Golden Gate Bridge: 75th Anniversary Celebration

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June 19, 2012

Seventy-fifth birthdays are always occasions for celebration. But when hundreds of thousands of people turn out to help an international icon like the Golden Gate Bridge mark that milestone, event planning can get complicated. That's when San Francisco's Foghorn Creative steps in. Specializing in creating one-of-a-kind immersive environments, installations and presentations, Foghorn Creative handled event production for the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary festivities on May 27.

"We know how to put together unique teams for unique projects," says Foghorn creative director Don Richards. "Ten years ago we organized the opening of Crissy Field for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, so we have a lot of experience with working with the broad range of entities necessary to pull off this kind of event in San Francisco."

With a mandate from the Conservancy that the celebration be "dramatic, authentic and memorable," Foghorn began creative development last September. The company worked with the Conservancy to develop community-centered daytime celebrations held along the waterfront, with performances by local bands, musicians, dancers and theater companies; a Future Fair; vintage automobile show; historic artifacts exhibit and other historical and tribute components. The event was funded by corporate and private partners.

The nighttime festivities culminated in a world-class sound, light and fireworks spectacular over the bridge, on the bridge and across the water that lit up San Francisco Bay like the candles on a giant birthday cake. Throughout the planning process the environmental impact of the event was given careful consideration since the bay is one of the world's best-protected natural environments.

The celebrations came off flawlessly. "From the beginning we felt that the event, like the bridge, was a work of art, not just a big production," says Richards. "The lighting effects defined the whole bay as a big theater space, every song in the soundtrack had a relationship to the city or the bridge, and the fireworks were one-of-a-kind." Rick Voigt served as Foghorn's executive producer for the festivities.

The production required extensive coordination between Foghorn Creative, Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, Lightswitch and Syncrolite. Five barges floated on the bay: Three pyro barges were stationed in front of the bridge, one pyro barge and one lighting barge began under the bridge and ultimately moved some two miles up the bay. A large amount of pyro and lighting was also mounted on the bridge itself with rigging performed while the bridge was in use by vehicles and pedestrians. Traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge was only stopped during the fireworks display itself.

The festivities featured over 20,000 fireworks effects and three tons of firepower; installation required a team of 75 working for more than two weeks on both the barges and the bridge.

"Incredible coordination was required to close lanes on the bridge to crane the generators onto the bridge," he notes. "We had to place the lights and generators so that the west sidewalk could still be open to bicycle traffic. Lights on the barge had to be craned on, as well as generators and a nine-foot mirror ball, which made the entire bay a sparkling ballroom."

With its offices located in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, Foghorn Creative was consciously named for the span's signature foghorns, which the company managed to work into the show.

"We incorporated a segment where everything went dark and there were foghorns on the soundtrack and live on the bridge," Don Richards recalls. "People went nuts--the bridge spoke!"

How fitting for the star of the anniversary celebration to have the last word.

Photo by Charlotte Fiorito

Photo by Ben Fash

Photo by Toni Gentilli

Photo by Mason Cummings

Photo by Mason Cummings

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