2010 Midwest Emmy:
Outstanding Achievement for Special Event Program - Edited
In conjunction with the premiere of the television documentary Wisconsin’s Vietnam War Stories, Wisconsin Public Television wished to create an event to thank, honor and officially welcome home the state’s Vietnam veterans.
As part of the “LZ Lambeau” (Landing Zone Lambeau) weekend, which featured educational, reunion and remembrance activities, Wide Angle was asked to produce a centerpiece tribute event at Lambeau Field, the historic home of the Green Bay Packers.
After attending numerous “allies” meetings with LZ Lambeau partners and seeking out several veterans for input, Wide Angle created a two-hour, USO-style show with musical performances, video segments of the documentary and guest speakers such as Vietnam veteran/Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel and legendary Packers quarterback Bart Starr, to honor those who did not return from Vietnam and thank those who did.
Lambeau Field was covered with 1,244 empty white chairs symbolizing those from Wisconsin who are missing in action or were killed in the war. After formal prayers, a lone bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” before the empty seats. The program concluded with over 350 members of the Wisconsin National Guard marching out of the tunnel, surrounding the field and saluting the veterans for their service.
Performers included Ben E. King (“Stand By Me”), country star Rockie Lynne (“We Want to Thank You”) and singer-songwriters Kelly Trudell (“Cold Sweat”) and Paulette Carlson (“Thank You Vets”).
Speakers included Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, Super Bowl MVP Bart Starr, Native American poet Jim Northrup, Armed Forces Network hostess/beauty queen Chris Noel and Brigadier General Donald P. Dunbar.
In creating the show, we started by listening: to our client, to the partner organizations, and perhaps most importantly, to the veterans. One critical tip we heard from the veterans was, “I don’t want my time to be wasted.”
As new information came in, we drafted and re-drafted plans for a production that would end up captivating the crowd from start to finish. We worked closely with Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) to make sure our priorities matched theirs. We checked with veterans to ensure we had the protocol and tone correct.
We tapped our experience from similar projects and worked with WPT to identify local resources from the Wisconsin community. This allowed us to use a combination of the best vendors and staff from around the nation alongside top-quality local vendors and both paid and volunteer staff (largely found through the local universities).
We worked with the partner organizations, including the NFL’s Packers, to make sure our production plans utilized the stadium as efficiently as possible and didn't get in the way of other Lambeau activities, such as field maintenance and practice.
Finally, we were there to manage the details, including deliveries at the loading dock, catering set-up, note cards for the speakers, and, most logistically challenging, communications plans (and backup plans) for aircraft flyovers. We worked with stadium security and city and county law enforcement to ensure the event ran like clockwork.
The hugely successful LZ Lambeau was the first non-sporting event ever staged at Lambeau Field and was by far the largest event ever produced by Wisconsin Public Television. The Green Bay Packers and the Stadium Authority were thrilled with the results.
Reaction from the audience, participants and partner organizations was overwhelming. The broadcast of the event on Wisconsin Public Television four days later was expanded from 90 minutes to two hours, as WPT did not want to cut any of the show content.
Most unexpectedly – and perhaps most gratifying of all -- we were told that LZ Lambeau kicked off the healing process for numerous veterans and their families.