By Liese Gardner
All journeys leave us with mementos — photos, souvenirs, ticket stubs, postcards, receipts, bags of shells, and more. And of course each is a touchstone for a memory. When I returned from Vegas and started sifting through business cards, receipts, gifts from friends, notes and programs, I looked down at my desk and saw a trip in full — only deconstructed. Each one with its own story. But before mementos and memories comes the experience. It’s all about the journey and this one began on the I-15.
“The journey is the reward.”
I always like a road trip, even if it is to Las Vegas which some Angelenos believe to simply be “Greater Los Angeles.” Some of my favorite memories as a child were being awoken before dawn, piling in the station wagon with my brothers, all of us still in our pajamas, and watching the sun come up on a new landscape. I’m sure that my parents remember sleepy, cranky kids, but that’s what’s so great about time. It sorts through memories, like a gold miner’s pan, leaving the gold on top and letting all the rest fall back into the stream of consciousness.
Then and now for me road trips are about leaving day-to-day routines, about being able to gaze over a vista where I can’t see a building or person and about what lies ahead. Clearly a road trip is the one time where we are looking forward. In this case, I was looking forward to four full 20 hour days, taking advantage of this time in which old and new friends come together from all over the world. It’s a small point on the map of time and there isn’t a moment to waste.
I pulled into Vegas in time to catch the tail end of the WIPA board meeting and have a drink with everyone. At California Pizza Kitchen, a humble eatery by Vegas standards these days, I shared salad and swapped stories with two wonderful WIPA women – my old friend Carol Rosen of Party Designs By Carol and my new friend Sharon Alexander of Sweet Sensations in Atlanta. Between laughter, there was some serious talk — after all, this would be the week the new Pope was named — and a little late-night shopping at those over-the-top Vegas stores. By the end, my day was complete and I was ready for what may come.
The first seminar on the Event Solutions wedding track was at 10:30 Sunday. I introduced the Destination Wedding Gurus — a group of high-profile wedding planners who formed this venture to curate a rotating collection of high-end international properties that they promote and recommend to brides. Natalie Vishny, Kevin Covey and Laurie Davies revealed their 2013 Hot List to a packed room (watch their Facebook page for the entire list).
This year was the first in seven years that John Daly of John Daly International Inc. was back speaking. What a legend, lovely man and dear friend. He spoke on the psychology of the corporate client using a Porsche event as a case study and he also did a session on business etiquette.
This was the final look of the custom venue. What began with shipping containers because the client wanted "different" morphed into this look.
The Porsches were lined up waiting for test runs on the deserted airfield. In the background, another view of the temporary venue created just for this event. See a full story on this event from Event Solutions E:News here.
That night was the Welcome Event at The Mirage pool and the Event Solutions Advisory Board Welcome Event Committee worked to make this dedicated area a success. The goal was to create an environment that guests could find in the larger Catersource party in which we could welcome the Spotlight Finalists and where attendees could meet the Advisory Board. Thanks to Lenny Talarico, MGM Resorts Events, Laura Schwartz, White House Strategies, Connie Riley, CSEP, T. Skorman Productions, Ray Thompson, Images by Lighting, and Christie Garness, City of Las Vegas for being on that committee and to Ray, Laura and Spotlight producer Eddie Diaz, Encore Creations, for their warm welcoming remarks.
Towair Arch by Airstar
And thanks to Atmosphere North America, Las Vegas for the tunes, to Lisa Wessels from Airstar America for the Towair Arch with the Event Solutions logo, the Aquastar which congratulated Spotlight Finalists and the Accents that glowed on each table with linen from MGM Resorts Events.
Lighted at night with purple LEDs to drive traffic to this area. Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Special Events Facebook page.
Vicky Crease and Gavin Rajah with Prince Harry at the Sentebal fundraiser in South Africa. Gratuitous, yes, but when else would I get to have a pic pf Harry on my blog?!
The morning began with coffee with the super talented Vicky Crease of Vicky Crease Catering and Events and Gavin Rajah of Gavin Rajah Concept from Johannesburg and Capetown, respectively. They came bearing gifts — the zulu bracelets you see in the deconstructed photo and an amazing box of chocolates from London that you don’t see (they were very good). Vicky talked about what it was like to cater Prince Harry’s fund-raising event for Sentebal and Gavin had my favorite quote of the conference …
“The future of success is collaboration.”
Then it was time for my session at which I moderated a panel featuring case studies of signature marketing campaigns. Kylie Carlson, founder of The Wedding and Event Institute, Eddie Zaratsian, Eddie Zaratsian Custom Florals and Lifestyle, and Rhonda Couchigian, owner of RaycePR and I discussed three campaigns specifically.
These signature campaigns are those that mark a brand, reach out to clients, or delve into a new market in a way that differs from the day to day. It could be online — a Pinterest campaign, an Instagram contest — or offline — a community building event such as Eddie’s “tea party.”
For months I had been working with another Eddie — Eddie Diaz of Encore Creations in Florida and Meryl Snow of Feastivities Events in Philadelphia on the CATIE-Spotlight Awards. Eddie was this year’s producer and Meryl was helping from the ICA-Catersource side while I assisted from the Event Solutions side. One of the elements I was responsible for was the envelopes. In January I had attended the Oscar Press Preview event and reconnected with Marc Friedland of Marc Friedland Couture Communications. As luck would have it, this was the first year that the Event Solutions-Catersource show was not the same weekend as the Oscars. Because of that, Marc was able to do 30 gorgeous, custom envelopes for us. Working with his team was a dream. As expected they are very nice, very creative, very detailed people. This is EXACTLY what you want from your invitation designer. And, they flew up to Vegas to hand deliver them before Marc’s seminar on Tuesday morning.
The envelopes, please. As you can see, they were sealed up until the very moment we all took the stage on Tuesday.
Tuesday was the big day. Everything seemed to be scheduled all on that day. In order to accomplish everything Mecca had going on, independent producer Tiffany Chan came up from Los Angeles to help out, meeting me at Rrivre Davies’ (owner of Rrivre Works) session on Fair Trade Events. Rrivre has always practiced business using the principles of what he calls Fair Trade, a term coined from the agriculture and coffee industries. He’s been speaking on it at WIPA and this year he was asked by Event Solutions to talk about it. As he says, weddings are a billion dollar industry with no clear rules among the creative partners. He hopes to change that through Fair Trade.
Rrivre and me.
The day continued with a run over to the tradeshow floor where Kylie Carlson and I put together a full schedule of video interviews that The Wedding and Event Institute and WIPA will promote following the show (to be announced in early April).
And I mean full. Fourteen amazing professionals in six hours. Kylie is super organized but it was so helpful to have Tiffany there to keep it all on track so Kylie could focus on the interviews and I could I race back to The Mirage for an Event Solutions Advisory Board meeting.
Kylie, ready with her iPad and microphhone!
John Goolsby of Godfather Films was there to get it all on film. Kylie with David Merrell owner and creative director of AOO Events and the blog, Designdawgs. Dave was one of 14 top event pros interviewed by Kylie that day.
Finally, it was time for the awards! The Advisory Board once again took center stage, literally, as presenters during the awards. Both the Spotlights and the ICA CATIES were given out in a night of magic produced by Eddi Diaz, Encore Creations. For the full list of Event Solutions Spotlight Winners, see the bottom of this post.
Photo courtesy of Vicky Crease's Instagram feed
Winners loved the envelopes! Thanks to Vicky Crease for a lesson in Instagram and working those hashtags!
Finally! Time for a walk around the trade show floor. The linen companies truly represent on the show floor with all-out design in their booths.
Napa Valley Linens showed off classic patterns with a country feel and banquette by Rrivre Works.
La Tavola drove it home that French country was the look they were presenting this year — they built an entire barn on the show floor! This linen is Casablanca in steel blue.
Wildflower Linen showed laser cut charger decor that was then mirrored in the laser cuts in the wall treatment. That same pattern was stenciled into the leather chair covers.
My favorite marketing gimmick on the show floor was from Honey Smoked Fish Co. who was giving away plates of smoked salmon salad and T-shirts. BUT you had to wear them. To make sure of it, there was this comely lass to put the T-shirts on you. Great for the guys. I heard next year they are getting a handsome man for the ladies. But truly, what was his investment? For a few more thousand dollars more he had hundreds of caterers walking the show floor wearing his shirt and smelling faintly of delicious smoked salmon. Brilliant.
The Champagne Creative Group run by the artistic Heather and Orlando always has something new to show. In their booth they had such crowd pleasers such as show girls in bird cage banquettes dripping with crystal. No respectable Vegas event would be without one! At the events during the conference they showed off Moulin Rouge and other creative looks.
Colin Cowie closed the show with a General Session …
Colin Cowie on stage. Photo courtesy Event Solutions Facebook page
and then it was time for me to get going …
Big love to all…
The Rrivre Works iconic Love buffet table in the Napa Valley Linen's booth.
And back once again on the road.
And home … but not before picking up the cat, who immediately struck a pose that spoke volumes for her and said it all for me too! Tired, but content, with a memorable experience behind and new opportunities ahead.
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The Winners, Spotlights 2013
Congratulations to all!
Designer/Creative Director of the Year
Mircea Manea, Blueprint Studios
Entertainment of the Year
Event Company of the Year
MGM Resorts Events
Event Planner of the Year
Mellysa Levy, Sasha Souza Events
Event Producer of the Year
Gavin Rajah, Gavin Rajah Concept
Event Site of the year
Meet Las Vegas
Event Supplier of the Year
Vicky Crease Events
Floral Designer of the Year
Jose Graterol, Jose Graterol Designs
Marketing Professional of the Year
Kevin Dana, CORT Event Furnishings
Organizational Planner of the Year
Heather Hawes, Spelman College
Rental Company of the Year
CORT Event Furnishings
Rising Star, Female
Flo Miniscloux, Extraordinary Events
Rising Star Male
Alan Andai, AA Musicians
Technical Support Company of the Year