The longest weekend

Not all the events I have worked on have been weddings. In fact, most of my background is in a variety of non-profit events. There is one particular event that stands out in my mind as being one of the most challenging experiences I ever had as an event manager. If I could get through this event in Winnipeg then I can do anything.

I had the opportunity to work on a first year event in Winnipeg, I arrived a few days early to help the local team execute their event. This was a huge undertaking. Hundreds of walkers walking 60km in two days for the first time, in a city I didn’t really know, this was also the first event I had ever worked with this specific event production company.

My role on event was to be the road manager which means that I traveled along the event route to deal with any problems and be the eyes and ears on the road and report back to our command centre (AKA dispatch) what was happening and alert them to any problems.

My day started around 5am as I headed out to do the preliminary route check before the participants started walking. I was suppose to check that the signage was still in place and that supplies were dropped at the right locations. The first stop of the day, I radio back to dispatch that there are funny noises coming from a port-a-potty. Turns out that there were actually people in the portable toilet having sex. I had to ask them to stop and find some place else to go. Yes, among the blue gross sanitary stuff of a portable toilet people decided that was the best place to hook up. It was an awkward conversation.

I get back in my car and figure the worst is behind me. I travel along, everything seems fine until I get past the lunch stop. I get out and walk around the site and look for the toilets that should have been dropped and they aren’t there. I call dispatch who confirms with the toilet company they were dropped and should be there and I should just look harder. It turns out that one of the toilets was pushed in to the river and had floated down stream and was stuck on a bank, I never thought of looking there. The second toilet was lit on fire and melted. If the toilet paper rolls are lit I had no idea the rest of it would melt so fast. I truly wish I was making this up.

I get through Day 1 and get ready for what I hope will be a less memorable day. Everything goes fine until the very end of the event. No one mentioned in my event book that the annual Winnipeg Pride parade would be cutting through the end of our walk route. It is impossible to stop a group of women who have walked 59km and tell them they have to wait until the floats and people in leather have passed to cross the finish line that they can literally see on the other side of the street.. So instead of risking the safety of participants, both walkers and parade goers, I stand in the middle of the road and parade with the self-appointed authority of my staff t-shirt and direct traffic. If you are holding a walkie talkie people tend to think you are in charge and they feel compelled to listen. To top off the day, I walk back to my car and find out I got a parking ticket. I guess the police didn’t feel I was an authorized vehicle after all.

With all this being said, the event happened and I don’t think anyone had an idea of all the “fun” I had while driving around the city. Some times it is better not to know.


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