Special Events

PLACE FIRST

Hot event spots are everywhere, if you know how to look. We recently turned to Gala Award nominees to find which event facilities are their favorites and why. Our August cover story profiles some of their most promising picks.

WINE AND DINE

“A stunning garden with interesting original sculptures” draws Andrea Michaels, president of Los Angeles-based Extraordinary Events, to Clos Pegase winery in Napa, Calif. Another plus, she adds: “You have the benefit of the finest wines in California.”

Ample art and wine are essential parts of the package, agrees Clos Pegase's Laura La Rosa. But they are just two event-friendly features that have attracted clients including Cadillac, Lucent Technologies and Lucasfilm Ltd. to the 450-acre vineyard estate. Others include in-house floral, decor and design consultation services.

A range of event spaces accommodates groups from 20 to 450 guests, La Rosa notes. Options include the intimate 75-guest-capacity Harvest Room, with its crystal chandeliers and marble fireplace. The most intriguing event area, she says, may be the Cave Theater — a 2,800-square-foot room carved into “an ancient volcanic knoll in the center of the estate.”

CROWN OF DOWNTOWN

Janet Elkins, president of Los Angeles-based Eventworks, cites urban energy and a “dazzling waterfall fountain and lake” as features that place downtown L.A.'s Watercourt at California Plaza among her favorite event sites.

Gillian McCarthy of Los Angeles-based Grand Performances, which handles booking and production for the venue, says on-site technical services make the space ideal for large-scale event entertainment. “We can also make arrangements to bring in special details like moving-light packages or video screen projections,” she adds.

With the adjacent Omni Los Angeles Hotel as a preferred caterer along with a guest capacity ranging from 700 for sit-down dinners to more than 6,000 for concerts and festivals, the venue has attracted a string of high-profile events, McCarthy adds. One of the most memorable, she says, was a party for digital-art trailblazer Industrial Light and Magic, which featured taiko drummers, blues musicians and Brazilian capoeira performers. “Perhaps the most captivating [entertainment],” she says, “was the Butoh dance company, which performed in the central reflecting pools.”

HONORABLE MANSION

For Mona Meretsky, CSEP, head of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based COMCOR Event and Meeting Production, the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Fla., is “an unforgettable location” for events.

According to membership services director Tanya Mikus, hosting an event at the museum — housed in the former home of Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler — “is a privilege of membership.” Corporate clients who become museum members are welcome to hold dinner events for up to 200 guests at the 100-year-old mansion. Those that have made the commitment include Rolls Royce, JPMorgan Chase and Litton Industries, she says.

Planners working on an event at the Flagler mansion can expect to find “a grand beaux-arts backdrop with beautiful vistas of Lake Worth and the lights of West Palm Beach,” Mikus says. She adds that an extensive list of approved caterers, rental companies, audiovisual providers and other services is designed to make easy work of event coordination while protecting the building — a national historic landmark.

RAIL GOOD TIME

Lorraine Hyder describes an event aboard the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Pacific Starlight Dinner Train as “a unique experience that begins in North Vancouver and romances you on a journey through some of British Columbia's most beautiful scenery.” The general manager of Vancouver-based Peake of Catering adds that her company is proud to be the caterer on board the historic Art Deco train.

To Pacific Starlight Dinner Train marketing coordinator Rob Hart, the eight-car train is an ideal event choice because it can accommodate so many different size groups. Rail cars range in capacity from 22 to 72 guests with a total train capacity of 400, he says.

An attractive on-board option for small corporate groups is the train's weekly “murder mystery” evening, held every Friday, Hart says. “It's intrigue with a touch of humor, with themes such as ‘Murder at the Moulin Rouge.’”

CAPITAL ONE

Washington's Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is one of Phelps Hope's top three venue picks for many reasons. But, says the president of Atlanta-based Aspen Productions, one reason stands out: “The service levels at the ITC are absolutely second to none. For high-end clients who need high-end service, the catering and the staff are world-class.”

ITC catering sales manager Kelly Drew touts the quality of the facility's catering. “Our team of chefs creates a restaurant-quality experience for our guests for functions ranging in size from 10 to 1,400 on a daily basis,” she says, listing fava bean potage, deviled-crab samosas and shiitake-mousse-stuffed lamb chops as favorite offerings.

While on-site services are plentiful — including digital effects generators, a video cabling infrastructure and even simultaneous translation facilities for up to six languages — the venue invites off-premise vendors as well. “Event planners are welcome to bring in their favorite decor company, florist, production company and entertainment to make their event a memorable occasion,” Drew says.




RESOURCES

Clos Pegase, 707/942-4981; Flagler Museum, 561/655-2833; Pacific Starlight Dinner Train, 800/363-8238; Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 202/312-1324; Watercourt at California Plaza, 213/687-2190 See this story on the Web at www.specialevents.com.

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