Creative Corner with Tionna Van Gundy of Fueled Events
Our current environment and the challenges facing our industry have forced many of us to rethink our business operations. We've seen many inspiring stories from our members who have "pivoted" over the past two months. Some of these stories come from planners who have used their creative production expertise to imagine new events, and some of these stories come from suppliers who have changed the way they do business to showcase what they have to offer!
We decided to sit down with these individuals to discover what’s in everyone’s creative corner. This post we are sitting down with Tionna Van Gundy of Fueled Events and her creation of CHI-Together.
Patrick Crosson: Tell us about these drive-in events. What were they?
Tionna Van Gundy: Fueled Events started a drive-in event series called: CHI-Together. The essence of these drive-in events were to provide COVID-compliant, socially safe entertainment experiences to Chicagoans while also providing working opportunities for our team during a major downturn in the events industry. We were able to not only create working opportunities for our team but we created over 80+ jobs for 3 months and operated the largest live event in Chicago during a global pandemic!
The series ran Wednesday through Sunday, 5 nights a week for 10 full weeks. Each night guests pulled into an elevated drive-in experience where they were greeted with fun giveaways (beverages, snacks, popsockets, books, etc.) then listened to live music played by local musicians (bands, DJ's vocalist) for the first 90-minutes prior to the movie screening. During the 90-minute pre-show we passed out glow sticks for the kids, had on-going prizes and games in addition to free popcorn for each group. Food truck's rotated on site nightly to elevate the urbanized drive-in feel!
Patrick: I saw so much media attention covering these events! How did you think of this? And HOW did you pull it off?!
Tionna: We had no idea the media would give us so much attention. It was a great way to help us get the word out about our events which was great! The idea stemmed from the lack of work in the event industry.... As the owner of two small event planning firms, it was terrifying to see what was supposed to be our best year yet in business... turned to nearly nothing in the blink of an eye once COVID hit. I wanted to keep our team working, our planning company moving forward and to provide an outlet for Chicagoans to get together in a socially safe way... so we got creative and came up with the drive-in! It took MANY phone calls and emails to get the approvals we needed to make this all happen. Because the city didn't have the rules in place for such events to happen during a pandemic, we actually created the framework for live events to take place in the city and those practices are still being held to now. It's an honor to say that we helped create and maintain socially safe practices for the city!
Patrick: This is no small feat and typically... you handle weddings right? With weddings on hold, this seemed like such a great way to bring the community together still, is that how you thought of this as well?
Tionna: Yes, I own both Wedicity (a wedding planning firm) and Fueled Events (a corporate events planning company) and our business basically was put on pause! With so many events cancelled across the city, it was so nice to bring people together SAFELY. We named the drive-in series "CHI-Together" because it was about coming together in a time of uncertainty as a community & enjoying Chicago, enjoying each other, enjoying live entertainment and also giving back to the community. Our community partner was the Greater Chicago Food Depository and we were able to donate over 3500 LBS of food back to the organization.
Patrick: What was your favorite story across the weeks of holding these events?
Tionna: My favorite part of all of this was seeing my team in action. This was a major pivot on my part but my team jumped all in with me and supported this crazy idea I had. They were so involved in making this event a success and did everything possible to make it an exceptional experience for all of our guests. The feedback we received from the events was amazing. Families and groups really appreciated having a safe space to feel some sense of "normal" after months of being cooped up in the house! Not only was it a sense of normalcy but we worked hard to ensure the experience was so much more than just a drive in. I love that guests "got" it.... they came out early, jammed out with us during pre-show, donated canned goods to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, entered into contests and won prizes then had the nostalgic experience of a drive-in in the heart of Chicago with a perfect city skyline backdrop.
My other favorite part is simply... that we were able to provide this experience for our city and that Chicagoans loved it!
Patrick: So you're done... what's next?! What fun ideas are you coming up with for Wedicity and the Chicago area?
Tionna: "What's next?!" --- The famous question! I have been asking myself this too! We are still producing some drive-in events for private clients however are still working on what is truly next for us. Our team is working hard on what the next Chapter for both Wedicity and Fueled Events is... we are here to stay - COVID is NOT going to hold us back!!!
Thank you so much to Tionna for sharing her creative corner story! If you’d like to learn more about Wedicity or Fueled Events, feel free to contact Tionna at Tionna@wed-icity.com.
Tionna M. Van Gundy
CEO | Founder | Wedding & Event Planner