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March 06, 2009

Los Angeles, Ca - XOF1 welcome to Los Angeles

By Laurie Flarity-White

The Big Event!

We all woke up about 7:45 AM on the morning of our big day. We booted up our computers and began checking our emails, Marcelo always has so many to respond to every day. We realized at about 8:30 AM that we would miss breakfast if we didn't go get it now, so we headed downstairs for a quick bite to eat. We returned emails and worked on the computers until about 11 AM, then packed our bags to leave the hotel.

We made a quick stop at Target for black pants for the men and dress shoes for Michael. Next, we made our way to the Canadian Consul General’s residence for the big reception. We arrived at 12:00 PM (1200 hours), we are an hour early this time! There are already many people at the residence that are getting ready for the event; they are cooking, cleaning, organizing, and setting up tables, etc.

We spent the first hour or so looking around the residence and staging a “dry run” of the solar car’s entrance into the big party. Very soon lots of other people arrive and continue to prepare for the event. A big welcome banner is placed on the fence next to where the solar car will be displayed. Canadian provincial flags are set up to represent all the places in Canada that have helped Marcelo develop the solar car, or hosted him as he drove through the province to set the world’s record. It is a lot of flags and it looks terrific!

After Marcelo and the crew decide how and when he is going to drive the car into the reception, Marcelo drove the car into the Consul General’s garage for hiding and safe keeping. Marcelo and the crew then gave the car a thorough cleaning, inside and out, including the fragile solar cells.

We are too busy to eat lunch today, so Marcelo and Michael have a couple of the raspberry brownies I brought with me. At 1:00 PM (1300 hours), Rob arrives, yeah! I am very happy to meet Rob as he and I have been corresponding with email and phone calls and I already feel I know him and like him a lot. Rob has brought all the crew members very nice “XOF1” maroon dress shirts to wear. We will all match Marcelo and look very professional!

Next, the four of us spend time juggling between trying to get everything ready for the event and managing all the people who are arriving and want to spend time interviewing, photographing, or talking to Marcelo, or want to see the car ahead of the event (we are trying to hide if for a grand entrance!) All of us find ourselves completely engaged with preparations for the party until the guests start arriving about 2:30 PM (1430 hours.) Many of the photographers and reporters had arrived even earlier in hopes of getting some scoop interviews and shots, maybe?

The Consul General, Mr. David Fransen, arrives about 2:15 PM (1415 hours,) and we all find him to be a most welcoming and personable man, he is wonderful! He talks to Marcelo and learns a lot of Marcelo’s story and asks him some terrific questions about his dream, quest and triumphs. He is going to introduce Marcelo later at the reception.

About 2:45 PM (1445 hours,) Marcelo is interviewed by National Public Radio (NPR) for a long time, until about 3:10 PM. We are all near or in the garage, Marcelo had said he would like to drive the car around for the grand entrance at about 3:15 PM, so we tell Marcelo the time and he terminates the interview. He has already been interviewed at least 3 times and the party has barely started!

Marcelo drives the car around to the main entrance of the Consul General’s residence about 3:15 PM. The car and Marcelo make a huge impression and the whole crowd is wowed! He gets out of the solar car and is immediately swamped by the paparazzi of at least 3 to 4 dozen photographers and videographers! Flash, pop, wow! I have never seen so many flashes and pictures taken in my life! We all hear them say things like, “Look here, Marcelo!” “Over this way, Marcelo!” “Now look left!” “Marcelo, Marcelo!” They are all trying to get his attention and get a good shot of him, too. Marcelo has achieved true celebrity status at this event, and he handles it all beautifully, I never see him lose his smile or his sunny disposition the whole afternoon and evening! The picture taking frenzy continues the entire time we are there, until near 7 PM at night! This means that it was close to 5 hours of photographs, interviews and videos for Marcelo!

We understand that several TV stations are there, FOX, Channels 5, 7 and 11, too. We are hoping we will be able to catch the news reports. We later find out one of them aired at 6 PM, while we are still at the reception, so we miss it, but are able to catch one of them online later that night.

At about 4:00 PM, Dawna attempts to get everyone to go to the back of the residence to the patio and pool area, where Marcelo will be able to talk about his world record travels with the solar car, after an introduction from David Fransen. It is difficult to get people to move there, Marcelo is fielding one after another interview and hasn’t been able to move but a few steps away from the solar car! It is so hard to get him away from the solar car area! Eventually, Dawna and Rob are able to get everyone to go out back for the speeches.

David Fransen gives a wonderful introduction for Marcelo, I really enjoy it and videotaped it for Marcelo to see later. We are all impressed by this outstanding man! Marcelo also gives a stirring short, but precise account of his solar car journey, including a few of his very best or funniest experiences on the road to date. He answers some great questions, too. They are both great speakers! We also hear a very good short speech from Lee Fraser, who is representing the 2 Canadian groups that have organized this reception for Marcelo.

Immediately after the speech, Marcelo is again besieged by reporters and questions, and the rest of the support crew is, too. We get asked a lot of the technical aspects of the car as some reporters and guests are starting to realize that their time to talk to Marcelo will be very limited, there is too much competition! Marcelo and the crew are so busy that we don’t get to eat much of the wonderful appetizers and drinks the Consulate has prepared, Marcelo doesn’t even get any food or even a drink until after 5 PM and he has been talking for hours!

After his speech, Marcelo goes back to the front of the residence to show the solar car off to everyone again. He drives the car around the Consulate residence one more time and startles a lot of the guests because of the high speed in which he approaches with the car. I heard a lot of gasps! Some people have just arrived and many of the celebrities want to get inside the XOF1, so Marcelo lets Peter Fonda, Ed Begley, Jr. and a few more celebrities experience the XOF1 for themselves. They love it, naturally! In addition, most of the celebrities posed with the solar car for personal pictures.

Marcelo is interviewed by more TV stations, reporters, and radio stations than I have ever seen in my life, I have also never seen as many photos taken in such a short amount of time. Later this evening, Marcelo and I try to estimate how many photos were taken at the reception, if there were about 40 photographers times 450 photos each? I think it is probable that at least 18,000 photos were taken at this event, possibly one photograph taken for every kilometer Marcelo has traveled on his solar car journey so far!

The Consul General employees start putting away the food and drinks and start cleaning up about 5:45 PM, there is still a lot of people there trying to get a chance to talk with Marcelo. He has not had a break yet and there is a line for people to talk with him! David Fransen assures everyone that they can stay a little longer, so Marcelo keeps talking to people for another hour, until almost 7:00 PM. Rob, Michael and I pack up all of our belongings while Marcelo has a nice long chat with David before we all leave the Consulate for the day.

Rob and a new photographer friend, Jena, are famished, so they leave about 7 PM to find a place for us to have dinner. The pick a nearby Italian restaurant and go over there. They find that a group of Canadian ex-Patriots (Jane, Lee, Dawna, Roz and others), who helped arrange the reception at the Consulate are also there, so they join them at their table.

We are allowed to leave the solar car at the residence overnight, but must pick up the car at 7:30 AM the next morning. We finally say our last good-byes and thank you’s and leave the house about 7:30 PM. We join Rob, Jena and the others and have to wait a bit for a table, we end up eating dinner at nearly 9:30 PM, we are all so hungry by then! I am again amazed at Marcelo’s stamina, he has worked so hard this day and has talked so much, but hardly seems affected by the experience at all! He maintains his cheerful and positive outlook throughout the long evening! Michael and I are glad to sit down and have a little peace and quiet. We find out that Lee has paid for our meal as we prepare to leave the restaurant, thanks so much, Lee, we really appreciate it!

After dinner, Marcelo and I join Michael as he drives the van and trailer over to Redondo Beach, where Rob has reserved us all a room for the evening. Our next day’s event is at the Marina there, a photo shoot with a model. We are also hoping some airline personnel (flight attendants and pilots) will come and greet Marcelo and the solar car as well for some photo opportunities.

We are so tired from our wonderful day, but we don’t get checked into our room until near 11:00 PM at night. Marcelo finally shows some tiredness, he is barely able to check his email before we all fall asleep near midnight.

It has been one of the most exciting and fabulous days for all of us! Is has been truly one of our best days ever. The reception at the Canadian Consulate residence was probably the nicest party that any of has ever attended and we will never forget our wonderful and positive experience there! I have formed such a favorable opinion of these terrific Canadians that I am seriously thinking of becoming one myself! Thank you all so much for all the hard work you put into planning and hosting the wonderful party for Marcelo, it is much appreciated!

Michael Feith and Rob Stoyan arriving a the Oficial Residence, an exciting day for everyone!.
Canadian Consulate staff welcoming everyone.
Valet parking helped keep the traffic on the street in front of the offical residence flowing
Flags of the Canadian provinces where the solar car has been driven (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, NorthWest Territories) and flags of the home provinces of volunteers and supporters of the project (Quebed, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario) colored the event.

Symbolic but meaningfull.
In spite of the fact XOF1 was forbiden to drive in its own Province of Ontario, its flag was there in a sign of respect to all Ontarians who have been supporting the project. "My Canada includes Ontario, hope one day Ontario will be welcome the solar car in its public roads" - said Marcelo.

The solar car have already been driven in New York, Pensilvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minesota, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.
Rob, Laurie and Michael giving reading XOF1
Early in the afternoon a photo shoot with Canadian General Consul David and Marcelo, during interviews with CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) Canada and NPR (National Public Radio) USA mornin edition.
ET Canada interviewing Canada General Consul David Fransen and Marcelo.
The antecipation
The red carpet
The moment i
The antecipated moment, Marcelo is welcomed by Candadian General Consul as the solar car arrives at Oficial Residence.
Photo op.
Canadian General Consul David Fransen interviewed by ABC chanel 7
The always cheerfull Carla Collins giving an interview.
Roz Wolfe from the Canadian Foregin Affairs!
Marcelo and Stana Katic.
Rachelle Carson Begley, Ed Begley Jr., General Consul David, Marcelo, Larry and Maj Hagman
Marcelo and Tanya Allen
Peter Fonda on the driver seat of XOF1
Peter Fonda inside XOF1. Hey, don't go too fast!
Ty, Marcelo and Carla.
Dawna Shuman and Marcelo.
Great job Dawna!
Interview with France from the French TV
Peter Fonda interview with ET Canada
Ed Begley.

Next solar car will got to be for tall people
Shannon Tweed taking the driver seat.
Rob Stoyan talking to Leanne Suter from ABC Chanel 7
Peter Fonda, Michelle, Maj Hagman.
Marcelo addressing the crowd

"...I didn't feel embarrassed about making a bear sound..."