Here at building two, the madness of the California State Fair install is just getting underway. For Stage Nine, the State Fair was where it all began. In 2005 we were completely new to the exhibit business. Star Wars Through the Eyes of the Fan was the first of many exhibits to pass through the State Fair and later, to museums, fairs and science centers across the globe. As a company we have traveled as far as China, Canada and Mexico, but it is always important to remember our roots and where we came from. Growing up as the daughter of Troy, CEO of Stage Nine Entertainment, I’ve seen a small idea turn into a whole company. Each new exhibit brought new lessons and obstacles, yet each time we came out stronger and better equipped for the future. All these years later we have a better idea of what we’re doing, and how to properly design and install an exhibit.
With the truck backed up to the building, and the forklift ready, piece by piece this year’s Selfie exhibit is coming along. Watching the unloading of objects, as they are placed throughout the room, things can look pretty simple. However, having been along for the ride since the beginning, I know that there is so much more than meets the eye. Every placement is calculated and planned. Years ago I would watch my dad as he sat at the dining room table mapping out and planning exhibits with clay. He would spend hours with the colorful blocks, cutting and shaping until he had a poster board with a mini 3D map of what the final product would look like. As the company has grown, we have left behind the nights spent molding clay, but the planning continues to be a crucial aspect of an install. My dad calls his employees his team. There’s the design crew, the builders, those that install, those that travel, as well as countless others. They all work together to bring the vision to life. By the time the trucks roll up, a good portion of the work has already been done. My favorite part of exhibits is watching the many branches of the company come together. Before we did exhibits we still had our stores. For many years, fairs were where I watched the two come together. The warehouse and store crews come together to pull off exhibits. Some employees from the store stay as long as a month or two on the road in a new town to oversee the stores that sometimes travel along with the initial exhibit. When many people walk into an exhibit they see a final product. A new and enticing world where they can learn and explore. To me, I see a process. I see a company working together to create something that can only be made with the help of others. I see it in every install, every time I walk into the warehouse, and every time I walk into the stores. This year’s Selfie exhibit is already looking pretty cool, and has been in the works for quite some time now. Those coming to see it can expect an aesthetically pleasing walk through with photo ops in every direction. From a giant cookie, to a wave made of records, to a ball pit, it looks pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing the final product as another vision is brought to life.
The state fair has been a staple of my life for as long as I can remember. I used to run around dipping life size candy corn in glitter, decorating dollhouses, painting black walls, eating pizza, and dancing on the stage in the center of all the buildings. I spent my days at the fair grounds during install, when I was young. I walked around exhibits until I knew them like the back of my hand. I ran through the store shoving all I could into a bag I called my “stash” so I could buy it later. I rode on dollies like they were scooters. I even invented many games within the fair walls. My most famous game, meatball, involved running around trying to tag people and put them in the meatball oven. Imagine freeze tag meets capture the flag. My point is that as much as I’ve grown through the years, so have the exhibits. Much like myself, these exhibits have grown from young and wild projects to mature and thought out exhibitions. I don’t think any of us would have imagined where that one exhibit back in 2005 would take us. If you would have told me I wouldn’t be the person painting the solid color walls, my mom wouldn’t be gluing, my grandpa wouldn’t be walking around with the tool belt around his waist, i wouldn’t have believed you. Here we are though. With a team committed to the project and the journey. Sure the process has evolved, grown up so to say, but at the core it’s the same feeling it always was. There’s excitement, hustle, a little stress, and a lot of passion in the air. If I could describe the whole process in one word, it would be vision. It’s amazing to me to watch as an idea is turned into a reality. How everyone can get on board with a tiny spark and turn it into a flame. To keep up with us and our journey, stay tuned with our new blog as we give you an inside scoop on the people, places and happenings behind the exhibits. For more information you can look around our website, or check us out on Instagram or Facebook @stagenine.
This has been Sydney Carlson, brining you along on the journey.