|The pavilion seen from inside the White House's Blue Room|
Washington, DC - President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will cap President François Hollande's State Visit on Tuesday night with the ultra-formal State Dinner, celebrating the centuries-long alliance between the US and France. It will be for about 350 guests, according to a Senior White House Official, and will take place inside a massive pavilion on the South Lawn, which the White House is referring to as a "tent."
|The pavilion as seen from the bottom of the South Lawn|
Construction on the pavilion began last week, and the structure grew exponentially in size over the weekend, with finishing touches still being added on Monday. It stretches across the South Lawn, and extends back toward the fenceline that separates the historic grounds from the Treasury Department.
|A close-up view|
The white-walled pavilion is a rental, as is everything that is in it, White House aides said at a press preview on Monday. There will be no Presidential china used for the dinner, thanks to the number of guests; the State sets are not big enough. And the historic sets are not used for events in tents. The rental flatware and glassware, linens, tables, chairs, and flower urns were delivered on Sunday.
|A worker cleans one of the doors|
The pavilion is raised off the ground and has a wall of glass windows overlooking the lawn, glass and aluminum doors, heat, electricity, and a full sound system. The flooring inside is covered with carpet.
|A worker wires lights on the South Lawn fountain during a snow storm|
Workmen on Sunday were busy dragging electrical cable to the fountain in the center of the South Lawn; it will be lit with colored lights, because it is visible from inside the pavilion.
The pavilion can hold far more guests than either the State Dining Room or the East Room, where the President and Mrs. Obama have held their prior State Dinners. Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard has hired Rafanelli Events to orchestrate the decor, as Bernard has done for each State Dinner since he was appointed to his post in 2011.
The Boston-based event firm is owned by Bryan Rafanelli, perhaps best known for Chelsea Clinton's 'wedding of the century,' though Rafanelli's website says he has managed events for "some of the most successful people, companies and brands in the world."
|A wall of windows looks onto the South Lawn|
|Sample place settings and floral decor|
Guests will first arrive for the 8:00 PM dinner through the East Wing of the White House, then after cocktails and the Presidential receiving line they will be ferried across the South Lawn to the pavilion, riding in old-fashioned motorized wood trolleys. That's basically a necessity: The temperature is predicted to be below freezing. And the South Lawn is very large. The trolleys, also rentals, have been used at other State Dinners.
|Fired-air heaters warm the interior|
|The pavilion at the beginning of construction last week|
There will be more of that transcontinental love during the State Dinner toasts on Monday evening in the pavilion.
|The pavilion for the India State Dinner in 2009|
*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; bottom photo by Pete Souza/White House