PARK CITY There was a kind of exhilarated panic in the air just hours before The Lifts at the bottom of Main Street transformed into one of the hottest spots around the Sundance Film Festival.
Hollywood party guru Jeffrey Best, was standing on a platform watching as a hive of assistants moved furniture, organized displays and placed the finishing touches on his masterpiece: a two-story, heated white tent with brushed aluminum railings, plasma screens and specially-made couch covers.
The tent will be home to celebrity dinner parties and gatherings for about 10 days, but like the host of other venues that set up shop in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival, Best's creation hardly seems temporary.
"It's interesting," Best said of organizing the elaborate setting in a matter of hours. "It's as if you gave me a jigsaw puzzle and I held it in my hands and threw it in the air and you asked me to put all of the pieces together before it hits the ground."
Best who is known for organizing after-Oscar extravaganzas, parties for the Rolling Stones, and weddings for the likes of Courtney Cox and other A-listers does not take his job lightly. The events planner made technical plans of the temporary building months ago, and less than two weeks ago, a special team of contractors came to build the structure.
The tent's decorations are deliberate and distinct, down to the color of stain on the wood paneling that was hand-picked by Best, specially ordered, then wrapped and trucked into town from California. All this for a moment in time that Best says is absolutely worth it.
"We know we're not going to have the biggest band, and we're not going to have the most sponsors," Best says. "We want to have an intimate venue so when people think back on the festival, they remember something that's not so in-your-face. ... My job is to change people's perspective on what happens here."
Best partnered with Michael Baruch, CEO of Fred Segal Beauty, seven years ago in a quest to create a combination of celebrity suites where stars would come to relax and party. Since then, the temporary tent is rebuilt every year, and a handful of businesses at the base of Main Street are magically transformed into Fred Segal boutiques complimentary to the rich and famous.
Hours are poured into temporarily remodeling the spaces with paper walls, LED lights, new carpet, furniture and bars that will, in most cases, be disassembled in a matter of days. It's an expensive process rent alone is enough to make it worthwhile for a business owner who closes shop for almost two weeks but Baruch says harnessing the Sundance crowd is an important opportunity.
"My main goal is to really give back to the community who spends a lot of money with us," Baruch said. "We want a chance to capture them and say 'thank you.' We come to the festival because it captures a highly elusive audience all at the same time, on a mountain, with time to do things."
Elsewhere on Main Street, other venues hurried to get off the ground in time for a groundswell of visitors. At the Leaf Lounge, decorators added furniture, carpet and curtains in deep reds, purple and gold the signature color of the product being promoted.
At the Delta 360 lounge, project manager Adam Atkins built a new bathroom in three days, just to accommodate more people. The lounge features platforms, bars and light fixtures that aren't normally there and will disappear after the festival.
All of these changes, down to the temporary signs hung momentarily over the permanent marquis, require permits and permission from the city. This year, Park City processed about 120 temporary business permits and the city's enforcement office is out daily, making sure their codes are being followed.
Houses that host unapproved commercial activities will be busted, says Ron Ivie, the city's chief building official and fire marshal. Illicit decorations will be written up, too."Our single biggest challenge this year is not approved foam plastics," Ivie said. "We don't like that, and it isn't permitted in buildings of this temporary nature. ... It's just things like that that come up constantly, and I don't know why it doesn't get thought through before, but it doesn't."
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