Who won last year’s presidential election? With all those hotly contested dimpled chads floating around somewhere, we may never really know for sure. But it’s indisputable that a clear victor in the contest was the Jessup, MD-based office of Current Events International (CEI), the official technical services provider of all nine celebratory balls and three candlelight dinners associated with the 54th presidential inauguration, plus the VP elect’s Salute to Veterans Event, the First Lady’s Salute to American Authors, and the prayer service at Washington National Cathedral.
Prayers were no doubt in order as CEI progressed through the design, management, and production of all lighting, audio, and video for these events–the balls alone, held in conjunction with the rest of the program January 18-20, drew 4,000-12,000 guests. But the company has participated in the last two presidential inaugurations, and on the "light side" it had a trusted cabinet member in Sydney Olympics veteran Bill Brennan, who spearheaded tasks that encompassed TV, architectural, decorative, and entertainment illumination in venues that included Washington Armory, Union Station (pictured), and the National Building Museum. Lighting production managers were Mark Fink, Mark Jimmyer, and Robert Yeager.
Brennan, who had worked with CEI previously, was able to consult with the inauguration committee once the tide turned conclusively in George W. Bush’s favor. "The committee members knew more about campaigns than about parties–they weren’t lighting or show people–but they all had good ideas that it was our job to interpret. In the past, CEI had separate designers for the different events, but this year I was asked to do all of them. Fortunately, I had their technical support," he recalls from Salt Lake City, UT, where he is prepping the next Olympics. "Every building we had to provide lighting for had a different look. One surprise was that Union Station, a beautiful building, has no lighting at all–the whole area is dark at night, unbelievable for a train station, so we highlighted and accented it." [LD looks at municipal lighting next month.]
Bandit Lites was the primary lighting supplier, with a homestretch assist by LD Systems, reports CEI vice president of sales Ajay Patil, point person for all inaugural events. Bandit, which got to work on January 10, devoted much of its efforts to the Presidential Inaugural Ball, held January 20 at the National Guard Armory, and the two largest associated corporate parties. Bandit Lites’ crew chiefs were Eric Shafferman, Carl King, and Jeff Wilkin, who gave the company’s dedicated special events lighting equipment, packed in six semis and transported to the Capitol from Knoxville, TN, a real workout.
The gear totals were fit more for a king than a president: More than 4,000 PAR-64s, 500 ETC Source Fours, 3,000' (914m) of truss, and 600 channels of dimming were incorporated. Tallies differ among sources as to how many Martin Professional instruments were ultimately used, but it’s safe to say a lot: 400-800 Martin MAC 500s and 600s, and a total of two dozen MAC 300s and 250s, and Roboscan Pro 918s. Also getting the vote: one Jands Echelon console and four Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® IIs. Former president George Bush talked about a thousand points of light; on his first day out, with a little help from the illumination community, his son delivered them, and more.