2018 ILEA Minnesota Star Awards Winners Showcase

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Best Catered Event
Best Culinary Innovation or Solution
Best Event Design & Decor Budget under $25,000
Best Event Design & Decor Budget $25,000 and over
Best Use of Specialty Decor
Best Use of Marketing/Design Collateral
Best Event Photography – Wedding
Best Event Photography – Non-Wedding
Best Event Filmmaking (Videography)
Best Event Logistics – Non-Tent
Best Event Logistics – Tent or Temporary Structure
Best Technical Production
Best Entertainment Production
Best Event Planning – Corporate
Best Event Planning – Non-Profit
Best Event Planning – Public
Best Event Planning – Social (non-wedding)
Best Event Planning – Wedding Budget $75,000 and over
Best ILEA Team Effort

Best Catered Event
Derek + Ryan's Big Day
Christie Altendorf - D'Amico Catering
Jessica Barrett - Machine Shop
You know how sometimes the stars just align? The perfect moment happens and the perfect person walks in (or in this case, perfect people) and everything just clicks. Laughter. Connections. Commonality. Fun. From the first meeting with Dereck and Ryan, it was obvious that their wedding day would be one for the record books. They loved to travel. They loved to try new things. More importantly, they loved to eat! They were kind and funny and adventurous and above all else, they wanted every moment of their big day to be a reflection of the pathway that had brought them to that moment. From there, creativity and conceptualization were easy and the menu that these two inspired quickly became resolute perfection.
Best Culinary Innovation or Solution
Timeless Taste
Cindy Walker - Mintahoe Catering & Events
Over 300 professionals from the events, catering & restaurant industry gathered in a chic, rustic space to celebrate the past year's industry accomplishments in the best way we know how - a party! We decided to dazzle guests & treat them to some sweet bites with an elaborate, custom dessert display to honor the best of the best in the hospitality industry. Guests made their way up the wooden staircase & were dazzled by the natural light pouring into the room. They made their way around the space while eating small bites & sipping cocktails. They were immediately drawn to the dazzling glass encased room in which we were stationed. As they entered, they passed by our glowing pillars adorned with jewels & white ostrich feathers to replicate delicate flapper dresses. In the center of the room was a 16 foot long oak table embellished with distressed wooden liquor boxes, pearls, jewels, linens, ferns & shimmering gold accents. The ornate hand-made desserts pulled the whole look together with pops of color & art deco design that left guests in awe. Every flavor was specially created to enhance the theme of the display & take guests back in time to the wonderful roaring twenties.
Best Event Design & Decor Budget under $25,000
Around The World Gala
Pete Nelson - Event Lab
“Let’s give our guests a trip around the world!” is how our client explained the feeling she wanted at her annual fundraising Gala. We were tasked with transforming the venue into the experience of a lifetime for attendees in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The venue was a vast warehouse that was not used to holding events, so a true transformation was needed in order to convey the feel of traveling throughout the globe. Guests entered through a security gate where they were scanned and let into the arrival area. From there they visited destinations such as Asia, Africa, France, Brazil and Wisconsin. Before take-off they stopped at the Departure Gate for refreshments and then were free to visit each country, sampling regional menus and taking in the sites. Popular destination landmarks were the Eiffel Tower in France and the life-size rhino in Africa. Tables were decorated with sky blue linens showcasing travel suitcases, passports and a miniature replica of an actual aircraft. A live band played on the main stage keeping the atmosphere lively. There was so much to do and so many sites to see that the night flew by and guests woke up with jetlag the next morning!
Best Event Design & Decor Budget $25,000 and over
UNVEILED - The Ultimate Wedding Planning Event
The Wedding Guys

UNVEILED - the Ultimate Wedding Planning Event would set a new standard for bridal show design and decor. Utilizing strategic design, two event producers created a boutique department-store-style environment by breaking up a vast 100,000 square foot exhibit hall. Filling the space with luxury decor, the producers created an intimate shopping experience for couples to curate their dream weddings.

On February 5th two event producers designed a luxury shopping experience for newly-engaged couples. UNVEILED-The Ultimate Wedding Planning Event redefined the term 'Bridal Show' by transforming the traditional trade show into a retail-inspired shopping experience; connecting wedding businesses to style-conscious wedding planning couples.

Setting out to design an environment unlike any other bridal show, the event producers utilized a key set of design strategies and signature decor elements to turn an everyday trade show into an experiential event that evoked the feeling of a luxury department store.

They focused on five steps:

  • Scraping the Floor Plan
  • Creating Exhibit Solutions
  • Staging the Space
  • Creating Places to Pause
  • Developing Inspirational Galleries

Their design would create a boutique department-store-style environment meant to break up a vast 100,000 square foot exhibit hall, making it an intimate shopping experience for couples to curate their dream wedding. The event would bring to life the latest trends, moments to cherish with loved ones, a couture fashion show, and an array of 130 service providers ready to help make the impossible, possible.

As an original shopping experience, UNVEILED re-envisioned what a bridal trade show could be. By integrating stylish decor elements, the event became distinctive, memorable, and special. Being conscious and consistent with their design the producers wove the event together with grand style, enforcing a distinct brand throughout the entire event experience.

Best Use of Specialty Decor
Hamptons Bat Mitzvah
Gretchen Berry - Gretchen Berry Design Co
Monique Berg - BIG INK
What to do when your client wants to have a vibrant, Hamptons themed party in a staid, traditional country club ballroom? You break out the patterns à la Lilly Pulitzer, pull out your freshest, breeziest ideas and dial in chic, Long Island fun. The Bat Mitzvah in the Hamptons celebration delivered just that to the 150 guests gathered in honor of two sisters’ special ceremony. The high-energy duo picked hot pink and turquoise blue for the party palette and seven different patterns were created and used throughout the event, from stationery to décor. Everything was ready until the client decided (à la last moment) that the six-foot brass chandeliers had to go. Given the club was not about to remove them, the décor designer and the ILEA visual communications provider designed, fabricated and produced huge, custom drum shades that truly transformed the room top to bottom.
Best Use of Marketing/Design Collateral
A User Conference Evolution
Liam McMonagle - Type A Events
This trend-forward client, challenged us to create an event brand for their user conference that would complement their primary brand while creating an impactful and engaging event environment. After thorough analysis of their audience and brand attributes, we crafted a look and messaging which balanced strategy with playfulness for a smash success of an event!
Best Event Photography – Wedding
Theresa and Adam's Hometown Wedding
Jeannine Marie Photography
The Mississippi River and the St Paul skyline were the perfect hometown backdrop for Theresa and Adam’s Bohemian inspired DIY wedding. Carefree and full of laughter the couple and their large wedding party visited their favorite Saint Paul spots! Months of wedding projects from building their own benches to doing all their own floral, their wedding beautifully reflected the couple’s commitment to each other and the love for their city!
Best Event Photography – Non-Wedding
Peak Performers Conference
Joe Szurszewski Photography
Peak Performers is an annual business and sales incentive conference that rewards top-performing Financial Representatives in the insurance and annuities industry. The photography of the 2017 conference captured the colorful location at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida and showed attendees enjoying an oceanside welcome dinner, well-known speakers including Diana Nyad and Pat Riley, hosted activities like ocean fishing, kayaking, and mountain biking, a dinner cruise on Florida's Intracoastal Waterway, and a formal awards banquet with entertainment by Kenny Loggins.
Best Event Filmmaking (Videography)
Freak Show
Justen Pohl - Enticing Entertainment
“Freakshow” was an evening of elaborate decor and spine tingling entertainment that celebrated the beauty in the bizarre. This 40th birthday celebration encompassed the most horrific, shocking, and alluring aspects of classic sideshow acts with an avante garde, modern, sexy, twist! Guests were greeted with interactive surprises around every corner and encouraged to play their own role in an epic game of make believe, as we immersed them in a world of debaucherous, freedom of expression.
Best Event Logistics – Non-Tent
In The Groove
Kathy Bakesberg - Festivities
The logistics of a program in its second decade can become very stale. And, we all know awards presentations can end up being pretty dry! This client wanted us to overcome unique logistical challenges: creating energy despite a move to a morning time slot (no cocktails!), working on the smallest budget in years, and ensuring we maintained the staple content of the awards presentation which included getting all 250 winners across the stage for recognition! We needed to do all of that while delivering a seamless event that held high energy in the room, tied to the event theme, drew in the personality of the Jamaican location, and surprised attendees. Luckily, we blew them away with a complete before-your-eyes room transformation, a custom choreographed slate of event entertainment, bespoke decor, and a witty script we crafted from scratch.
Best Event Logistics – Tent or Temporary Structure
A Tent Performs Double-Duty
Andrea Bach - Après Event Décor & Tent Rental
A Clear Span structure for a high school graduation party was called on to perform double-duty when the family decided to hold a birthday party in the tent the day prior to the Grad party. 130 guests were invited to each event and since many would attend both, it was important that each celebration have its own look. The clients utilized their personal Event Planner (EP) from their home in Florida to help design and execute the event. However, he depended heavily on our Rental Company’s Event Specialist (ES) to recommend and procure vendors for the many sub rentals, communicating via phone and email with only three site visits prior to the week of the events. The first contract was signed in February, with five revisions and three site visits by our ES, and two showroom visits with the EP and ES. Four days prior to the event, the EP and ES spent approximately 8 hours daily on site until right before the event. The 40’x 120’ floored Navi Trac structure took three days to install. (Event Collateral 9). Two auxiliary tents, plus all the additional furniture, décor, lighting, drape, etc. arrived in a steady progression starting four days prior to Party 1. A Strict load-in schedule had to be followed. (See Mgmt. Collateral 2 Timeline) Fifteen different vendors were brought in, including a major balloon installation (Event Collateral 2). Party 2 was a next day turn-around. Installation and strike of all items took 9 days.
Best Technical Production
Minnesota Sports Awards
metroConnections
The inaugural Minnesota Sports Awards ceremony - hosted by Sports Minneapolis - was a celebration of the best sports in Minnesota over the past year. From the athletes who inspired us to the moments that captivated us, the awards honored the success stories that embody the spirit of sports in Minnesota. Held at the newly renovated Target Center in downtown Minneapolis, the evening's awards show featured some of Minnesota's best-known athletes and sports figures who have shaped our sports scene and contributed to our communities.
Best Entertainment Production
In the Groove
Kathy Bakeberg - Festivities
Awards programs get tired. This client wanted a fresh spin on an awards ceremony that had attendees guessing and injected the affair with a nod to the hip locale: Jamaica. Our production team created a budget-friendly entertainment-packed program unlike any they had seen before built on the rich history of the Jamaican music scene! From traditional elements like a Mento band, and 12-person steel drummers to unique contributions like a graffiti artist, a kabuki drop, an executive undercover as a guest DJ, a live rap artist, hip hop performances, and a host of dancers, this event literally keep attendees on their toes.
Best Event Planning – Corporate
Essentia Health - Illuminated
Justen Pohl - Enticing Entertainment
Cassie McIvor - Essentia Health
Teddi Sellick - Event Lab
An evening of visually captivating entertainment and luminous decor created the perfect dreamlike world for this employee appreciation event! Guests were swept away from the demands of work with stunning performances, immersed in an environment filled with enchanted experiences and playful magic around every corner.
Best Event Planning – Non-Profit
Dawn of a Dream
Children's Cancer Research Fund

On Nov. 4, 2017, over 650 guests gathered for an inspiring night, filled with joy and centered on one critical mission: to raise dollars that would fund vital research and that one day would put an end to childhood cancer. That mission was successfully supported with nearly $950,000 raised in one evening.

For its 37th year, the theme for Dawn of a Dream was “Joy in Perseverance.” This was chosen to reflect the many small joys families who are battling childhood cancer experience as they persevere through the many difficulties that childhood cancer can bring. Guests were inspired by these small joys in many ways throughout the event experience.

This year’s theme was brought to life first in its visual brand. Soft, yellow ombré colors reflected the joy and hope of a new dawn that many families encounter in their journey with childhood cancer. Steel grey accented against the soft yellow marked the perseverance this journey also requires—it requires strength and boldness. Whimsical font choices nodded to the youthful nature that is celebrated and sacred in the children we raise money to support.

Guests were given many opportunities to donate during the pre-dinner portion of the evening, with a $100 and $500 punch board, wine wall, accessory and jewelry experiences as well as silent auction.

Once seated for dinner, the formal program breathed life into the “Joy in Perseverance” theme. The program was kicked off by the event emcee, a national correspondent for CNN who previously captured the story of a young man fighting cancer that our organization supported during his well-fought battle. A live band, NUNNABOVE, made up of four young siblings reflected the youthful energy that we hoped to keep at the forefront of the event brand. Purposeful song choices led guests through first the perseverance required by families fighting childhood cancer, and the many joys that can be found in that journey.

A video featuring the story of a local cancer survivor, Connor, and his family illustrated how current cancer treatment options can often leave lifelong effects on survivors. The video gave faces and voices to the event brand and how this particular family has found joy in their long and difficult battle with cancer and its late effects.

Following the video, guests warmly welcomed Connor’s mother to the stage, who then delivered a gut-wrenchingly, authentic reflection on her family’s experience with childhood cancer and the late effects its given Connor. She then urged guests to give generously throughout the evening and the guests did just that, donating more than $460,000 in just the live auction and a Fund-a-Need.

The program gave way to an after-party featuring locally-acclaimed DJ Lenka Paris with late night snacks and complimentary bourbon cocktails.

Best Event Planning – Public
UNVEILED - The Ultimate Wedding Planning Event
The Wedding Guys

Determined to shatter the mold of the traditional bridal show, two event producers set out to create the Ultimate Wedding Planning Event. UNVEILED would transform the wedding shopping experience, offering a luxury destination with high-touch service, signature design and the best wedding related goods and services.

On February 5th two event producers created a once-in-a-lifetime experience for newly-engaged couples. UNVEILED-The Ultimate Wedding Planning Event redefined the term 'Bridal Show' by transforming the traditional trade show into a retail-inspired shopping experience; connecting wedding businesses to style-conscious wedding planning couples.

Setting out to create an environment unlike any other bridal show, the event producers utilized a key set of strategies to turn an everyday trade show into an experiential event that evoked the feeling of a luxury department store.

They focused on five steps:

  • Scraping the Floor Plan
  • Creating Exhibit Solutions
  • Staging the Space
  • Creating Places to Pause
  • Developing Inspirational Galleries

Their design would create a boutique department-store-style environment meant to break up a vast 100,000 square foot exhibit hall, making it an intimate shopping experience for couples to curate their dream wedding. The event would bring to life the latest trends, moments to cherish with loved ones, a couture fashion show, and an array of 130 service providers ready to help make the impossible, possible.

Well executed public events must generate buzz, draw interest from a targeted demographic while providing a positive attendee experience to maintain goodwill for future events. In addition, well executed trade shows must also connect the right businesses with the right clients; creating a set of solutions for the shopper while demonstrating a good ROI for exhibitors. The producers had to find the right balance to pull all of these strategic components into alignment.

So, was UNVEILED successful? Measurement was based on several factors; exhibit sales, event attendance and demographic surveys of attendees post event. So numbers first. With a newly redesigned event, over 130 exhibitors were secured- a SOLD OUT event!

An overall attendance of over 2,000 people included over 800 brides, validating the goals for a successful event. What was even more rewarding was that exhibitors reported, through post-event surveys, that the event attracted a more affluent consumer than the event had provided in the past, and the attendee demographic surveys backed that up.

As an original shopping experience, UNVEILED re-envisioned what a bridal trade show could be. The event was distinctive, memorable, and special. Being conscious and consistent with their design the producers wove the event together with grand style, enforcing a distinct brand throughout the entire event experience.

Best Event Planning – Social (non-wedding)
Freak Show
Justen Pohl - Enticing Entertainment
“Freakshow” was an evening of elaborate decor and spine tingling entertainment that celebrated the beauty in the bizarre. This 40th birthday celebration encompassed the most horrific, shocking, and alluring aspects of classic sideshow acts with an avante garde, modern, sexy, twist! Guests were greeted with interactive surprises around every corner and encouraged to play their own role in an epic game of make believe, as we immersed them in a world of debaucherous, freedom of expression.
Best Event Planning – Wedding Budget $75,000 and over
Home Sweet Home
Gretchen Culver - Rocket Science Events
Cadence Cornelius - Cadence & Eli Photography
Create Catering

Home Sweet Home. There's no better way to celebrate the next chapter in your life than by getting married at your new home - that you just spent a year renovating! Private home weddings are always tricky, especially when the property is undergoing construction during the wedding planning process. Which is all the more reason to have a team of experienced event professionals on the job. This wedding was all about teamwork and collaboration. The vendors came together with one goal in mind: to create a magical day for the couple.

And magical it was! Woodsy and elegant, intimate and breathtaking. The design of the wedding was inspired by the property, incorporating natural elements like birch trees and produce straight from the bride's garden. Clear tents brought the outdoors in. Boxwood was studded with flowers… crystal chandeliers were juxtaposed against lush greenery… blue and white plates popped against the understated linens. The eclectic mix of elements made it feel truly like the client's home from the moment guests arrived on the property.

Best ILEA Team Effort
Home Sweet Home
Gretchen Culver - Rocket Science Events
Aprés Event Décor & Tent Rental
Girl Friday
Elizabeth Partyka - Avant Décor
Josh Reitan - AV For You
Michelle Smith - Rudy's Event Rentals

Home Sweet Home. There's no better way to celebrate the next chapter in your life than by getting married at your new home - that you just spent a year renovating! Private home weddings are always tricky, especially when the property is undergoing construction during the wedding planning process. Which is all the more reason to have a team of experienced event professionals on the job. This wedding was all about teamwork and collaboration. The vendors came together with one goal in mind: to create a magical day for the couple.

And magical it was! Woodsy and elegant, intimate and breathtaking. The design of the wedding was inspired by the property, incorporating natural elements like birch trees and produce straight from the bride's garden. Clear tents brought the outdoors in. Boxwood was studded with flowers… crystal chandeliers were juxtaposed against lush greenery… blue and white plates popped against the understated linens. The eclectic mix of elements made it feel truly like the client's home from the moment guests arrived on the property.