DENVER, CO - Global lighting and visual design firm, Lightswitch, has designed and executed Christmas at Gaylord Rockies from the very beginning; working to install the attraction’s inaugural exhibit while the property was still under construction in 2018.
Principal Warren K. Kong has been with Lightswitch since 2008 and with Gaylord for two decades. “The first year presented its challenges,” says Kong. ‘We came in three weeks before the property opened. Because it was still under construction, we had to work around other schedules and on a compressed timeline.”
Kong states one of the main mandates of the attraction in year one was to drive awareness that the hotel was there. “With the property being so young, the trees weren’t mature so we didn’t have much to work with as far as landscaping.” To overcome this, Kong filled the entire landscape area with over 300 10’ and 15’ LED trees.
Kong commends the Gaylord executive management and owners’ long-term commitment to provide entertainment to the community. The property underwent a huge infrastructure project to provide power and concrete footers for the trees and has focused on building bigger and more engaging events for locals every year.
“One of our hallmarks,” says Kong of Lightswitch, “is to develop a good relationship with a local production company, get a good team that wants to come back year after year.”
Clearwing opened its Denver shop in the summer of 2017 and a year later they were tasked with supplying equipment, crew, and support to the wildly ambitious Gaylord project. Todd Stokes, Director of Production at Clearwing’s Denver office, has been involved with the Gaylord project since year one. “Lightswitch reaches out to us with the design and concept and we hit the ground running from that point,” says Stokes.
First order of business for Stokes is putting together the Clearwing team. Much of the crew for the Gaylord project is local and has worked on previous projects at the property. Behind the scenes engineering like cable lists and electrical load calculations comes next. “And given the strong winds in the area, a lot of rigging math,” says Stokes.
“This kind of project is really unprecedented in Colorado so we have to be adaptable and be ready to pivot or change course if needed,” says Stokes. “So collaboration is key. Being able to think on our feet is something we’re pretty great at and something we’re known for in the industry.”
The entire live event and attraction industry knows a lot about being adaptable and ready to pivot since the Covid-19 pandemic brought live events to a screeching halt nearly a year ago. Concerts dried up, corporate gatherings were canceled, and staff and technicians with decades of experience were left out of work.
Clearwing Productions was not immune and has been hit hard by the near collapse of the live events industry. Christmas at Gaylord Rockies greatly contributed to the company’s sustainability and also put nearly 30 stage professionals back to work, most of them Denver locals. “A lot of people are out of work. Venues are shut down,” says Stokes. “Coloradoans in general have been affected by lockdowns and Christmas at Gaylord Rockies allowed locals to experience something together on a large scale after months of isolation.”
This year, Kong’s design for Christmas at Gaylord Rockies also embraced adaptability. Kong envisioned elements that worked with and celebrated the strong winds in the area. The exhibit featured interactive windchimes, an entire landscape of windmills, a flag forest, and a giant sculpture made of 3,000 individual cut leaves attached to a wire frame. “When the wind runs through it, it’s gorgeous. The wind picks it up and it moves and you can literally see the wind move through it. It sparkles.”
Lightswitch is a collective of internationally-recognized lighting, media, and visual designers committed to changing the way people experience the world. Their dedicated team serves clients from full-service studios all over the globe, united by the core values of inspiration, detail, connection, and trust that inform everything they do. www.lightswitch.net
Clearwing Productions is one of the nation’s premier providers of pro audio, lighting, and video equipment, and production services. For over 40 years, Clearwing has provided creative services and innovative equipment for musicians, venues, sporting events, corporate gatherings, performing arts centers, and houses of worship. www.clearwing.com