The 'A Team'
Four individuals in the park districts maintenance department are largely responsible for setting the stage for Party in the Park
When it's time to set the stage for Beaverton's biggest community party of the year, who you gonna call? The "A Team," that's who.
Among all the folks employed in Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District's maintenance department, three part-timers and one full-timer will have a month's worth of prep work for Party in the Park well in hand come Friday evening, July 27.
The event, which draws thousands of people to the Howard M. Terpenning Complex on Southwest Walker Road each year, kicks off Saturday, July 28, at 9 a.m. with the family triathlon and continues all day.
"These people are my leads. They're the ones everyone else looks to for direction," said maintenance supervisor Chris Palmer, 45, who said he'd have twice as many crew members on hand that day as he usually does to make sure everything runs smoothly.
He's counting on his first string Sarah Veith, 24, Sam Haag, 22, and Dan Dziekan, 24 to pull out all the stops by putting up signs, setting up sound systems and assembling a misting station so party-goers can get some relief from the heat if temperatures soar on event day.
"It's really just sections of hose with plant misters attached," noted Bob Wayt, THPRD's communications director. "But the kids go nutty with those."
In the next 10 days, maintenance team members will be out and about in Beaverton neighborhoods, putting up 4-by-8-foot signs promoting Party in the Park, mostly due to the creative efforts of Veith, who holds a degree in child and family studies from Portland State University.
She said she'll eventually have to leave THPRD to pursue a career as a dental hygienist, but for now, she's happy with the teamwork and outdoor atmosphere inherent in her job.
"We work hard, and we work well together," she said. "We've been together for about five years, so we know where one person leaves off and another one takes over."
Dziekan, who was an earth sciences major at Western Oregon University, considers himself the group's "Jack of all trades." He said he's been focused on logistics for the Party since the first week of July.
"It's pretty complex there are a lot of details and things that need to come together the right way for the event to come off as expected," he said. "But we're a well-oiled machine."
Most of the problems he and his team run into can be solved with the right tools. "It's all about zip ties and duct tape," Dziekan joked.
For Haag, who studied human development at Oregon State University and aims to become a teacher someday, the Party can't come soon enough.
"It's pretty rewarding when you're there and so many people are all over the complex having a great time," he said. "People just want to get out here and enjoy the activities and the weather."
Palmer, who's been with the park district for 18 years, is happy he has the right crew to depend on to make the Party all it can be. "It's my job to direct them, but the truth is, I'm really just there to support them when they need me.
"They mostly get things done themselves."
Dovetailing duties with THPRD program coordinator Lisa Novak and security manager Mike Janin, the maintenance leads "make it all happen make it come to life," said Wayt, who's looking forward to the seventh annual Party. "This is the largest event of the year for the park department in terms of the sheer number of visitors to our facility."
For his part, Palmer is "always looking for what goes right" at the Party and improving on that. Last year, for example, the A Team was setting up two performance stages at 7 a.m. This year, THPRD has hired a staging company for that duty so maintenance folks can busy themselves with other details, such as making sure irrigation is shut off so visitors don't get soaked during the K-9 demonstration and checking on more than 100 signs and banners pointing the way to the Party.
"It'll really free up our time," said Dziekan. Still, he said, he and his colleagues will be up with the roosters two Saturdays from now.
"We'll show up at 6 a.m.," noted Haag. "It'll be go time."
Veith will be most concerned that directional signs for parking, restrooms, concessions, kids' activities and a classic car show all part of this year's event are in place and helpful.
Using high-tech walkie-talkies to enhance communication, the trio plans to traverse the 92-acre complex all day long to stay on top of any holes in their logistical plan. And after 11 hours on foot, there'll still be more to do for the A Team.
"Tear-down is at 5 p.m., but we stay way after that," said Dziekan. "It's getting late, it's getting dark, and we want to get home, but we're there for the last hurrah."
Wayt, for one, is grateful for their tenacity. "I left at 11 p.m. last year and these guys and gals were still here," he said.
The maintenance crew members "really are the unsung heroes of Party in the Park," Wayt added. "Without a good set-up, there would be no fun, and no fulfillment on the part of all the folks who come here to enjoy themselves each year."
As the man in charge, Palmer said he typically gets "a little nervous" the day before the Party. But the confidence he has in his team affords him a sound night's sleep.
"You always worry about the things you don't have control over," said Palmer. "Hopefully those things are small. We enjoy what we do, and I'm really proud of these guys.
"They're really good kids."
No matter how well things come off, Wayt said dreams for the 2013 Party will begin practically as soon as the tents are folded on this year's event.
"We take a little breather, but in the fall the planning begins anew for the next one," he noted. "And when the calendar turns over to January, the whole pace accelerates."
Palmer is happy he has the A Team, along with another five or six maintenance department employees, to carry off other THPRD-produced events year-round, including concerts and theater performances in area parks and facilities.
Still, there's little argument that the Party is summertime's shining star.
"Planning, coordination and execution is what we're all about, especially for Party in the Park," Palmer said.