It is not easy throwing a Fourth of July party that involves music, food and fireworks – for several thousand people.
About a decade ago, the Palisades Americanism Parade Association, a group of volunteers that includes lawyers, architects and businessmen, realized it needed help planning one of the biggest after-parade parties of the year, the fireworks show at Palisades High School.
What PAPA needed was an event planner.
Meet Natalie McAdams of Namevents. “This will be my ninth year with PAPA, including some missing pandemic years,” said McAdams, a professional party planner who works major events. She just finished Heal the Bay’s June gala.
“I think both the fun and the challenge of PAPA is that it is so grassroots,” McAdams said. “We really rely a lot on volunteers, and we are really budget conscious and thrifty.
“But for me what makes it worthwhile is the great people that I work with,” she said. “Our kids have grown up over the years. My daughter was four when I did my first PAPA event and now, she’s 13. This is the first year that she is going to come and work alongside me.”
McAdams grew up in Houston and went to college and law school in Austin at the University of Texas.
After moving to La Jolla and practicing law for two years, she realized she wanted something different. “I moved to Aspen where I skied and did a number of jobs.”
One of her jobs was co-producing “24 Hours of Aspen,” which was the world championship of endurance skiing. She was asked to co-produce the event the following year and “I realized I had found my calling.”
McAdams met a woman who worked for Major League Baseball and was soon connected to the LA-based production company, Party Planners West, Inc., which was responsible for special MLB events.
She moved to Los Angeles to work for the company, and eventually became a vice president.
Twenty years ago, McAdams decided to open her own company, Namevents (an acronym for her name, Natalie Ann McAdams).
“I do large fundraisers like Heal the Bay, which was held at the Jonathan Club for 600 guests, and PS One Pluralistic School’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which was held in April at the Skirball,” McAdams said. “Both raised nearly $1 million for their respective causes.”
Another client is City of Hope. “I have two events for them, one in August and one in October. The latter is a seated dinner for 1,200 with headline entertainment.
“This City of Hope dinner is my favorite event of the year because it always has so many moving parts and great headline talent,” McAdams said. “It was also one of the first big events that I did on my own, so it holds a special place in my heart.”
Although she plans large for-profit events and galas, McAdams works with a minimal budget on PAPA’s behalf.
“Since we’re so active in the nonprofit area, we are cleverly creative,” she said. “It’s true that I might make more money doing other things, but PAPA has heart and soul and for me that’s important.”
“My mom taught me the value of giving back and helping the less fortunate as I was growing up,” McAdams said. “She did not work but she was always volunteering and often brought us kids along with her.”
The lesson McAdams learned early: “It feels good to do good.” It’s a lesson that she is imparting to her daughter. They volunteer for the Giving Spirit, which does outreach for the homeless.
Additionally, “I like the special challenge of making something impactful within a budget,” McAdams said. “I’m very happy that we are going to have this event with food trucks, music and fireworks this year.”