Pictured above: The lights at Tinsel Trail in Big Spring Park East almost have a magical quality to them. The Community Events Team help make this event and many others throughout the Rocket City shine brightly.
The morning after a stormy night, they tromp across the wet grounds at Big Spring Park, weaving through the trees at Tinsel Trail. They are there to inspect the scene, repair any damage, bring back to vertical any toppled trees.
Just the night before, they were busy setting up for the Huntsville Christmas Parade. Later on this day, they’ll fend off a chilly wind to set up tables, microphones and speakers in a pavilion at Lakewood Elementary for Mayor Tommy Battle and Council Member Devyn Keith to visit with students.
It’s a typically busy day for a department that has no typical day.
The Community Events team, which works under the broad umbrella of the City of Huntsville’s Parks and Recreation Department, is a collection of what Battle calls “unsung heroes” who implement myriad events across the city.
“If something happens at one of our city sites or facilities, we have our hands on it,” says Community Services Superintendent David Delisser, who oversees the team of half-dozen full-time employees and several part-timers as needed.
“We want to find out how we can help and kind of guide them through the process. Everything from getting licenses to the proper insurance.”
The Community Events team worked with more than 75 groups and organizations in 2016, a jump of 65 percent from 2015, and performed some 72,500 hours of service units, up 71 percent. In turn, revenue generated in utilizing the group’s services also grew.
“It’s a year-‘round endeavor,” Delisser says. “It used to be seasonal, but now it seems it never ends.”
It might be easier to list Huntsville organizations that did not partner with the Community Events team in 2016 than to list those that did.
Its most involved partnerships are with Arts Huntsville, particularly in supporting the Concerts in the Park during the summer and Panoply in the spring, and Downtown Huntsville Inc., for its many different events.
Community Events also works closely with the Huntsville Sports Commission, which administers and hosts numerous sporting events, including the annual state high school soccer tournament, and the Huntsville Track Club, which hosts two major road races in downtown.
And any time Mayor Battle is making any sort of speech requiring a public address system, the Community Events team is there to handle the electronics.
Though Delisser likes to say “we follow the Mayor around,” Battle says, “No, it’s just the opposite. I feel like I’m following them around.”
Those are the “regular” clients and tasks. There are many newcomers to the calendar, many others who ask for assistance.
“On a daily basis, we have two or three inquiries from people who want to do events,” Delisser says. “Depending on what they’re trying to do, we basically partner with them. If somebody comes in and wants to do a fundraiser, we want to find out how we can help and kind of guide them through the process. Everything from getting licenses to the proper insurance.”
“Our goal,” he says, “is to make everybody’s event as successful as possible.”
Just as Community Events partners with clients, there’s also synergy with other departments within the City of Huntsville. As Delisser says, “This isn’t all about us. We couldn’t be successful without other departments that I can call up and who are eager to help.”
Need a fake snowfall for a Christmas event? Delisser can call on the fire department and its hook-and-ladder truck. Need more security? The police are a phone call away. Need some decoration? There’s Landscape Management.
Community Events has a varied collection of “toys,” from sound systems to video to tables and chairs. It’s all stored at the Jaycee Building at the Fairgrounds – at the top of Delisser’s wish list is a larger, standalone facility — where the team is based.
In that building or at the Fairgrounds, Community Events hosted 64 activities in the first three quarters of 2016, ranging from a cat show to a car show, the North Alabama Woodcarvers Association to an exotic reptile exhibition.
“Huntsville prides itself on the quality-of-life events it provides for all our citizens,” Battle says. “Without those unsung heroes from Community Events who seem to have things almost magically in place everywhere we go, those events wouldn’t be nearly as successful.”