The archetypal image of a groundbreaking ceremony is a row of businessmen, or possibly a celebrity, turning a shovelful of earth to kick off construction on a new building. It's a symbolic gesture and makes for a nice photo -- but it's not the only possibility. Consider alternatives such as a dove or balloon release, a themed, catered party complete with entertainment, a poetry or book reading, or allowing guests to express their good wishes by signing a girder.
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Groundbreaking programs vary according to the type of building being erected. Most acknowledge guests and express appreciation to all who helped bring the project to fulfilment. However, other program elements can be tailored to the occasion. Solemn ceremonies might include a book, poem or Scripture reading; a dedication to God, if the building is a church, or to the mission of community learning or healing, such as with a hospital or a library. A more casual program might include refreshments, and entertainment, such as dancers, circus performers or a band.
The groundbreaking ceremony can take many forms. It might begin with a motorcade to the building site, with guests' cars flying church, state, or company flags. It might involve a balloon or dove release. One dignitary may be given the shovel, or all the guests may have one. If you want more drama, one leader may be given the honour of making the first excavation with a backhoe. If you want to be more inclusive, allow all your guests to sign a girder that will go into the new building.
It's customary to give each guest a small gift to commemorate the groundbreaking. This often takes the form of a tiny shovel, whether as a keychain, pin, or paperweight. However, you might give each guest a jar full of earth from the site with a printed label commemorating the new construction, and thanking them for their part in it. You might give guests a printed card informing them that a tree or flower was planted on the property in their honour. Alternatively, you might put their names on commemorative bricks and place them prominently at the new site.
Publicising a groundbreaking is essential, are there are many ways to achieve that goal. An unusual element, such as a large promotional balloon at the site, a motorcade, a celebrity appearance or blowout party may attract the attention of the local press. If the company will be bringing new business or jobs to the area, or if it's involved in an unusual business or cutting-edge technology, PR releases should stress it.
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