Philippe Bergeron admits that when he first saw Camelhead Rock, he wasn’t sure what to think.
“My first reaction was, ‘Wow, that is much bigger than I expected,’” he said. “It’s almost 600 feet wide and 400 feet tall. Aside from its size, I was wondering if the technology was even there in order to do something like this.”
The “this” was the Sedona Northern Lights, which drew thousands of people to Uptown this past weekend in what was described as the largest 3-D mapping on a natural landscape in the country.
Bergeron, president and co-founder of Los Angeles-based PaintScaping, was first contacted by Sedona Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff back in June to see if having a show here was even an option. Since he was going to be in Scottsdale for an annual summer show he produces, he decided to come up and see if it was doable.
When told that the projectors would have to be 3,000 feet away, he wasn’t sure if that was possible. In the end, a dozen projectors were used to transform Camelhead Rock into a winter wonderland that featured Santa Claus, waterfalls, snowfall and Sedona Schnebly.
The event was sponsored by the chamber, city of Sedona and Sedona Arts Center as well as through corporate and private donations.
“I thought the light show was very pretty and very artistic,” Parks and Recreation Manager Rachel Murdoch said. “I still think it is so neat to be offering an event that allows so many people to participate all at once from multiple locations. And it was impressive to see the mountain before us glowing with lights.”
Wesselhoff agreed that the event was a big success in many ways. Spectators enjoyed it, as did many business owners. On the tourism side, last year during this same time frame, she said the average occupancy at hotels was approximately 40 percent.
This year, some of the hotels sold out and many experienced increased bookings.
“We consistently investigate new ways to support economic development, balance quality of life and values for our resi- dents while protecting our environment,” Wesselhoff said. “This event checks many of those boxes, but it’s very difficult to find something that directly aligns with all our values as a community. This event comes close to checking all those boxes.”
The cost of the presentation was $110,000. Of that, $90,000 was paid for by private sector sponsors and tourism bed tax funds, with the remaining $20,000 from the city.
In terms of next year, Wesselhoff added, “We have not committed to moving forward with this event in the future and will look forward to hearing feedback from the community.
There are definitely things that we could improve on, and if we do move forward, we can only expect the event and the show to improve.” Bergeron and his team spent the three nights prior to the first showing calibrating the projectors to ensure that they all showed the same image at exactly the same time.
This took about 15 hours and caught the attention of many motorists and residents who could see the illuminated mountain from miles away. “But even with this kind of experience, this is a very scary job,” he said.
There’s no instruction book on how to map a mountain.” Bergeron said he hopes they will be invited back in the future for not only a holiday show but possibly a summertime one as well. “We would love to come back,” he said. “There’s tons of material we can put together based on Sedona.”
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