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Special Events Blog

And the Gala Award Goes to...Freak Show

Part 2 in our 2024 Gala Award Feature Series

All photos courtesy Ivan Piedra Photography

Gala Award Recipient for Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association: Overall Budget Over $500,000 

Everybody loves a good theme, and Cerbelli Creative delivered with their Freak Show theme for their insurance company client’s biannual reception.  

The first time the company had gathered for this occasion post-pandemic, this event was a big shebang, created for 600 employees and including over 50 performers, a band, a DJ, specialty performers, choreographed production segments, and costumed atmosphere performers. 

The event took place at Shadowbrook, a historic Gilded Age venue in New Jersey. The venue is known for its million-dollar custom Chihuly Chandelier, the only known commission of its type in a privately owned venue—not ideal when the client wants lively acrobatic performances on site! Still, the team camouflaged the chandelier and worked around it, letting the wonder of both the venue and the entertainment shine. 

From the moment guests entered, they were inside a circus of amusements, greeted by custom-printed marquees based on authentic Freak Show posters from yesteryear—though these posters featured the images of various corporate executives. From there, guests made their way the ballroom, which could only be entered by walking through an ominous clown’s mouth.  

The dance floor was custom printed with the client logo in Freak Show theme. A gilded cage sat in the middle of the dance floor, where a duo contortionist act, reminiscent of those seen in traveling freak shows, mesmerized onlookers with displays of physical prowess. At one point, the music transitioned and a flash mob peformed to the song “This Is Me” from freak-show themed film The Greatest Showman, an ode to individualism and all the unique aspects of circus, carnival, and freak show performers from the past. 

The highlight of the event was the abundance of external talent. Throughout the evening, guests witnessed a Sway-Pole performer, fire jugglers and sword swallowers, a custom-made 12-foot-tall tent-dress performer, aerial performers suspended by mechanical Gantry over the outdoor fire pit, aerial champagne talent in the garden, skeleton-styled mermaids, and a live “Madame Zoltar” performer who foretold futures.  

Food stations featured sushi, a raw bar with king crab legs and lobster, carving stations with various cuts of beef, and ample freshly made pasta. 

A VIP lounge, resembling the backstage dressing room of a traveling Freak Show tent, allowed executives to choose costume enhancements, such as wigs, glasses, hats, masks, boas, and even tattoo sleeves. Nearby, another ballroom provided an afterparty lounge with upscale furnishings, neon-colored linens, another custom dance floor, and a DJ. Here, plenty of desserts and candies were offered, including "spin-spun boozy cotton candy." 

Thanks to well-executed decor, entertainment, catering, and more, the Freak Show was a memorable way to celebrate the return post-pandemic! 

Congratulations to Cerbelli Creative for taking home the award for Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association: Overall Budget Over $500,000 !   

To submit an entry to this year's Gala awards, please visit our awards portal.      

Important Dates   

  • September 1, 2023-August 31, 2024 | Eligibility Period for Entries  
  • Sunday, September 15, 2024 | Regular submission deadline ($125 fee)  
  • Tuesday, September 30, 2024 | Late Bird submission deadline ($175 fee)  

If you are interested in entering in the ACE awards instead, you can enter the Catersource 2025 ACE awards in the same online portal as the Gala awards. Catersource + The Special Event 2025 will run February 24-27 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Both the ACE and Gala awards will be presented during the conference at a to-be-determined location in Fort Lauderdale. 

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