Starry Nights is the event that powers Shelby Farms Park and Shelby Farms Greenline, and we’d like to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what powers Starry Nights!
Starry Nights is hands down the largest scale and longest running event at Shelby Farms Park, and putting an event of this scale together takes a lot of planning and a lot of teamwork! This year, Shelby Farms Park Conservancy partnered up with ProductionOne, which is a locally owned and operated business that provides audio, video, lighting and staging for events, concerts and special events of all sizes. This talented team at ProductionOne is responsible for the creation, production and installation of Starry Nights, and we want to share some of their history and hard work with you! We recently talked with ProductionOne’s CEO and Founder, Kiley Butler, to learn more about his connections to Shelby Farms Park and the pandemic pivot his company took that led to their role with Starry Nights!
Tell us a little bit about ProductionOne.
Our business started about 20 years ago as a nonprofit. I got a call from a church that needed some help organizing camps and conferences for teenagers and quickly discovered if you're a nonprofit and want to do your own events, then you'd better own your own gear. So, I bought two projectors and two screens the next day, and that was the start of ProductionOne.
Our mission started, and has always been, to help others achieve their vision for their event. To this day, seventy-five percent of our clients are nonprofit and government organizations. We used to be one so we know the importance of creating a big bang on a budget. We try to not be a production company that tells you how you’re going to do your event. We want to be a partner with the client and help them communicate their message to their audience. It’s not about us. It’s about serving the client.
We are a one stop shop that can offer audio, video, lighting, staging, cameras, and streaming; with ProductionOne your event can be a turn-key experience.
Besides working with us at Shelby Farms Park, who are some of your other clients?
We have worked with a lot of local businesses including Memphis Zoo, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis Area Association of Realtors, the Halloran Centre and Bartlett Performing Arts Center. We’ve been on the road with artists including Alison Krauss and Kirk Whalum.
How did the pandemic impact your business?
The majority of our business was meetings, conferences, concerts and other similar events, so all of those events were canceled or postponed when the pandemic hit.
We weren’t doing many events other than the Park’s drive-in movie nights. Those events really helped keep us alive during the summer.
In the early spring we received a call from the team at the Park to see if we were interested in producing Starry Nights. We’ve been involved with Starry Nights doing some small displays and laser elements for around nine years, but certainly not the whole show.
Again our main focus was concerts and meetings. We had little experience in specialty events. And, not an event to the scale of Starry Nights. But, because we are creative and motivated, we were able to pivot our concert business to specialty events.
Starry Nights is a huge event for Memphis; it gives so much to Memphis. But this year, it’s given more than people realize. It helped keep our company alive and it made a difference to a lot of people.
Were there any big pivot points as you worked on Starry Nights?
Starry Nights was scheduled to open on Friday, November 27 and my team had been working day and night to get ready. And, we were almost ready. Then, with less than two weeks before the opening night, a big storm came through overnight and really did some damage to the displays. Over half of show’s displays were torn down from the wind and two of our larger displays - the 35 foot ribbon tree on the Visitor Center lawn and the 25 foot tower of presents - were both toppled.
We needed some extra help and we needed it quick. So, I called a crew of Memphis-based concert stage hands who were all without work as a result of the pandemic. No concerts means no need for stage hands. So we brought this local group in and they got to work. They helped restore all the displays and the show opened on time and intact on Friday night.
Starry Nights gives so much to Memphis and this year it’s given more than holiday cheer as it helped my business and also helped many other people who were in need of work. This event has been a blessing to people and been a blessing for people at the same time.
What are some of your favorite pieces of Starry Nights?
I love the Frosty’s Pinball game as it’s a nod to the old Rolling Balls display. I also love the animated Floating Forrest on Pine Lake. I have a personal favorite and connection to another piece, too. Twenty-two years ago, I asked my wife to marry me right under the large oak tree right at the Starry Nights entry arch. That tree always looks like it’s bursting with life and now it just bursts with colors.
Any last words about Starry Nights at Shelby Farms Park?
I’ve loved Shelby Farms Park for a long time and creating this year’s Starry Nights has been a joy. The ProductionOne team has a blast creating something that is so beautiful. We want Starry Nights to bring smiles and a little magic back in people’s lives.
To learn more about ProductionOne, click here.
To learn more about Starry Nights and to purchase tickets, click here.
Work is being done by MLG&W near the Walnut Grove bridge at the Wolf River in the Lucius Burch Natural Area. Pleaes be alert in this area.