Keyano College is a post-secondary institution based in Fort McMurray, Alberta. The College’s annual Gala raises funds to support programming, athletics, theatre, capital investments, and student awards. In our first year of working together, the Keyano team was ready to take a bold new approach and set the stage for increased success in future years.

The venue for the Gala was the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre on campus, and we set out to use the entire space in a totally reimagined way, working with and transforming existing structural elements and features, rather than attempting to hide or obscure them. We tackled flow challenges head-on, strategically using design to draw guests into and through the various spaces.

The evening’s design direction was initially inspired by the Chinese Zodiac, and from there four themed spaces were created. The experience began with Hotel Beijing and Scotch Dynasty, where guests were ushered in to find themselves suddenly transported to a high-end hotel in China’s capital city. The design here featured an elegant white, silver, and gold palette together with marble and natural wood accents, and adornments and furniture featured beautiful touches of Beijing’s culture and design sensibilities.

Pagoda Park was created in one of the two field houses, drawing people into an intriguing and inviting outdoor Asian food market. The courtyard of the market was lit by overhead lanterns, and wooden pagodas served as food stations.

Dragon Hall used a rich and opulent red and black palette for a collection of different seating arrangements, and featured Chinese dragons and a bamboo stalk backdrop.

In the final space, Sky Garden, we invoked the Great Wall of China using brick panelling and a trellis of greenery under floating cloud structures.


The Gala’s imaginative theme was incorporated in a fully immersive way throughout the venue and in every aspect of the event, for a completely transportive guest experience that went above and beyond expectations. The key characteristic of the Year of the Dog (2018’s Chinese Zodiac sign) is loyalty, and this event lived up to its sign by delighting guests and sponsors alike, and building the foundation for ongoing support year after year.