October 4, 2017

Planning an event in the middle of an 18,000 acre wilderness? No problem. Learn how Shiloh did it.

Consider an event venue with no electricity, running water, restrooms or shelter.

This scenario is not uncommon in outdoor event planning, and meeting the added challenge is a prerequisite to a winning outcome. 

Team Shiloh recently helped Santa Clara County’s Midpeninsula Open Space organization prepare the grand opening of Mount Umunhum, a two-day outdoor event that hosted over 1000 people atop one of the highest peaks in the Santa Cruz Mountain range.

Outdoor events present a host of unusual considerations, so  when your next event heads into the wild, guide it down the path to success with extra attention to these five fundamentals.

1. Weather     

Any outdoor event is subject to the whims of the weather. Since the Mount Umunhum event would take place rain or shine, Shiloh planners factored in heat, rain and strong winds that periodically rake the mountaintop.

sun and rain

Anticipating winds that may reach 50 MPH, Team Shiloh worked with vendors to ensure shelters, facilities and supplies would all stay in place. Concrete blocks secured everything from tents to toilets. Additionally, the program itself contained contingency plans that would allow the event to proceed smoothly no matter the weather.

fog over the mountains

2. Shelter

The event site offered no buildings or natural shade so a structure was required to provide shelter from the elements. Since the VIP luncheon and program would all take place within this structure, event organizers wanted attendees to still be able to enjoy the site’s spectacular views while seated inside.

open sided tent for event shelter

A fifty by one hundred foot, open-sided tent was decorated with rustic touches mirroring the mountain environment to create the perfect central pavilion for this outdoor event. Here VIPs gathered out of the sun, dined at linen-covered tables and still enjoyed the site’s 360-degree view stretching from the Pacific ocean to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On day two general attendees enjoyed informative exhibits and a respite from the sun under the tent’s canopy.

tent for event shelter

3. Food and Beverage

Day one of the Mount Umunhum event featured a VIP luncheon celebrating all the individuals involved in politically backing and funding the new open space. With a guest list including a state senator, local politicians, Veteran’s Association representatives and tribal officials from the Native American community, the client wanted the dining experience to be more than a picnic.

preparing event brunch

Serving high-quality hot food on the mountain top necessitated building a working kitchen on site, as well as bringing in tables, chairs, linens and table decor. A catering tent was erected complete with propane stoves for cooking and water dispensers filling in for a running tap. This allowed chefs to prepare a full brunch with choices ranging from vegetable & egg frittata to homestyle biscuits & gravy.

Mount Umunhum brunch food

4. Transportation

Access to the Mount Umunhum event site is limited to a single-lane road that traverses over five steep miles of hairpin turns to reach the summit. Safely transporting attendees up and down this slope proved to be one of the more complicated elements of the event. Shuttle size needed to be factored in when selecting a shuttle service; vehicles had to be small enough to safely make the trip up and down the mountain, but large enough to efficiently transport the expected number of guests. Both vehicles and drivers were required to do a test drive up and down the mountain to ensure safety.

narrow, winding road

Day two of the event invited the public to attend one of several tours of the new open space. The site itself was restricted to only 300 people at a time, however. With a signup list of over 3000 would-be attendees, Team Shiloh pulled out the Excel spreadsheets to optimize a shuttle schedule that would allow the greatest possible number of public attendees to shuttle up the mountain, enjoy a site tour and be back on a return shuttle as the next group arrived.

shuttle to event


Adequately meeting the needs of the 1000+ anticipated attendees required more than just the two public restrooms available at the new visitor center. Though renting portable bathrooms at first seemed an easy solution, locating a rental company that was able and willing to transport multiple units up the steep and narrow road to the top of Mount Umunhum proved difficult. Additionally, since the event spanned two days, the vendor was required to service all the restrooms in the wild on a weekend night.

restrooms for outdoor event

The solution here called for good negotiation skills to secure a willing vendor as well as a larger-than-normal restroom budget to cover added costs associated with the difficult transport and service requirements.

nature calls


The weather turned out to be beautiful and warm for the two-day event. VIPs enjoyed a splendid brunch on the mountaintop as they celebrated their achievement of restoring this beautiful space and opening it to the public. Over 1000 people were safely transported up and down the mountain, and all the thoughtful preparation allowed visitors at the event site to comfortably enjoy the spectacular surroundings.



Images@Erin Ashford Photography LLC

successful outdoor event

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