I'm charmed that The Special Event is such a special event, the social media set doesn't just tweet about it — they meet about it.
This issue brings you our annual wrap of the education, exhibits, events and excitement at The Special Event, which took place in wonderful New Orleans in January. I learned from Debra Roth, CEO and creative director of New York-based Pink Inc., that she and her online friends from Twitter held a “tweetup” — a face-to-face meeting — at The Special Event. That's pretty solid validation of the show; the online people make time for face-time there. (I have also concluded that Debra herself made Gala Awards history — as she took the stage to accept the Gala trophy on behalf of a colleague who could not attend, Roth tweeted her missing friend, sharing the victory in real time.)
It was amazing to me to think about what has changed since The Special Event 2001, the last time we held the show in the Big Easy.
January 2001 was a happy time. Business was good; hearts were light. I was being virtuous — expecting my twins later that year, I wasn't indulging in any of the finely crafted cocktails I'd heard were widely available. I can vividly remember sitting in front of the hotel the morning after the Gala Awards, waiting to catch the 7 a.m. shuttle for my flight back home. I was greeted by Gala attendee after Gala attendee, still decked out in black-tie and ballgowns, as they returned to the hotel from a night on the town.
This year, I had to make myself remember that the Morial Convention Center, now as then our show site, was the shelter for so many evacuees after the horrors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This year, the center seemed to stretch on forever, its halls packed with show after show — and an expansion is in the works, one cabbie told me.
What truly made me remember Katrina — and the stunning resilience of the New Orleans event community in its aftermath — was the Gala Celebration following our awards ceremony. Led by USA Hosts New Orleans and staged in a Morial ballroom, the event grabbed our hearts and wouldn't let go. From the stirring strains of a trio's rendition of “Amazing Grace” to the relentless percussive power of the New Orleans Hornets Drumline, the Gala Celebration proved the power of special events to grip our minds and souls. The finale appears on our cover.
Our story starts on page 23 — relive and rejoice.