It was four days of intensive learning, exciting events and new sights,
sounds and smells as event planners from around the world gathered
for the 2012 Idea Factory at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas February 26-29.
Familiar industry faces filled the hallways along with first-timers, who were drawn by high-quality speakers, the chance to see and hear icons Preston Bailey and David Tutera, the plethora of new products and ideas on the Tradeshow floor and, of course, the Spotlight Awards, which were free admission this year for registered attendees.
Networking was the hub of all the activity, with social and mobile media the catalyst. The Idea Factory app proved very popular, and it was gratifying to see how much more comfortable attendees were with this technology than they were last year. An informal tweet-up in the Shadow Bar at Caesars brought fellow tweeters face-to-face for real introductions and a few cocktails to warm up for the PURE party Monday night, and Facebook posts let everyone know where the action was.
By the time it was all over, everyone was tired but exhilarated and recharged as well,
eager to take the new ideas and friendships they’d experienced and put them
to work back home. After all, that’s what Idea Factory is all about!
After the first day of the conference, attendees were ready to unwind at an evening reception on the Garden of the Gods pool deck at Caesars Palace. It was a perfect time to meet and greet other event professionals and kick off the round of social events that Idea Factory is known for. Following the Welcome Reception, attendees headed over to a Champagne on Ice fundraiser for the SEARCH Foundation, which benefits event professionals who are experiencing difficulties in their personal or professional lives.
More than 100 education sessions were filled with attendees who were eager to learn about business strategies, industry trends and practical ideas for creating outstanding events. Featured presenter Preston Bailey addressed a standing-room-only crowd on how to make money in the events industry, sharing his personal story as well as some amusing mistakes he’s made along the way, much to the audience’s delight. In an optional session that quickly sold out, Preston did a first-time-ever live demonstration on how to create a living flower portrait, engaging members of the audience and students of the Lovegevity Wedding Planning Institute in the process.
Capping off the four-day experience, attendees were able to get one last touch-point with David Tutera, who hosted a Trends with Tutera event after he presented the closing session. In this lush, red-enveloped environment, guests were able to see his vision for weddings for 2012 and beyond, from fabulous wedding cakes to entertainment to breathtaking tabletops. And of course, guests were able to get their photo taken on the red carpet with this industry icon.
Another sold-out event, the Wedding Lunch, was presented by the Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA) and the Las Vegas chapter of ISES. This first-time event proved very popular, in part due to the presence of speaker Marcy Blum, wedding planner extraordinaire. The Wedding Gallery presented full-blown wedding scenarios, from ceremony to reception.
One of the great advantages of co-locating the Idea Factory and Catersource show floors was that event planners not only got a look at gorgeous tablescapes, lush linens and dazzling décor, but they were able to feast while they wandered, sampling the latest and tastiest new ideas in catering. Almost 1,000 booths filled the entire north hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, in addition to live ice carving demonstrations, Exhibition Stages and a Spectacular Sweets Pastry Showcase.
One of the most popular events on the tradeshow floor was the Tabletop Competition. More than 30 event planners and caterers competed in the tabletop competition, which was judged by an expert panel as well as special picks by David Tutera. From jungle to construction sites to Hindu weddings to birdhouses, the creativity was astounding and the execution perfect.
On Tuesday, tradeshow attendees were treated to a down and dirty contest between Sasha Souza of Sasha Souza Events and Cheryl Fish of Someone’s in the Kitchen Design Services. Sponsored by AFR Event Furnishings, the divas had 45 minutes to design a lounge and tablescape from a group of AFR items as well as neighboring booths. Spurred on by an enthusiastic audience and a sneaky emcee who enjoyed throwing twists and turns into the contest, the ladies showed just how tough they can be as they raced to beat the clock and each other. A jubilant Cheryl Fish was voted the winner by tradeshow attendees.
This year, the PURE party was a sophisticated blend of jazzed-up entertainment and trendy cuisine, and revelers embraced it all in spite of a sudden rain shower that temporarily forced them to desert the terrace.
“What’s a guy to do?” says Cade Nagy of Catering by Design, a Denver-based catering and events company, who along with his wife Ingrid was executive producer for the event. “Not much you can do but pray to the catering Gods. When half of your party is outdoors, all you can do is cover your chips station, sit and watch.”
But there was plenty to experience indoors while guests waited out the brief shower.
Entering the sleek, stylish PURE nightclub at Caesars Palace, they were greeted by a beautiful woman in an oversized champagne glass, a true Las Vegas-style welcome.
Every room in the nightclub featured entertainment for guests’ visual pleasure. Two Light Beings, adorned in an exquisite tapestry of laser technology, towered over the crowd as they moved beautifully in their spellbinding grace. Performers could be found in the most unusual places, including tabletops. Cirque-inspired performances included a pink flamingo stiltwalker, snake contortionist, LED-lit contortionist, pedestal hand balancer and an object manipulator.
At 10:00pm, the music brought the crowd to their feet and to the dance floor. POSH Band’s vocal talents made the ladies swoon and deejay Roonie G kept everyone dancing until the very last minute with his creative blend of audio and visual content.
On Tuesday night, out came the evening gowns and tuxes as event professionals gathered to honor the Spotlight Award winners. For the first time, the awards were free of charge to registered attendees, and the large crowd that showed up proved that this was a great idea. The next morning, winners met on the tradeshow floor to have a group photo taken.
Spotlight winners from left to right: Tricia Schmitt, AFR Event Furnishings, Marketing Professional of the Year; Greg Zalkin, representing AFR Event Furnishings, Event Supplier of the Year; Barbara Oehlerking, Artistry Design Group, Floral Designer of the Year; Sabdy Pacheco, A Joy Wallace Production, Rising Star of the Year; Kelly Murphy, representing Classic Party Rentals, Rental Company of the Year; Hillary Harris, representing Warner Bros., Event Site of the Year; Rrivre Davies, Rrivre Works, Designer/Creative Director of the Year; and Janet Elkins, Eventworks, Hall of Fame Inductee.winners not pictured: Aaron Kaniecki, Good Gracious! Events, Rising Star Male; Frank Andonoplas, Frank Event Design, Event Planner of the Year; Deborah Hermann, Ghostlight Productions, Event Producer of the Year; The Water Coolers, Entertainer of the Year;Michael Kloss, Emory University, Organizational Planer of the Year; Creative Backstage, Technical Support of the Year; Sequoia Productions, Event Company of the Year; and Hall of Fame Inductee Jim Watterson.
And a big thanks to Backdrops Beautiful for the backdrop and the team at AFR Event Furnishings for the furniture.
Congratulations to our 2012 inductees to the Event Solutions Hall of Fame! These industry veterans are recognized for their tireless dedication to our industry and years of service and leadership.
James Watterson has two biographies he sends out. One takes us up to 1998 when he was vice president of public relations and special events for Robinsons-May. And the other begins after he retired from that position in 1998! Both biographies are equally filled with stellar accomplishments.
During his 21 years at Robinsons-May, Watterson created many well-known community outreach campaigns such as “One Smart Cookie” with Mrs. Field’s Cookies for the Los Angeles Library, the “Posada & Chalk On the Walk” for the AIDS Service Center and the Revlon Run/Walk for women for which Robinsons-May was an original platinum sponsor. He produced or volunteered at more than 100 community benefit events in Los Angeles and Pasadena.
Upon “retirement,” Watterson continued to produce and/or chair many high-profile benefits, events and presentations within the arts and fashion industries. Events included those for the Pasadena Playhouse, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), Descanso Gardens, the Pasadena Armory for the Center of the Arts and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In the past 10 years Watterson has been honored for his work by the Pasadena Symphony, Grace Center and the Pasadena Museum of History as a Contemporary History Maker.
At that last event, the night sky burned bright with color – both from lighting and illuminated spheres; a look that truly reflected this taste maker’s high-flying sense of style and imagination. A gracious, artistic and tireless seeker of beauty, James Watterson is the embodiment of all we hope to be as individuals within the special events industry.
It’s not easy to have a name that elicits only smiles and positive responses when it is mentioned. It’s even harder when you’ve been at the top of your game within this competitive industry for more than three decades. And yet, that’s what happens when people hear the name Janet Elkins. Perhaps this is because Elkins, president of Eventworks, radiates positive energy no matter the company or situation she’s in. She easily laughs at her own war stories, yet conversely will empathize with the tribulations of others.
In her role at Eventworks, a national event design and production firm, she leads a diverse staff of talented individuals who, guided by her temperament and inclusionary vision, have produced one award-winning corporate event after another.
And of course, her personality leads her to give back often, addressing audiences at industry events across the world; sharing the knowledge she has accrued in her more than 30 years of experience. Currently she is assisting her colleagues in a very personal manner by serving on the board of the SEARCH Foundation.
In her spare time Elkins travels to unique and off-the-beaten path destinations, absorbing all that different cultures have to offer. No doubt the people she has touched there also smile affectionately when they hear the name Janet Elkins.
There was a moment during the production of the 2012 Event Solutions Spotlight Awards when Creative Director Bart Kresa, mused, “This medium – video projection – is technical, but at the same time it can be warm and dreamlike. We don’t have to be governed by traditional narrative.”
And so Kresa’s design theme, based around the subtitle, What Dreams May Come, began to percolate and then come to a boil. After Kresa chose and created the graphic images that would be projected across the 100-foot-long screen at Caesars Palace on February 28, the entire team raced to pack months of work into one month.
The look began with the Art Nouveau styling of the screen frames Kresa chose. From that small detail, his imagination turned to France in the twenties, to Jules Verne and journeys under the sea, into space and through our own, modern world of city skylines. The entire show look was then loosely unified by that classic awards show motif – chandeliers.
Kresa has been at the forefront of digital art installations, working in large-scale projection environments for years. As the technology develops, artists like him move with it, using the latest, brightest projectors, finding ways to take the process of projection to new uses such as architectural 3D mapping to even mapping moving people, which Kresa did for a live show in Japan.
“Why this is so different from LED,” Kresa explains, “is that when you use that medium, all you see is an LED wall with an image on it. With large-scale projection art, you see only the effect, not the medium. When done correctly it transforms a space by making the technology invisible.”
While this technology and its terms are becoming somewhat more common at events, it is important to note that it is still a very specialized art form that takes a team of experts to produce and run it. Yet, like technology that has come before, digital experts predict that the day will soon come when this medium is also more widespread and affordable for one-time events.
As Beth Stephenson of Extraordinary Events, the executive producer of the 2012 Spotlight Awards observed, “Technology updates so much quicker than we are able to process. We are still human and trick ourselves into thinking we can keep up with and understand technological change. Even though we are all talking about video mapping, it is still a highly specialized technique that requires a lot of time on the front end and a team of experts both in production and on site to make it really come together and work.”
As the final kaleidoscope image was projected and the virtual red curtain came down, the audience at this year’s Spotlight Awards had journeyed through a digital dream. Yet, unlike a dream, no one’s eyes were closed. They were now wide open to the possibilities of this technology.
EVENT SOLUTIONS MAGAZINE