Managing Portland and Seattle Weather when Planning Outdoor Events

rain doesn't have to ruin your next portland event!

Though most people recognize Seattle as a rainy city, Portland is pretty much tied for wetness.  The trade off for beautiful coastline and such vibrant green scenery is that we get to experience moderate rainfall for roughly 70% of the year.  Fortunately, if you were born and raised in this climate, you are quite used to occasional sprinkle, and it should not be a reason to forgo celebration!

Let’s take a look at some super easy ways to prevent a rain cloud from ruining your next Portland/Seattle Event.

Umbrella Bin

Does your event take place partially, or entirely outside? Prepare ahead of time by setting up a few umbrella bins. You can buy sleek umbrella bins off of Amazon or other online retailers for reasonable prices.  If you go this route, try and find a bin that matches your decor. Stock these puppies full of cheap large umbrellas. If it rains, your guests can simply grab one and share it among a few other attendees.  If you are worried about the bins being an eyesore, just tuck them in a back room or out of sight until you are sure rain is imminent.

Rental Tents

A more robust solution is to erect large tents for your event. Rental tents come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most full size tents start at 10′ x 20′ and can grow to pretty much as large as you could possibly need.  With increase in size comes increase in cost and setup time. Tents over 30′ x 60′ in size will require more than three hours to setup and will typically need to be setup at least a day in advance. While tents can be expensive, they are incredibly effective at creating enclosed, rain-safe places, and can add an awesome decor element to your event. Just check out some of the awesome structures being built by Amazing Tent Company.

Rental Canopies

A more cost effective route than full tenting is to use 10′ x 10′ canopies. Many rental companies offer industry grade rental canopies for $100-$200. These canopies won’t provide a ton of cover for all your guests, but can be used strategically to cover other service partners you might have at your corporate event. Do you have a henna tattoo station? Cover it with a canopy. Do you have a catered buffet line? Cover it with two canopies. Do you have a beverage station? Canopy. It’s a quick, cost mindful way to keep your vendors happy and your services clear of water.

Outdoor Heater Rentals

Here is one that people don’t consider very often. Sometimes rain is not always the villain. When Portland and Seattle aren’t wet, sometimes they can be just downright cold. Consider renting a couple outdoor heaters for use by guest tables, in tents, or on the way into indoor sections of your venue. Rental heaters run off of butane or propane which can be supplied by your event rental company.  Propane from a single tank will run for 2-3 hours if the heater is on full blast the entire time. The rental of your heater generally will come with one tank, with additional tanks costing anywhere from $50-$200 depending on the size of the tank and the particular company you are renting from. Check with your rental company that they will handle the setup, fuel switching, and operation of these heaters. If you aren’t employing the company to stay onsite during the event, make sure you work with your event coordinator to insure that the heaters are monitored and refueled when necessary by their event team.

Indoor/Outdoor Venues

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to proactively protect your event against the elements is in your venue choice. Look for venues that have equal or complimentary space both indoors and outdoors. This way, should it start raining, it will be natural for your event guests to shift their way indoors to enjoy other aspects of the celebration.  Talk to your venue partner ahead of time to determine what areas are usable and if they have additional areas you can use in the case of rain.

Contingency Event Plans

While some of these ideas are great, it’s not always practical to rent a giant tent when you don’t know whether it’s going to rain or not. Work with your Seattle or Portland Event Partners ahead of time to come up with alternatives for space, activities, and more.  Your event rental person might be kind enough to load an extra tent on the truck for a small fee, but not charge you the full price unless it needs to be used. Work with your Seattle or Portland Bounce House Rental provider to come up with some backup indoor activities that can be switched to at the last minute. Event Planning, much like project management, is all about identifying risks and coming up with mitigation plans to avoid them or minimize the impact should they occur.

As a native Portlandian, a little rain never scared me, but not everyone attending events in Portland and Seattle share that same sentiment. What are your tactics for avoiding the rain and maintaining event attendee satisfaction?


The Corporate “Company” Picnic Evolution

Company Picnics are evolving

“Company Picnics” are fully recognized events in the United States. If you tell someone you are having a company picnic this weekend, they would rightly assume that you and your coworker’s families would be gathering at a location together to socialize, consume food and beverage, and typically enjoy some type of entertainment. The evolution of the company picnic, what it started as, what it became, and what it might be in the future is where Portland and Seattle corporations should be looking as they pursue new employee engagements and events.

The word picnic itself first originated in 1692 in print. It wouldn’t be for nearly 100 more years, in 1789, when picnics would manifest in their modern meaning. 1789 is when royal parks became public. Citizens started taking advantage of their new found rights in droves.  Family picnics became a regular activity, and the parks were regularly filled.  As history progressed, businesses more and more represented groups of people, and not individual entities. It was a natural progression for celebrations to include the workers of the companies once the businesses valued them beyond just their ability to produce labor.

Company picnics started as merely barbecue events in public parks. Food, and socializing. Later, field games would be introduced. A variety of competitive activities such has potato sack races, hula hoop competitions, and water balloon tosses. Do you think the first company established in Portland hosted picnics? The concept of the classic company picnic was immortalized in the season five finale of NBC’s hit show “The Office“.  They included all of the classic games, and even had a company wide volleyball tournament.

In the 90’s and early 2000’s, Microsoft hosted giant company picnics for their Redmond based offices. The picnics would span three days, with over 10,000 guests arriving each day. While this was certainly an impressive feat for the company to accomplish, they soon realized that this massive scale picnic didn’t make sense. With so many people there, it was unlikely for you to meet up with coworkers and bond in a different setting. Introducing your family to your manager was a long shot. Microsoft changed the format and decided to give individual groups budgets for annual events. Now, a group of anywhere from 30 to 200 people will throw an annual company picnic, either at their headquarters in Redmond, or nearby at Lake Sammamish’s own Vasa Park.

Portland’s own monster company, Nike inc.,  follows a similar format. Hosting one giant picnic on their massive on campus fields. At least with only one day of attendance, their is a higher probability of the group camaraderie and celebration. It’s likely only a matter of time until Portland company’s follow suit and devolve the traditional company picnic into smaller events.

In addition to size reductions and group consolidations, Portland companies are looking for new ways to explore celebrating traditional events. They look to rent new and exciting event equipment, bring in exciting entertainment, and new food and beverage options. Employers want to engage employees in new ways, and events are looked at as a competitive job perk. The company picnic, or some variation thereof, is no longer optional. In order to recruit great talent in competitive markets, companies need every edge they can get.

As the traditional “Company Picnic” continues to evolve, I think we will see wide ranges of new activities, and more frequent events than just the annual celebration. Our generation is blessed with greater automation, making long hours less necessary, and leaving more time for creative events. If you are looking for ideas to take your annual company picnic to the next level, make sure you check out our guide for creative company picnics.

Leave your comment below to let us know what you think the next evolution of company picnics might be!


8 Company Picnic Ideas for Oregon

Check out all the awesome alternatives that you can bring to your Portland Company Picnic.

It’s April, and we are less than three months away from the hottest summer months for Portland and Seattle. If you aren’t knee deep in planning your summer corporate and non-profit special events yet, we’ve got a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Check out these 8 ideas below, and add your own in the comments section!

    • Forget a Picnic, let’s go on a Cruise! – Why do throw a company picnic at all? Mix it up and do something completely different. If your group isn’t too large, booking a cruise can be a ton of fun! Cruise ships can have nearly all the normal attractions of a regular company picnic, such as food, drinks, and dancing, with the added benefit of some spectacular views and a new experience. They can also be quite cost effective, while having the feel of being more luxurious. Reach out to a local Portland Curise company to see what kind of potential your event could have. Bonus: much of the entertainment equipment you would rent for a company picnic you can put on a boat. Work with your local Portland Event Rental company to see what options you may have.
    • Put Together a Crazy Wipe-Out-Esque Obstacle Course – Have you ever seen the television show Wipe Out on ABC? The basic idea is that contestants make their way through a very difficult obstacle course and try to reach the finish. Along the way, they have some truly spectacular “wipe outs” and some never finish. By putting together a string of inflatables and other obstacle course rentals, you can make your very own Wipe Out obstacle course. Start with the Boulder Dash, Lagoon of Doom, and some Tires, and build from there. Work with your coworkers to come up with unique ideas. Bonus: Offer prizes for whoever can finish the fastest, complete the course with the most flair, or can perform the most spectacular wipe-out!
    • Invite some Truly Stunning Entertainers – If you’ve done the same thing for your company picnic year after year, consider hiring some outside entertainment to spice up the event. Booking Bands, Magicians, Comedians, and Hypnotists are all crowd favorites. Picking a unique type of entertainment year to year can keep your event interesting and new for at least a decade.  If you are working with an Event Coordinator, make sure you ask them if they have access to any special kind of entertainers, or recommendations for your Portland event.
    • Have a Chili Cook Off or Similar Culinary Focused Event – If you’ve done the same Barbecue catering company every year, maybe it’s time to mix it up. Organize a catering company to bring side dishes, appetizers, drinks, and desserts.  For the main dish, host an old fashioned chili cook off. Have all of your guests bring a large pot of their famous family recipe. Have all of the attendees do a sampling and vote on their favorite chili. Give out prize to the best chili in attendance!
    • Make it a Giant Water War – There are so many great water rental options in Portland.  From dunk tanks, water balloon launchers, water slides, slip n’ slides, and more.  If you are confident that your event is going to land on a hot Oregon summer day, perhaps getting your guests wet is the way to go.   Incorporate traditional picnic games like water balloon toss and prizes to keep things competitive. Sometimes the best way to heat things up is to cool off!
    • Create a Unique Theme – Ok, we admit it, Pirates, Western, and Circus are old. They’ve all been done thousands of times. Mix your Portland Corporate picnic up with some new and unique themes (preferably ones that Portlandians are totally into).  To really get your theme going, throw a costume contest with some sweet rewards to go along with it. Here are a couple unique theme ideas if you need a push start,
        • Brewery Themed Event – Empty Kegs everywhere, Take-home pint glasses with the company’s name and picnic year on them, a sweet bar setup with a ton of local beer choices, An on-site beer brewing demonstration, Hops plants brought in for decor. There is so much you could do with this theme.
        • Renewables Themed Event – The environment is important, why not throw an event that celebrates that! Make outdoor furniture such as tables and chairs out of recycled pallets. Highlight ways that your guests can save energy and recycle. Make an arts and crafts station that uses only recycled materials. Give out Swag that saves energy, such as LED bulbs, Outlet Insulators, and Water regulators. Getting your attendees excited about a cause can be a lot of fun. As a bonus, you can hopefully start some ongoing conversations around the office, and get your employees participating in worthy activities.
        • Steampunk Themed Event – As Wikipedia puts it, Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Basically you get some awesome decor that looks like the future melded with the early 1900’s. Portland is even hosting a Steampunk conference this year, called GearCon, so it is likely that at least some of your employees have heard about this cool theme. Get together with a reputable Portland decor company, and let your imagination run wild.
    • Throw a Raffle – Free stuff is always a fantastic way to boost attendance. We have one Event Partner that has their entire event based around a raffle! They buy about $20,000 worth of prizes, and raffle them off to their employees. Employees must be present to win! They typically have a couple of large gifts, such as flat screen TVs that they give away at the very end. Everybody likes free stuff, and even if they don’t win, they definitely get the impression that the company cares about their employees.
    • Host a Traditional Outdoor Company Picnic – Sometimes, classic is best. Great food, music, the outdoors, entertainment, and some great company is all you really need for a successful event.  Spend some time selecting the right vendors for your Oregon picnic, and you are all but guaranteed to have a hit on your hand.  If your picnic is going to be at a Portland Park, make sure you check out our guide for booking events in Portland Parks.

If you have some other fantastic ideas for turning your company picnics upside down, make sure you leave them in the comments below! You never know what new idea might turn into the next event craze!


Should I Buy or Rent a Bouncy House for my Event?

Is better to rent or buy an inflatable ride or bouncy house for my Portland or Seattle Event?

Now that it’s Spring, and Summer is just around the corner, I’m sure you’ve found yourself thinking about your upcoming Portland summer event, and what type of entertainment you are going to bring.  If you and your event team have thought about renting inflatables and bounce houses for your event, then by now you’ve likely explored the costs of renting these rides for your event.   You might be asking yourself the question, why don’t I just buy inflatables instead of renting?  Let’s take a closer look at the economics of owning a bounce house vs. renting one.

Bounce House Cost

If you are renting a bounce house in the Portland or Seattle area, you can expect most basic bounce houses to cost at least $200 to rent. With staff, delivery, and tax, this amount can quickly reach $500 to $1000 dollars for a corporate event.  Buying a commercial grade bounce house will cost you at least $2000 brand new. If you can use it for multiple events a year, you might find that you can make up the difference in cost fairly quickly. However, you will not have the option of variety, and will not be able to match your inflatables to your event theme. Additionally, your in-house event team will need to handle the setup, cleanup, and staffing of the bounce house unit.  Larger, more impressive units, such as inflatable slides or obstacle courses typically start around $4,000 to purchase, and can be as high as $40,000 for giant complex inflatables.

Bounce House Storage

Should you choose to buy a bounce house for your Portland event, you will need to find adequete storage. The smallest bounce houses weigh in at around 200lbs, and take up a 3′ x 3′ area when stood up on end. Transporting and storing these inflatables requires a fair amount of manual effort, but a couple able-bodied adults should have no issue moving them.  Your storage space should also be dry, and not have any direct sunlight, as prolonged sun exposure can damage the bounce house vinyl, or possibly fade the coloring. If you don’t have the space to store inflatables, renting a storage unit is an option, but then your cost will also go up accordingly. If you go the rental route, your Portland bounce house provider will likely already have a safe, clean, storage space where they keep the rides between events.

Bounce House Maintenance

A necessary aspect of owning anything is needing to maintain it. The laws of entropy do not allow us to avoid this necessary part of ownership. Inflatables need to be regularly cleaned and dried after use.  After as little as 25 hours of regular use, seams can tear and baffles can rip. While some of these problems can be fixed easily with a patch, if there is a larger hole, you will need someone with experience sewing large quantities of vinyl.  Alternatively, you can ship the bounce house unit back to the manufacturer to have the issues resolved.  Rental companies have regular systems in place to clean, fix, and generally maintain their inventory of inflatable rides.  Some companies even employ vinyl engineers for in-house inflatable repair.

Insurance for Inflatable Attractions

Perhaps one of the most important, but most overlooked aspects of having inflatables at your event is the need for insurance.  Are you hosting a birthday party at your house in Portland? If a kid falls on another kid and breaks his arm, do you know that you could be held responsible for the broken arm? If you are holding an event for your Portland company, are you prepared to accept the liability of having inflatables at your event?  The best way to protect yourself is to have an insurance policy that protects you or your company against these types of accidents.  Most insurance companies will also require that your inflatables are setup and inspected annually, to make sure they meet industry requirements.  As long as you pick a reputable company, they should have insurance and should be able to add you or your company as an additional insured, meaning their policy will also cover your company in the case of an accident. Equally important to the insurance, is the active prevention of accidents. Established Portland event companies will have a training program for all of their ride operators, they will follow strict guidelines for how the inflatables are setup and secured, and will do everything to actively make sure the participants stay safe.

If your company or organization hosts multiple events every year, and you are capable of performing all of these critical functions, you might decide it is better for you to purchase inflatables for your own use. Over a couple years you could easily recoup the cost that would otherwise be incurred through rentals. If you only have one or two events a year, and want to maintain the ability to choose from a variety of different attractions, and never deal with any of the hassle, you are probably better off sticking to renting!  Have more questions about renting vs. buying? Leave a comment or give us a call, we’d be happy to answer them.