Keeping it Up: Marquee Tension Overview
Taking a deeper dive into the use of both Frame and Pole Marquees reveals that while the end results of each installation may look very similar (say, a fabric lifted into the air with space below), each uses a different type of strength, with stresses in different places, to keep that fabric up. Neither method is superior to the other; as always, is comes down to personal preference as to which is the right style for you.
Frame Marquees: Building a Solid Foundation
As anyone who has seen the beginning stages of building a house or building knows, the first thing that goes up is the interior framework. This is no different when installing a frame marquee.
The framework is assembled in most cases by joining tubing to various fittings, all shaped specifically for their individual use. Corner fittings connect all of the pieces required to form the end of a marquee, meeting up the two sections of perimeter tubing, the hip rafter, and then the leg that runs to the base plate on the ground. Tubing and fittings are secured to one another with the desired style of fastener. These can range from simple R-Pins or push-pins to pin-and-bale or even bolts; the size of the frame may require larger fasteners or ones which that are better at holding up against the stresses that can affect larger frames.
Tubing and fastener styles give varying levels of strength to a frame marquee, the requirements changing based on size and the expected weather for an event. The fabric for the marquee is simply attached to the frame during the installation process.
Pole Marquees: A Good Deal of Tension
No one can make the claim that pole marquees aren’t the first image that appears in your mind when you talk about a fair or festival. The tall peaks and sloping fabric is the classic go-to imagery for outdoor events.
While the frame style relies on the interconnected and secured pieces of tubing to create the structure that the fabric attaches to, pole marquees rely on pulling. Pulling across the fabric, down the side poles and directly into the ground. All pole marquees are secured with guy lines that connect stakes to the tops of side poles; the connection point at the tops of these poles pulls directly against the stakes. Also at the top of these poles are the pins which secure the fabric top. Grommets at side pole locations are slid over the pins, which allows that wonderful tension from the stakes and poles to be transferred to the fabric.
This tension across the fabric (through to the center pole and then the opposite side of the marquee) keeps the tent in place. That is why staking is such a vital point of inspection when a pole marquee has been up for more than a few days. Maintaining this level of tension is what keeps the marquee aloft!
While the frame style of installation may not rely on staking for structural support, it is important to note that a free-standing marquee still requires guy lines and staking to ensure that the entire structure is stable and cannot be pushed or pulled out of place. Just as kites can take off in a simple breeze, a large bit of fabric attached to a framework can also be affected by wind levels that might surprise you. In both styles of installation, fasteners and guy lines need to be checked on a weekly or daily basis to ensure a safe and enjoyable use.