The Gala Awards, presented by Special Events magazine, is one of the industry's most prestigious awards and honors excellence in event/wedding design, catering, and production. Let's take a closer look at the awe-inspiring and award-worthy events that earned us FIVE nominations!
"Sentimental Journey: A Step Back in Time"Hello! ArizonaWINNER: Best Multiple-Day Incentive Event
This financial services provider held their key annual incentive trip over seven days in Phoenix to honor their top-performing financial advisors. Their 2,000 guests expected the VIP treatment; little did they know that they were about to be swept back in time to an era when the kings of jazz reigned and people danced the Charleston to swinging tunes from big band orchestras. As we intertwined their magical journey with the captivating history of the Arizona Biltmore resort and Wrigley Mansion, mirth and merriment awaited guests with surprise and delight moments from arrival to departure.
Arrival Experience –The time-travel transformation began the moment our guests arrived at the Biltmore, where they were greeted by vintage bellhops performing custom choreographed dances that led guests to the registration area. They were greeted by our hospitality staff in costumes that emulated the look of 1920s telephone operators. Our kids' area featured a tote-bag decorating station and a "Yappy Hour" where guests played with puppies from a local shelter.
Wrigley Mansion: An Evening with the Greats – We asked ourselves, "What if the powerhouse duo of William Wrigley, Jr. and the Great Jay Gatsby threw a magnificent party?" A red carpet entrance welcomed guests to a world with secret-room surprises and hidden treasures, including a whiskey-soaked speakeasy and intimate cigar corner. We enchanted guests with vintage entertainment and showcased our innovation by creating one-of-a-kind Video Voyeur Walls.
Women's Advisor Lunch – We took inspiration from the Biltmore's iconic block motif to create an elegant and feminine women's lunch for our client's 60 female executives in attendance. We brought history to this event by incorporating frequent guest Jackie Onassis into the design. Each place setting held a velvet bag custom-embossed with Jackie O.'s quote, "I am a woman above all else."
Happy Hour: Vintage Circus – We transformed the space from the Women's Advisor Lunch into a wildly different Happy Hour before guests departed for their off-property dinners. Vibrant colors and playful music welcomed guests to a circus featuring games, light bites, and beverages, while sideshow performers seemed to come out of nowhere for ongoing pop-up performances. We used vintage suitcases/trunks to make guests feel as if the circus had just arrived in town and they had the unexpected adventure of traipsing through their makeshift home. Our expert planning and big risks paid off with an unprecedented level of attendance for this event.
Mid-Century Glam – This event was themed as if Jackie O. was hosting an elegant party with a guest list that included everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Twiggy. Keep reading for more information about this particular event, which has a stand-alone nomination for "Best Décor – Total Décor Budget $50,000 to $99,999"
Departure Bar – Determined to send our guests off in VIP-style, we designed a PanAm-inspired departure bar where guests could pick up snacks, magazines, etc. for their journey home.
"Mid-Century Glam"Hello! ArizonaNomination: Best Décor – Total Décor Budget $50,000 to $99,999
Welcome to the Golden Age of the Biltmore resort in Phoenix, Arizona. During the final night reception for this financial services provider, guests were swept back in time where they lounged on the Squaw Peak Lawn alongside famous guests such as Marilyn Monroe, Chuck Berry, and James Dean. Creative attention to detail made all the difference in weaving this enchanting night with the captivating history of the Biltmore. With a 360-degree rotating stage, authentic drive-in, and surprising flash dance performances, guests were enthralled with a night of fascinating elegance and excitement.
"Our Magic Moment"Hello! Florida (Central) Destination ManagementNomination: Best Multiple-Day Event Program for a Corporation or Association
This annual incentive trip for a large insurance provider pushes the envelope of design and entertainment to make their VIPs feel cherished at every turn. This year, the client asked for a visually stimulating and sophisticated interpretation of their conference theme: "Our Magic Moment." Incredible creativity and extensive preparation made all the difference as 11 events were executed for 2,200 guests over the span of just three days. This program fed the frenzy of their fun-loving attendees using captivating entertainment and decor, and enthralled guests who thought they had seen it all. Magical indeed.
A Remarkable Day of Revelry: Only the company's highest sales performers earn a coveted spot in this exclusive group. Each year these VIPs arrive a day earlier to be pampered, which began with an outdoor party that showcased eyelash/makeup stations, massages, endless adult beverages, and mouth-watering food service in the adult pool area. Following this was a reception and awards dinner featuring America's Got Talent magician/comedian Piff the Magic Dragon.
The day closed with a "Smoke & Mirrors" after-party, which married the mysterious and mystical to create an unforgettable experience with mirrored furniture elements, inflated spheres, and a drummer/DJ duo raised onto a platform above the 360-degree dance floor. With a giant disco ball hanging underneath, and a clear acrylic floor beneath our entertainers, we created the illusion that guests were following in the footsteps of Lionel Richie and "Dancing on the Ceiling."
General Session (Day 1): We wanted to make the long walk from the breakfast ballroom to the General Session a magical one. We used the Orlando Magic Drumline as parade entertainment and infuse an enthusiastic feeling to the beginning of the conference.
Citrus Beer Garden: This event was developed to give guests some fresh air with a down-home Florida flair. We chose yellow and orange linens, arranged with fun pallet furniture groupings and lively pops of color. We custom-built a beer wall that featured 12 taps of ice-cold, local Florida beers. Fifty faux orange trees were placed around the lawn to enhance the citrus theme. Our in-house design team created custom graphics for the event, including branded beer coasters and corn-hole boards.
Cirque Couture: This annual costume party is both famous and fiercely competitive. Keep reading for more information about this event, which has a stand-alone nomination for "Best Décor – Total Décor Budget $100,000 to $250,000"
General Session (Day 2): We once again escorted guests from breakfast to the ballroom, but this time with branded heralding trumpets. In the style of a certain famous Boy Who Lived, each department of the organization had been designated a "House" with their own colors and custom-designed graphics. This wasn't your ordinary General Session, which featured the barons of balance, AGT's "The Russian Bar Trio," and Lyrian, whose LED suits flashed while dancing to magic-related songs (i.e. 24-Karate Magic by Bruno Mars.)
Wizardly World: We created a magical space where Quidditch towers and pumpkin pasties transported you to another world. Guests lunched at the communal tables representing each "House" before playing giant beer pong on (and through!) the Quidditch court. FloGo machines bubbled out our client's logo that floated over the event; an environmentally-safe branding opportunity that "magically" enhanced the space.
Closing Dinner: Guests enjoyed a sumptuous plated dinner before being dazzled by AGT's card-throwing act, Ricky Smith, Jr. and a pogo-stick stunt team. Additional entertainment included an ROTC Guard flag presentation, a children's performance of the national anthem, and an a capella group who crooned magic-themed songs during the transition of food courses as they sat amongst the guests (appearing as if by magic!) Top performers were then honored with an award presentation.
"Cirque Couture"Hello! Florida (Central) Destination ManagementNomination: Best Décor – Total Décor Budget $100,000 to $250,000
This large insurance provider's annual costume party isn't just an event, it's a spectacle of lavish décor, overflowing food and beverage, and captivating entertainment. This year, guests were invited to step right up into a "Cirque Couture" theme where guests didn't just attend this fashion-forward extravaganza, they were the stars of the show. Infusing the conference theme of "Our Magic Moment" at every turn, magic eight ball, leprechaun, and unicorn-costumed guests became part of the décor themselves as they traipsed through a kaleidoscope wonderland.
"Vizcaya Mansion Site Visit Invitation"Hello! Florida (South) Destination ManagementNomination: Best Invitation
In March 2018, a site visit for a financial services company annual incentive trip included a stop at the famous Vizcaya mansion in South Florida. In order to immerse the guests into the venue for the site, an elaborate backstory was created that tied into a video invitation book hand-delivered to each attendee's hotel room the day prior. The invitation featured a custom video message by the mansion's fictitious owner, elaborating on the event's theme, décor and food story.
Congratulations to our teammates at Hello! Arizona, Hello! Florida (Central), and Hello! Florida (South), as well as the other Gala Award winners and nominees!