2012 ISES Minnesota Star Awards

2012 ISES Minnesota Star Awards

The Minneapolis–St. Paul chapter of the International Special Events Society has named its 2012 winning events.

Green Tie Affair
Char Mason and Cookie Coleman | Coleman Mason Events
Category: Best Creative Solution

The planners of a fundraising event for the Nature Conservancy wanted to avoid the standard gala format. Their goals were to inspire attendees and get them excited about the organization’s mission. The event was organized around the organization’s four areas of focus: grasslands, forests, freshwater, and earth. Arriving guests received a “field guide” that led them to explore the four habitat zones. Each zone featured a monitor showing nature images and messages related to the organization’s mission. Themed décor included grasses, small trees, and water features. Guests could sign up for nature escapes such as a Baja whale and sea turtle adventure and a spring migration photo safari.

The small-plate “walking dinner” menu featured sustainable foods such as nuts, bison, smoked trout, free-range chicken, and more. Attendees sat down for dessert and a program with speakers and a video. Each guest was given a live tree as a parting gift.

Other nominees: 
 John Swanson, Ultimate Events
 Tim McVean, Avex • Event Lab

Catco’s Culinary Collaboration
Susan Diamond | Jigsaw Unlimited • Marshall O’Brien
Category: Best Catered Event

An auto parts company wanted a year-end celebration for employees that included a team-building competition. The planner put together an interactive cooking experience in which teams prepared a meal for the celebration using recipes developed by a chef. The 14 teams were composed of people who typically did not work together and, in some cases, had not met. The challenge required the participants to work together to:

  • Time the food preparation so that all the dishes were ready simultaneously.
  • Negotiate with other teams to locate and obtain certain ingredients.
  • Solve an inventory problem—cooking ingredients and equipment were intentionally hidden to force teams to identify and locate missing and misplaced “inventory.”

The group spent 90 minutes preparing and presenting the food before sitting down to eat.

Other nominees: 
 Sheri DeGeorge, Embassy Suites Airport • Tri City Catering
 Lisa Brenna, Mintahoe Catering & Events


Capital Markets Day
Nicole Cardamone | MetroConnections
 Best Corporate Event
 Best Event Design & Décor—Budget $25,000 and More

An international agribusiness company built a multi-structure compound at a rural research site to showcase its vision for the future to key stakeholders. Guests arrived at the site via motorcoach and were welcomed to a breakfast reception in a machine shed. With 16-foot white velvet drapes, carpeting, and specialty lighting, the shed had been transformed into an attractive venue. A stage was set up in another part of the building for a general session.< /p>

The guests later walked to the nearby field area, in which eight dome tents had been erected. Seven of the tents each focused on a company crop product. Guests also viewed crop plots with live samples of the products. In addition, eight-foot-tall field markers along the path to the tents offered more information about the company.

Planning challenges included cleaning and deodorizing the machine shed, providing air-conditioning and electricity to the tents, and keeping the design clean, open, and approachable, in keeping with the company’s brand image.

Other nominees: 
Best Corporate Event
 Steph Pfeilsticker, Thrivent Financial
 Cheryl Kranz, Creative Events by Kranz

Best Event Design & Décor—Budget $25,000 and More
 Char Mason, Coleman Mason Events • Todd Pinzuti, Bungalow 6 Design • Mary Beth Houlihan, Fame
 Pete Nelson, Event Lab • Nathan Soland, St. Olaf College


Spring Jam 2011
Xander Castro | University of Minnesota
Category: Best Entertainment Production

The University of Minnesota’s annual Spring Jam is a three-day music festival celebrating the end of the school year. The event is planned by students to appeal to the university’s large and diverse student body, which numbers more than 60,000 people.

Each day of the festival was headlined by a popular national act—Trampled by Turtles, P.O.S., and OKGo. The rest of the lineup included many local acts. The event also boasted a dance competition, a Battle of the Bands, and a light and water show backed by classical music. Planners strived to make the 2011 event more cohesive than previous festivals and engaged six student groups to host stand-alone events or components of larger events during the festival. Organizers were also able increase the event budget by more than $24,000 by bringing in both in-kind and cash sponsorships.

Other nominees: 
 David Baer, Level11

Virtual National Sales Meeting
Steph Pfeilsticker | Thrivent Financial
Category: Best Technical Production

A financial services company launched its national sales meeting as both a live and a virtual event to save some of its employees time away from their offices. The live event was translated for the virtual audience by an emcee, who “reported” from a studio in the live event’s general session area. Remote attendees could ask speakers questions via monitors. Four of the meeting’s breakout sessions were also streamed simultaneously to the virtual audience, which required 15 technicians to monitor the feeds.

Previously, the organization’s in-person national meeting attracted about 40 percent of the organization’s sales force. Because the meeting has proven to increase attendees’ sales, this year’s goal was to make it easier for the remaining 60 percent of the sales force to be part of the event, and to register at least 300 people. The final registration count was 451.

Spangles & Sparkles
Event Lab
Category: Best Event Design & Décor—Budget Less Than $25,000

For an annual client appreciation event, a typical hotel ballroom got a radical makeover. Planners were tasked with creating spectacular effects on a small budget. Guests entered on a black plush carpet with a silver swirl pattern, surrounded by silver palm trees. The ceiling was hung with beaded curtains, creating dramatic swags. Then the space was separated. Guests could explore:

  • A VIP section curtained off by 20-foot crystal chandeliers paired with uplights and filled with C-shaped lounge seating, white cube seating, and tables boasting the evening’s logo.
  • Four bars backed by a 40-foot silver Austrian drape, with large silk ivory rose balls hanging above.
  • Food stations with a 120-foot floor-to-ceiling circle drape behind them. Specialty lighting gave the impression that the wall of circles was moving.


A variety of centerpieces incorporated live white goldfish, votive candles, silver candelabras, and crystal coral.

Other nominees: 
 Pete Nelson, Event Lab
 Gabriel Backlund, Ultimate Events


Tour de Cure
Amy Coppersmith | Coppersmith Photography
Category: Best Event Photography

A charity bike tour that raises money for diabetes research needed a photographer to document the riders, vendors, and volunteers involved in the event. The goal was to show future donors and others what the race was like, and to encourage participation. The photographer highlighted the fun of the ride as well as the rest stops, first aid stations, and the crowd, to show riders that the event is safe and fun. Photographs of people patronizing vendors helped show that the tour is a profitable place to be and to call out the participation of this year’s vendors. The photographer also captured all the work volunteers contribute to the event, so tour organizers could show future volunteers what needs to be done.

The photographer chose to bike along with the riders in order to capture images from all parts of the four routes that traveled through Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hopkins, and elsewhere.

Other nominees: 
 Katrina Hannemann, Studio Laguna Photography
 Laurie Falk, Lauren B. Photography


Carlson Global Conference
Lauren Segelbaum | Event Lab
Category: Best Logistics

To satisfy a client putting together an event for 1,000 guests in Washington, D.C., an event firm handled dining elements for the three-day conference. The client requested a clean and sleek design. Many of the décor elements were shipped from Minnesota, including hundreds of tables. To get the effect the client wanted for the final-night gala, the event firm bought more than 480 tables from Ikea to be arranged in different configurations. The firm also assembled the tables, using adhesive to make them more stable, and applied 960 custom-made graphics to the tabletops.

Fresh floral centerpieces were designed on site. They were composed entirely of red roses on the first day of the conference, which landed on Valentine’s Day. It was challenging to find a wholesale florist that could provide the more than 5,000 red roses needed. Décor elements for the final gala included 12-foot illuminated columns and large floral arrangements of blue delphinium sitting atop swirled pillar stands.

Other nominees: 
 Kevin Nelson, Ultimate Events
 Jodi Collen, Augsburg College


The Emmanuel Masqueray Ball
Meghan Gustafson | The Basilica of Saint Mary
Category: Best Nonprofit Event

The Basilica of Saint Mary’s largest fundraising event, the Masqueray Ball, is named after the architect who designed the church. The event-planning committee chose to hold the ball in the new Twins stadium, which offers views of the Basilica—a contrast of new and old. The goal was to attract at least 300 guests and raise at least $125,000 for upkeep of the church.

The event included:

  • A reception featuring a signature cocktail, a roaming magician, and passed hors d’oeuvres.
  • A silent auction with more than 150 items, such as sports memorabilia and dinner with the governor.
  • Dinner of filet mignon and halibut, followed by Harmon Killebrew Root Beer Bundt Cake.
  • An Extra Innings party after dinner featuring a live band and a lower ticket price, to encourage young people to get involved.

Other nominees: 
 Char Mason and Cookie Coleman, Coleman Mason Events • Todd Pinzuti, Bungalow 6 Design
 Katie Benson, Concordia University

The Wedding Guys
Category: Best Public Event

To launch a wedding trade show that would tour the country, the producers designed an event with three event spaces. One was a 100-foot-long “aisle” of a wedding ceremony space, with crystal chandelier lamps, oversized mirrors, and a 12-foot ice-wall altar backdrop. Guests moved on to a lounge area with a full bar and red sofas. In the “reception rotunda,” an eight-foot-diameter chandelier hung over a head table with a custom table runner. A printed-image facade framed the stage for the band.

On the second floor, a “fashion loft” was fitted with 16-foot-tall acrylic facades and white leather banquettes and formed the entrance to the event’s fashion show. Backlit acrylic panels and acrylic chairs were used in the fashion show area. The exhibit hall was designed to look like a department-store environment, rather than a traditional trade show floor.

Other nominees: 
 Josh Franz, Twin City Bridal Association


Gabriel Backlund | Ultimate Events
Category: Best Rental Support (Non-Tenting)

Prohibition-era New Orleans was the theme for a nonprofit’s annual event for 350 people. The rental company provided décor, a stage, furniture, linens, and floral for the event’s jazz-club atmosphere. Guests encountered a streetscape backdrop, with a stage and a large dance floor. The square tables with scarlet pintuck linens boasted cone lampshades that had been custom-printed with images from the event branding. The choice of tables, the stage, and the space arrangement were carefully considered to ensure accessibility, because many of the guests were in wheelchairs. The rental company utilized architectural salvage and theater-set painting techniques to create a French Quarter–style backdrop. Large electric wall sconces were reconfigured with faux flames to look like old-fashioned gas lights. Filigree cast iron, pressed-tin ceiling elements, and eight-foot doors styled to look like tall, narrow shutters and doors completed the New Orleans look.


4th Annual Summer Spectacular
Susan Diamond | Jigsaw Unlimited • Mira LaCous | Hollywood Pyrotechnics • Tim Smith | Ultimate Events
Category: Best Social Event (Non-Wedding)

An event planner was tasked with making her client’s annual barbecue “bigger, better, and more spectacular.” With more than 600 guests of all ages, the event featured a range of foods, supervised activities for kids, signature cocktails, and fireworks. Ice sculptures served as containers for water and beer. Hay bales served as décor and seating, and Mason jars and burlap-wrapped tin containers held arrangements of wild grasses, sunflowers, daisies, and thistle. Kerosene torches and votives lit tables and the lakeshore, and cowboy-inspired graphics decorated the signage.

Food offerings included two barbecue buffets, hor d’oeuvres, fresh popcorn, and a build-your-own sundae station. A candy bar featured 24 types of sweets, and several bars served cocktails for the adults and slushies for the kids. Kids could have their face painted, get a temporary tattoo, play in a bounce house, and use a photo booth. A country band played music for dancing.

Other nominees: 
 Gretchen Culver, Rocket Science Weddings & Events
 Marsha Hunt, Haute Flower Boutique


Wish Ball 2011
Marsha Hunt and Bridget Connell | Haute Flower Boutique 
Category: Best Use of Floral

The Make-A-Wish Foundation chose Paris as the inspiration for its annual Wish Ball. Guests enjoyed cocktails and browsed the silent auction in a row of Paris “storefronts” featuring designer handbags, jewelry, and wine. The street scene was enhanced with umbrella-topped flower carts, cherry blossom plants, and black-and-white-striped awnings. A two-story lighted Eiffel Tower was situated at the end of the “boulevard.”

In the ballroom, four styles of centerpieces decorated the dining tables:

  • Tall topiaries in trumpet vases with trailing amaranthus and crystals.
  • Topiaries in low silver cube vases filled with pink and red blooms.
  • Candle lamps with black and white fringed shades, surrounded by red and pink floral arrangements.
  • Trios of cylinder vases with submerged blooms and floating candles ringed by tea lights.


The Lucite podium was also decorated with a garland of blooms.

Other nominees: 
 Jackie Just, Just Bloomed


Rooftop Extravaganza
Kevin Nelson | Ultimate Events
Category: Best Tent Installation (tie)

An employee appreciation event at a local art museum featured tented space on the building’s roof, which consists of three levels. The tent rental company installed an L-shaped tent on the middle level, arranged so that the event speaker was visible from the other two levels. Two additional tents were erected on the lower balconies. The size and weight of the tents dictated that they be delivered to the roof with a crane.

The roof is covered with floating pavers on steel beams, so the tents had to be placed carefully to avoid damaging the building. The tent company used plywood pieces under the tent legs to disburse the weight of the tent. The company also delivered seating for the event and was given only an hour to set up the tables and chairs.

Other nominees: 
 Dawn Westermann, Ultimate Events


Custom Elevated Tent Install
John Swanson | Ultimate Events
Category: Best Tent Installation (tie)

For a client’s annual event, a tent company was asked to install a 100-by-181-foot tent on ground that sloped four feet from one side of the tent to the other. The company installed a floor in three tiers to provide a level surface for the tent. Because the size needed was non-standard, the company also had to have custom legs made to support the floor. A crane was used to raise the heavy tent structure. Previously, the tent company had not placed a tent this large on a floor, rather than the ground. Ultimately, they added extra supports under the floor to support the tent’s weight.

During the setup and the event, the wind was gusting up to 50 miles per hour. The tent company assigned extra staff to the event to monitor the structure, repair wind damage, and ensure that the 1,300 guests were safe.


Celebration for Life Gala
Angela Bernhardt | Park Nicollet Health Services
Category: Best Use of Marketing/Graphic Design

A foundation’s black-tie gala was planned with a ’70s disco theme, featuring brightly colored décor and local disco tribute band Boogie Wonderland as the entertainment. The event’s marketing materials were designed to project energy and enthusiasm, while conveying the elegance of a formal event. Planners chose a brown and pink palette, which evoked the 1970s and gave a contemporary feel, too. Other graphic elements included multi-colored disco balls, waves of color, and star and circle patterns. Clean, classic fonts balanced the visual energy.

Invitees first received a save-the-date card, which was printed on bright holographic paper, giving it a rainbow effect. The invitations were wrapped by a bright pink band with foil-stamped stars. The theme was continued on posters, tickets, programs, and table numbers. The marketing was reflected in the event décor, which included hanging disco balls and star patterns, and brightly colored chair wraps and centerpieces.

Local Love
Gretchen Culver | Rocket Science Weddings & Events
Category: Best Wedding

A couple wanted their wedding to be a showcase of their hobbies and passions, including music, photography, science and technology, craft beer and cocktails, locally produced food, travel, and the television show Dr. Who. They chose a caterer that specializes in organic ingredients and green practices, and served local craft beers and a specialty cocktail. Some photographs taken by the groom were displayed at the reception, along with photos from the couple’s travels. The bride, a flautist, chose the musicians for the ceremony and the recorded music played at the reception. As a nod to the groom’s work as a scientist and his love of Apple products, containers that resembled beakers and flasks were used as vases for flowers, and an old Macintosh Classic served as an “iGuestbook.” The groom’s boutonniere featured a subtle stalk of celery, recalling Dr. Who’s celery boutonniere. The couple emphasized “green” ideas and use of local vendors in their planning. Guests took home napkin-ring party favors made from old Minnesota license plates.

Other nominees: 
 Bridget Connell, Haute Flower Boutique
 Joy Baker, Mintahoe Catering & Events • Jodi Irwin, Acanthus Floral • Allison Munsell, Ultimate Events


2011 CRV MN Expo
Cheryl Kranz | Creative Events by Kranz • Jean Peine | Perimeters Group, LLC • Laura Jolcover | Cort Event Furnishings • Matthew Trettel | The Wedding Guys • Peter Provost | Propel Transportation • Ryan Hanson | BeEvents • Sam Smith | Interactive Meeting Technology • Susan Diamond | Jigsaw Unlimited • Steve DeVries | Showcore, Inc. 
Category: Best ISES Team Event

After the rollout of the Boston Scientific cardiology, rhythm, and vascular (CRV) division in 2010, company leaders decided a “year-later assessment” event was needed. The goals for the event were to:

  • Promote the division’s good prospects.
  • Encourage employees to embrace the organization’s vision and values.
  • Recognize good work in the division.


The CEO welcomed the crowd, and awards were presented in a new employee recognition program. Then attendees were free to peruse seven informal, interactive “cafés,” each highlighting a value pertinent to CRV’s work. They were grouped around the central Patient Café. The Innovation Café offered play time, with crayons, pipe cleaners, and Legos. In the Community Relations Café, employees could assemble gift bags and write thank-yous to local fire and police organizations. They could also sign the Quality Wall. Many of the cafés featured iPad games—co-created by the employees—that posed questions about CRV products and values, and allowed for interaction and conversations among departments.

Other nominees: 
 Steph Pfeilsticker, Thrivent Financial • Dale Kivimaki, Freestyle Productions, Inc. • Ryan Hanson, BeEvents • Sam Smith, Interactive Meeting Technology • Tom McKnight, Heroic Productions