Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for October 10th, 2015

“Roll On Columbia, Roll On”: Word on the Street — Oct.5th thru Oct. 9th

October 10th, 2015 COMMENTS


Woody Guthrie made “Roll On Columbia, Roll On” famous when he penned the American Folk classic song in 1941. The song was written to garner support among the locals for federal regulations on distributing  hydroelectric power via the Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.

Interesting… but why are you telling us this Kevin?

BPA Visitor Center and Library

Earlier this year, Classic Exhibits was awarded the contract to build an Interpretive Visitor Center for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) in Portland. A local design firm brought us the project. This past Wednesday, we were delighted to attend the Grand Opening of the Interpretive Center.

When we were asked to assist on the RFP, we were honored. The BPA Visitor Center would be an important project for the BPA, the agency distributes most of the electricity in our backyard. We also knew, if we were to win the bid, that the project would be push us in a direction outside our comfort zone.

Our world is branding exhibits via structure and graphics, but an interpretive center combines structure, brand, and history. That’s no small task since the BPA’s history is deeply tied the economic and infrastructure growth of Oregon and Washington over the past 80 years.



Greg Garrett (Greg Garrett Design) embraced the project from the first meeting and created exactly what the client was looking for conceptually. And that was no small challenge, especially after we made the first site visit. You see, this was not a big open space with lots of room and high ceilings. No. It was located in a the BPA’s Library. Total space was no larger than 450 sq ft. And when we first saw it, it was filled with filing cabinets.

But as I said, Greg did an amazing job transforming their vision into a rendering. Next up was bringing the design and the client’s historical content to life. And there was a ton of content! Hundreds upon hundreds of photos, videos, and more quotes than you can imagine.

This is when our pros shined. Jim Ponomarenko, our Production Manager, and his team detailed and built the structures — the custom framing for the graphics, the counters, lightboxes, the kid’s kiosk, and the reception area. They did an amazing job as the photos show.

The next challenge and subsequent magic came from the creative minds of Glenna Martin and Tony Bennett, our Graphics Design Manager and Web Developer respectively. Glenna culled through the BPA database of images and quotes, working tirelessly with the project lead from BPA to create the large format graphics. And unlike traditional trade show graphics, these were text and image intensive, where placement, flow, quotes, and images had to create a dynamic, integrated story.

Tony then took the same images plus two historical DVDs with videos and created an interactive app for each section: the History Walls, the Geography Wall, and the Business Wall. And again did “an amazing job bringing all that context to life” in the words of one of the Contracting Officers from the BPA.

As you can probably glean from this post, my pride lies less in the project than it does in the folks who brought it to life — Greg Garrett, Glenna Martin, Tony Bennett, Jim Ponomarenko, and the entire Classic Exhibits manufacturing professionals.

Well Done Team!