The early days of the pandemic were a time of pivoting for many businesses around the world – and our team here at Bluewater was no exception. But it also forced (or offered, depending how you look back at it) many businesses the opportunity to try out something new and break out of their day-to-day operations.
For us here at Bluewater, that opportunity came in the sudden halt of live events.
At any given time of year, our team of event professionals typically create and supply creative equipment for an array of live events all across the country, like the North American International Auto Show – just one of our regular events we saw get put on hold in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But when Covid hit, suddenly all of this equipment and creative headspace that we usually have on reserve were freed up, and the shelves of our warehouse were full of lighting and immersive entertainment equipment just asking to be used. And then suddenly there was a lightbulb of an idea… actually, it was an older idea that the creative team at Bluewater had put on the backburner for while at that point.
For years, the creative team at Bluewater had the idea of doing our very own themed entertainment event, but had never pulled the trigger, since the majority of our equipment was always out on jobs. “The idea of doing some kind of outdoor AV installation had been on the minds of Bluewater executives for some time, even ahead of the pandemic,” our CEO John Tracy told Crain’s Detroit Business. “As soon as COVID popped up, right at that point, that’s when the pivot occurred,” he said.
The idea was Glenlore Trails – an immersive, wooded experience at Multi Lakes in Commerce, Michigan which invited visitors to help “uncover” the forest’s strange happenings, which may or may not involve a “mischievous” creature.
“There’s projections, LED displays, and audio,” our Managing Partner, Scott Schoeneberger, told MLive during Glenlore Trail’s initial run. “There’s 10 areas to stop and check out. Each one is a little bit different, like the projection in the sky, the interactive LED wall that kind of tracks you as you walk in front of it and the creatures of Glenlore which play different musical notes as you step on them.”
And soon after launching this unique entertainment experience, we found out that not only was Glenlore Trails a big hit for Bluewater personally (“The dollars we brought in largely kept our technical staff employed through the pandemic,” Schoeneberger told MLive) but it was also a success for all of the local families and individuals who were craving something safe to do in the middle of a pandemic.
“We quickly realized that there was a strong desire for families to get out of the house and engage with safe entertainment,” Schoeneberger told Metro Parent. “It’s amazing how thankful people are. It certainly warms our hearts and we’re happy to be giving a community something to do that otherwise wouldn’t have it.”
And so Glenlore Trails grew to be something bigger and grander than a one-off pop-up event in the woods. After the initial run of the original Glenlore Trails event, our Bluewater team revamped the trail for two brand new seasonal events with all new content and immersive interactions, the Haunted Forest for Halloween and Aurora for the holidays.
Frequent updates not only gave the trails a fresh appeal for repeat visitors, but also gave our Bluewater creative team a chance to go back to the drawing board with each fresh storyline to dream up something unique that put our equipment and capabilities to the test.
“We found that about a six-week run was the minimum that we could do for a new content deployment, and we did three new runs. I think the team kind of asked a few times, why don’t we just keep the same content? But it felt like a miss to not change over for holidays, and it felt like a miss to not be changing it for people that wanted to return,” Scott Schoeneberger told The Detroit News.
We’ve even received calls from around the country with interest in replicating the AV installations in other venues – including a Wild Hues event at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, which is now on it’s second installment.
And while work has returned across our other business units, including live events and workplace technology for connectivity, we’re still focusing largely on themed entertainment, including Glenlore, as a new company operation.
“We can build them on our own and have a ticket-based program, we could build them for a brand and put them around in different locations around the state or the country,” Bob Marsh, Bluewater’s Chief Revenue Officer, told Crains. “I think we see clearly consumers are interested in it. I think there’s a lot of places this could go.”
But we’re still not forgetting where this illuminating event started. This month, Glenlore Trails will launch its second annual Haunted Forest event for Halloween, followed by another magical Aurora theme for the holidays – and there are many other unique installments and ideas to follow.
“The team that we have dedicated to this now is spending a pretty good amount of time just ideating new storylines. Our intent is to incorporate more media and more literal story. At some point, I hope by next year, these actually feel a lot more like you’re walking through a movie than just a light show,” Scott Schoeneberger said.
If you’d like to check out our most recent Glenlore Trails storyline, The Haunted Forest opening September 30th, be sure to check out ticket times and information on our website, www.glenloretrails.com.
Or, if you’d like to learn more about teaming up with our Bluewater Immersive Entertainment team to create an event like this of our own, be sure to contact us today.