings and windows allowing natural light to shine in. The guest house was going to be converted into the ‘Green Room’ and the barn transformed into a lounge atmosphere, complete with staging for the piano and performer. My creative juices were flowing.
Of course, no event can be successful without being able to partner with fantabulous vendors. We got to work putting together an ‘A-Team’ of vendors to handle the catering, tenting, photography, lighting, furniture, bar, restroom and rentals. It was truly a collaborative effort and the clients were thrilled with the outcome.
The day arrived that Ben Folds came to play. He exceeded the clients’ expectations, even playing a bit longer than initially scheduled. Certainly, an experience that will last for years to come in the memories of the clients and their guests.
Simply, this is why we do what we do.
Event Design, Décor, Coordination and Management: Amazing Celebrations & Events, Glastonbury, CT and Boston, MA
Event Production: Zaphod Productions, LLC, Orlando, FL
Event Photography: Kate Lauren Studios, Avon, CT
Furniture Rentals: AFR Furniture, Rocky Hill, CT
Bar and Décor Rentals: Averi Jade, New Hartford, CT
Lighting: CJC Lighting, Springfield, MA
Tenting: Tents Unlimited, Torrington, CT
Catering: Christie Caters, New Hartford, CT
Catering: Red Diamond Pizza Truck, Shelton, CT
Rest Room Trailer: Live Earth, Rehoboth, MA
Catering Rentals: Party Rentals Ltd., Boston, MA