As heat rose in waves from the Kentucky Horse Park asphalt last week, Deirdre Lyons was engrossed in the details for the vast Alltech Experience pavilion.
"It's exciting and it's nerve-racking and it's tense," Lyons said of preparing the exhibits that will promote the image of the title sponsor for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that begin Sept. 25.
Only the day before, Lyons, Alltech's director of corporate design and project management and wife of Alltech president Pearse Lyons, had been given the keys to the array of 21 tentlike domes, still without air conditioning, that will make up The Alltech Experience.
Already 450 shiny black wood planters were scattered on the grounds; flooring was going down at an almost aerobic clip; and walls were being covered with informational panels about Alltech, the Nicholasville-based feed supplement company, on subjects ranging from future agriculture projections to the wonders of beer.
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Celebrated Kentucky garden designer Jon Carloftis was hard at work on what ultimately will be a green village with plants such as boxwood and crape myrtle and magnolia. Lyons is a passionate gardener, both at her Jessamine County home and at Alltech headquarters nearby.
All told, the pavilions have 30,000 square feet under roof. That space will be used to tell Alltech's story to tens of thousands of visitors during the Games. It's information topped with a big dollop of good will, and Deirdre Lyons has been planning it for years.
Lyons has walked this village many times as she designed it in her head: the entrance with the DNA representation overhead to announce that Alltech is a science company; Alltech's projection of what agriculture might be like in 2050 (think vertical rather than horizontal); the seven-foot tall tubes of algae to show visitors how the plants, which are about 50 percent oil by weight, can be used to make biodiesel fuel. A scale-model farm rendering will show what Alltech thinks a farm will look like in 2050, including the solar panels from which energy will be derived.
"They're all related," Lyons said. "It's a story."
Hail to beer
There's even a beer exhibit featuring a collection of quotes appreciating beer, among them this bit attributed to Plato: "He was a wise man who invented beer." Alltech recently has branched out into alcohol production.
Who picked the quotes?
"Pearse did," Lyons said.
Alltech employees will act as docents at each display. Whatever you want to know about feeding the world in the future, the role of supplements in improving human health or Alltech's education and charitable efforts, there will be someone nearby who can tell you about it.
Until then, Lyons is spending part of each day watching the village come together. She plants a foot on a soft spot in the subfloor. That will have to be fixed, she said. Detritus from the day's building and drilling litters the parking lot and will have to be swept away.
The village that Lyons has designed and is overseeing is Alltech's signature presence at the Games, and she is invested in its being right, from wall and floor colors to fencing and gardens.
The design is cleanly distinctive with its peaked white towers. Yet it has bits of Worlds Fair-style grandeur: Flags of 69 participating nations will be flown as acoustic musicians and Irish dancers entertain from a circular stage.
Pearse Lyons will get his own private entertainment room and garden dubbed "Pearse's Place," where he can entertain privately.
The various bits of acropolis, as each area within a pavilion is called, get their own special themes and color palettes — from cool blues in one area to mango and tangerine tones. Interactive displays will invite visitors to learn more about Alltech by watching video clips.
There's even a pavilion that will allow visitors to order Alltech products they can't haul home from the site.
Artists and vets
Sculptor Douwe Blumberg, the artist working on a sculpture that will be a memorial for the victims of Comair Flight 5191, will be working on a piece for actor William Shatner in one of the pavilions. Rood & Riddle equine veterinarians will discuss equine medical care at another. And Kentucky artisans including photographer James Archambeault, chef Jonathan Lundy and glass artist Stephen Powell will discuss their work in another.
Lyons loves detail: The Dippin' Dots concession, where visitors can get a free sample of the ice cream globules made by Alltech, will have floors that match the Day-Glo colors of the Dippin' Dots themselves. Kids can pet a shark, see penguins, watch a live feed from the Newport Aquarium, play with "smart boards" that will teach them about agriculture, visit a vegetable garden and pot a plant to take home.
Lyons and husband Pearse have $32 million invested in the Games; the pavilion is part of that.