By MARY ANN O’TOOLE HOLLEY
Blessings came in small, twinkling portions, but members of the Stagehands (IATSE) Local 6 were glad to get the work assembling a new straight-out-of-Vegas holiday light show soon to open at the Family Arena in St. Charles.
Some eight members of Local 6 joined with Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 members and representatives of Lot of Lights, a production created by Las Vegas-based Firefly Lights, to put together the holiday lights drive-thru event – a more than mile-long display. Tom O’Keefe, manager of booking and marketing for the Family Arena, says is unlike anything seen before in this area.
“It’s about a 16-20 minute drive-thru,” O’Keefe said. “We have a lot of things to do that haven’t been seen in the market yet. We’re using projection mapping. We’re using holograms. We’re going to make it snow in one section. It’s a lot of technology that a lot of people haven’t seen in the market yet. And we have light displays, of course. They’re large light displays – larger than you would see in a park setting. There’s not a lot things you can do safely right now, but this is something you can come do with the people you’re already socially distancing with and have a good time.”
This job, although not big enough to employ all 300 of the union’s laid-off members, is the first big job, besides the Mills Arena outdoor graduation party, that the union has been able to work since the coronavirus pandemic hit in early March.
“It’s been hard,” Local 6 member George Schuster said. “I’ve been surviving by spending as little as possible.”
Schuster said some members are surviving by taking annuities from their retirement. But that’s going to affect their pensions later on, he said.
Local 6 member T. P. McCarthy, one of those receiving a retirement annuity, said he’s glad to have the work at the Family Arena.
“I expect to be here through January,” he said, noting there will be work after the show taking down more than one million lights on the site.
Four Stagehands will remain on site when the display opens to keep things running smoothly.
‘THE WHOLE WORLD IS SHUT DOWN’
“These are bad times,” said Vince Guyott, a Local 6 member since 1987. “Even during the Great Depression, people went out one or two nights a week. Now, the whole world is shut down in terms of entertainment.”
Local 6 members work in all forms of live theater, motion picture and television production, trade shows and exhibitions, television broadcasting and concerts as well as the equipment and construction shops that support all these areas of the entertainment industry. They represent virtually all the behind-the-scenes workers in crafts ranging from motion picture animator to theater usher.
Andy Amann, a Local 6 member since 1983 worked at the Fox Theater before the shutdown.
“There’s work that pops up now and then, but I’m working at Rigazzi’s (restaurant) to fill in,” Amann said.
SNOW, LIGHTS, LASERS AND CLASSIC SCENES
The Family Arena is promising snow every night when it transforms its parking lot into a Lot of Lights Nov. 27 to Jan. 2. The spectacular holiday drive-thru show will feature lasers, holograms, projection mapping and more than a million lights.
“We’ll have multiple light tunnels. One of our tunnels is actually a laser tunnel. I think it will be fun for people,” O’Keefe said.
The display also incorporates classic holiday scenes, including a Flying Reindeer School, a Victorian Christmas, Candyland, a Winter Wonderland and many more attractions.
“We are incorporating new and unique technological elements such as lasers and holograms,” Fernando Quevedo, chief executive officer of Firefly Lights said. “This is totally original – a first for Missouri.”
“We have a long relationship with the Family Arena,” Local 6 Business Manager Michael Beckman said. “We’re excited to work with the arena and Firefly Lights on this new holiday event for the community.”
Drivers will be able to tune their car to a dedicated FM station that will air a curated holiday music playlist. All this adds up to a holiday laser and light show that has never been seen in the St. Louis area.
Tickets are $25 per vehicle.
Hours are 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 5:30 to 11 p.m., Friday through Sunday and holidays.
For a touchless ticketing experience go to Ticketmaster.com.
For more information, visit www.LotofLights.com.