Houston Racquet Club called upon local fire and police departments, K-9 units and construction companies to have a fleet of vehicles set up on the premises so members and their families could check them out up close during the annual Labor Day celebration. The “Touch-a-Truck” add-on helped increase usual revenues by 33 percent.
(As featured in C+RB’s 14th Annual Ideas Issue, June 2020.)
Call it a labor of love. The annual Labor Day BBQ event at Houston Racquet Club (HRC) got a special boost in September 2019, when management enlisted the help of its community to create an entertaining program for members of all ages. “We wanted our event to be memorable, educational and fun for the whole family,” says Rechelle Leal, Director of Youth Activities. Prompted by Chief Operating Officer Thomas Preuml, the HRC staff began brainstorming and came up with its first annual Touch-a-Truck event.
Calling upon local fire and police departments, K-9 units and construction companies, the club recruited personnel and a fleet of their vehicles to set up on the premises, so members and their families could check them out up close. A separate flyer outlining the day’s offerings, including face painting, balloon artistry and rock-wall climbing at no extra cost, was distributed via e-blast and on HRC’s Facebook and Instagram pages. “We wanted to make sure the members understood that even though it was a holiday, it was an event they would not want to miss,” says Leal.
To ensure the festivities would go off without a hitch, Leal, along with Director of Security Dickie Schelnick and other team members, carefully laid out a floor plan for each designated group. “It was spread out to accommodate our members and to make sure there was an abundance of entertainment to pique their interest,” notes Leal.
Vehicles were situated in the parking lot, with portions roped off for security purposes. Just off this area were the rock-climbing wall, a tent area housing D.A.R.E. representatives, a children’s balloon artist, and the face-painting stations. Families were transported to the surrounding amenities courtesy of a small train, which picked up passengers from the courtside café area, drove past the pro shop, and deposited them into the back lot.
The event’s star attraction, the vehicles themselves, were manned by select police officers, fire truck operators and other personnel who also offered a glimpse into their everyday lives. According to Leal, they helped “answer questions about day-to-day operations, and let the children sit inside the vehicles to see what it felt like to be a hero for a day. This event provided a hands-on experience with educational fun to create memories that children and even adults can’t resist.”
Given the expected hot and sunny forecast, each activity and vehicle was set up under tents, and hydration stations containing water and Gatorade were peppered throughout the property. “At each of these checkpoints under tents, we included various ice chests with ice-cold towels for members,” says Leal, adding that her crew was on rotation for the duration of the event to assist families. When they were checking out the vehicles, families were able to feast on a chef-prepared BBQ spread and take in live music.
Thanks to the Touch-a-Truck add-on, HRC’s Labor Day event increased usual revenues by 33 percent, making it the club’s best year to date. Leal was enthused by member feedback and the strong response to the day’s festivities. “Members had fun speaking to the firefighters and seeing the various instruments used to save lives every day,” she says. “The children could not wait to take pictures in the police car and push the sirens that they usually can only hear from a distance, or see how a lift is used in everyday construction jobs to help build our beautiful cities and clubs.”
Not only did this program add merriment to the traditional Labor Day celebration, it paid special tribute to the community’s police officers, firemen and local businesses. And even with the new emphasis on safety, Leal believes the event’s format can easily transition into a social distancing-friendly affair. “We can decide to turn this into a parade of never-ending fun for our members to enjoy from afar,” she says.
The Goal: Expand upon a traditional Labor Day event at Houston Racquet Club by adding an entertaining, educational component for all ages.
The plan: Enlist the participation of local community members and businesses for a Touch-a-Truck feature set up in an easy-to-navigate layout that also invites families to get to know their everyday heroes.
The payoff: A profitable event that can enhance future holiday celebrations.