As a time-honored summer tradition, the Great Falls Business Improvement District (B.I.D.), auto dealer Bennett Motors, and KLFM 92.9 oldies radio sponsor Cruisin’ the Drag, a popular classic auto show. The show spans about nine blocks right in the heart of downtown Great Falls on Central Avenue. It features classic restored automobiles on display from all over the nation. The event, which has steadily grown from 300 – 600+ cars in its 4-year history, drew about 9000 people in 2004. This one-day event, like many others in the area, brings much needed business the downtown shops and eateries.
The Great Falls B.I.D. had been renting a cabled audio system to broadcast sound around the downtown blocks for their events, which cost thousands of dollars each time. While the system adequately distributed the sound, it required tripods and a multitude of cables on each block. All that cabling also required considerable time to install. With all the many events the B.I.D. hosts throughout the year, this audio solution was cumbersome and costly on an annual basis. Great Falls B.I.D. was looking for an easier and more affordable way to spread sound around downtown.
Great Falls B.I.D. brought in local audio guru Mark Pritchard of Mountain Sound Project to take on this challenge. Using his technical knowledge of audio products and his own mechanical skills he devised a weather-proof wireless audio distribution system that has quick to set up and was affordable enough for the client to purchase outright.
The key technology that made Pritchard’s solution possible was wireless FM transmission available from Listen Technologies Corporation. In the central control box, Pritchard had various audio sources plugged into Listen’s LT-800 Stationary FM Transmitter, rack mounted with the other equipment. The transmitter would send sound out to LR-100 Stationary Receiver/Power Amplifiers located in speaker clusters which mounted to the old-fashioned lampposts around the downtown area.
In addition to the LT-800 Transmitter, the central control box also included a sound mixer, a CD player, a wireless microphone, an AM/FM tuner, and a cassette deck offering virtually any media to the users. Volume for the whole system is controlled from this box, which is usually located right in the middle of Central Avenue for downtown events, but can be set up anywhere.
The speaker clusters, which can be installed in less than a minute and a half, include the LR-100 Receiver/Amplifier, two JBL speakers, a Stuart 2-channel power amplifier, a fan, and an on/off switch. He fabricated steel brackets and weather proof boxes for these clusters. During the winter holidays, the system was left up for four solid weeks, without any problems. A single power cable plugged into an outlet on the lamppost provides power for each of the components. Two clusters per block are staggered in the six-block downtown area. Dismantling each cluster takes less than a minute – and B.I.D. volunteers can do it all themselves, no special labor is needed.
The system as a whole is ideally suited for a wide variety of community events. Because it is so easy to install and is so portable, the system can be used virtually anywhere, such as the parks and civic center, and anytime. The versatility of the central control box enables the B.I.D. to broadcast background music, radio remotes, announcements, commercials, and more. In fact, during radio remotes the AM/FM tuner broadcasts the remote as it comes across the radio station. In addition, the radio personalities will cut over to the microphone for the central control box to make special announcements just for those in the downtown area.
Great Falls B.I.D. Director Greg Madsen reported that this innovative audio solution has worked beautifully since its birth at the Cruisin’ the Drag event. The clusters have worked flawlessly despite temperatures of nearly -30 degrees in the winters and 105 degrees in the summers. Purchasing a system saves them a lot of money over time. Plus it has helped increase revenues to downtown business.
“It’s worked flawlessly! For Cruisin’ the Drag and other events the system has worked so well to make the atmosphere comfortable and inviting. In fact, people who work downtown have proactively sent us message telling us how much they enjoy the background music.”
The Great Falls B.I.D. has continued using this easy and affordable solution for a host of other events to help rejuvenate the downtown area, including its Annual Downtown Summer Sidewalk Sale, the Christmas Stroll, and First Night festivities.