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Austin company in charge of 170 official SXSW parties

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com
Samantha Staples, president of High Beam Events, is a former corporate event planner who has been working with South by Southwest on its sanctioned parties since 2005.

Parties are a big part of the South by Southwest experience each year, serving up food, freebies and, of course, music aplenty.

In 2012 alone, 170 festival-sanctioned parties are on tap, and no one's more involved in making those gatherings happen than Sam Staples.

Staples, president of High Beam Events , and more than a dozen staffers are responsible for planning every single aspect of every official SXSW party.

When Staples first started working with the fest in 2005, she had about 10 parties. The next year, that number swelled to 65 — and it has continued to grow.

"It keeps getting busier and busier every year," Staples said. "It's a luxury problem. It's good to have a lot of business."

Some of the events are small, requiring just coffee service or an assortment of breakfast tacos. Others are elaborate affairs requiring downtown Austin parking lots to be transformed into concert venues almost overnight.

But Staples, a former corporate event planner, said there's no stress — just long hours.

"It sounds daunting, but it's really not," she said.

Some of her bigger projects include a party for MTV, a lounge for makers of the "Rock Band" video game, on-site T-shirt printing and even a custom skateboard ramp.

"We're working with people all over the country and all over the world," Staples said.

Helping make all 170 parties happen are a number of local businesses.

"We try to be as helpful and supportive as we can," said Delores Crum, owner of Premiere Tents and Events.

Crum said SXSW is one of the company's busiest times of the year.

"It's a big volume of business in a compressed span of time," she said.

Pink Avocado Catering is slammed as well, growing from the usual 20 or so employees to 140 during the fest.

"It's pretty crazy, but it's a lot of fun," owner Brent Schumacher said.

A refrigerated 18-wheeler is needed to store food for all the events, Schumacher said, along with a large off-site freezer.

Staples, though, makes things a lot less stressful, he said.

"We love working with them," Schumacher said. "They're incredibly positive, and we never have to worry about anything when they're involved."

After SXSW, there's not much time to relax, Staples said, because invoices have to go out and calls start coming in for the following year.

"We didn't even have our database up and running when we started getting inquiries last year," she said.

"Once you live through a High Beam South by Southwest session, you've got an incredible amount of event planning experience," Staples said. "It's kind of like being in a war zone together."

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987