SpeedPro, a national marketing leader in creative visual communications, has announced that SpeedPro Chicago Loop has won the company’s annual prestigious Project of the Year Award that it partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Arena Partners on for the immense immersive Dream Chicago event.
Through creative printing and graphics, SpeedPro was tasked with developing an experience for the philanthropic healthcare organization in an event that raised more than $1.7 million for St. Jude’s cause and landed SpeedPro Chicago Loop the highly-coveted title of Project of the Year in first place out of 122 SpeedPro locations.
“To think, we’ve only been in the printing business for seven years, and that this is the second time we’ve won a national award for ‘Project of the Year’ since our inception, it’s truly hard to fathom,” shared Eric Lazar, SpeedPro Chicago Loop owner. “This is a true testament to the amazing array of clients we’ve amassed and the faith they’ve placed in us to execute; we are unbelievably fortunate.”
When St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital set out to launch a new outdoor event last year, Dream Chicago was born. It became the first major Chicago event held since the pandemic had started. For St. Jude – with it being the first in a planned annual series of events – it was crucial that it was creative and striking in order to make a big impression.
Its requirements called for more than 4,000 square feet of printing, spread across a swath of Chicago’s iconic 24-acre Millennium Park. Taking place on Sunday, August 8, 2021, it accommodated over 1,200 guests, vibrantly showcasing the mission and achievements of St. Jude while offering the best in Chicago food, fashion and entertainment, including a special performance by The Temptations.
To rise to the massive endeavor, St. Jude partnered with SpeedPro Chicago Loop and studio owners Rebecca Considine and Eric Lazar.
“Our mandate was to help create a truly immersive and one-of-a-kind experience for guests,” explains Lazar. “As the first ‘Dream Chicago’ fundraiser, we knew that the graphics would be a big part of that experience – not just printing them, but installing them in coordination with other partners.”
Requiring a full ten days to produce the 4,000+ square feet of materials, the process was driven by key areas of the installation. The first: a descending staircase, with a piecemeal graphic wrap on the front of each of 30 stairs. Together it created the effect of a multi-colored carpet leading into a 100’ x 100’ tent, the hub of an immersive St. Jude “Journey” experience. The tent itself was sectioned to create hallways and rooms – telling the story of St. Jude, the vision of founder Danny Thomas and the children the hospital is dedicated to helping.
The entry room of the tent featured floor graphics, complemented by swirling light projections, adding multiple layers of spectacle to video introductions which played on jumbo screens. Next up, guests arrived at the heart of the “Journey,” a lengthy 100’ x 10’ timeline wall visually telling the history of St. Jude using a giant banner, with boards suspended from outriggers to create dimension and call out key moments.
Another striking element was an 82’ circular rotunda wall designed to make guests feel as though they were on the St. Jude campus. With transitioning lighting for day and night effects, it centered around a replica of the St. Jude Thaddeus statue donated by Danny Thomas which adorns the lobby of the Memphis-based hospital.
Along with a group of smaller tents were branded flags, banners, signs and other graphics: some to direct guests, others to support sponsors. One of the most complex elements was an auction wall which involved more than 20 boards in a unique configuration that was strung and suspended by fishing line to create a floating illusion.
With a project of this scope, SpeedPro expected the unexpected with a production of this magnitude. Working in tandem with other vendors, their install team discovered that the truss systems holding up the curved graphic and timeline walls didn’t have the desired stability to support the graphics. Complex adjustments to rigging, engineering and cutting by the install crew were required under intense time constraints. This was preceded by some eleventh hour changes on the event day, requiring last-minute print production of more than 400 square feet of graphics.
The project’s load in and setup began close to 30 hours before, mainly concentrated in a 12-hour window, posing a logistical challenge that demanded a high degree of coordination with lighting, sound and structural elements and crews. While the event itself took place during hot and humid weather, the evening brought rainstorms, which made take-down slightly more challenging. As a veteran-owned business, SpeedPro Chicago Loop brought in nearly a half-dozen veterans to augment the team and support production, installation and takedown, going on to hire one of the vets into a full-time position.
“Beyond the success of ‘Dream Chicago’ and the monies raised for St. Jude, this event had special meaning for SpeedPro Chicago Loop and from it a separate story of hope,” Lazar also shared exclusively to Reel Chicago. “As we needed to scale our team to produce and install the graphics, we turned to hiring unemployed and underemployed military veterans to fill the gap. If we could have brought all of them on full-time, we would, but we did get one of them to join our team. Although he had no previous printing or installation experience, he has proved himself an incredible asset and is now a valued member of SpeedPro Chicago Loop. This reinforced our belief, ‘hire for character, train for skill.’”
A success by any measure, the inaugural Dream Chicago raised more than $1.7 million for St. Jude, with the second annual event planned for this year on October 1, 2022. SpeedPro Chicago Loop is again engaged as the printing partner, with co-owner Rebecca Considine commenting, “We are proud to have risen to the initial challenges of this huge event last year, and look forward to bringing our experience to the next one in little more than five months.”