2013 ISES Minnesota Star Awards

2013 ISES Minnesota Star Awards

The Minneapolis–St. Paul chapter of the International Special Events Society has named its 2013 winning events.

Each fall, the International Special Events Society (ISES), Minneapolis–St. Paul chapter, solicits entries for its Minnesota Star Awards. With the exception of the ISES Team Effort category, which requires entrants to be ISES members, submissions are accepted from anyone who plans or produces events, or is a supplier to the Minnesota special events industry. This year, the qualifying entries were judged by the Greater Philadelphia and Calgary, Alberta, ISES chapters. The three entries that received the highest scores in a category were nominated, and the nominee that received the top score was declared the winner.

Twin Cities Business highlights the winning events below. Read on to see which local companies and events were judged the best.



Hilton 20th Anniversary

Teddi Sellick and Jack Noble, Event Lab
Categories: Best Use of Floral, Best Event Design & Décor
(Budget Less Than $25,000)

Floral elements were a key part of the décor for the Hilton’s 20th anniversary celebration. Guests at the event were hotel clients—primarily event professionals. The celebration’s planners wanted a fully realized “world” to impress their peers in the industry. Interior-lit columns and string curtains disguised the hotel’s ballroom, and a yellow and white color scheme stood out from the mostly blue carpet. A large, rotating “20” made with ivory roses and underlit with blue lighting topped a four-foot column in the middle of the room. Large yellow rose spheres and fringe curtain chandeliers were hung from the ceiling. Large white vases filled with yellow forsythia made an impact atop white room dividers. High-backed sofas and white vinyl lounge furniture provided guests with comfortable seating while cocktail, large round, and end tables—as well as food stations—were all décorated with floral arrangements and votive candles. A large wall of transparent and blue plastic circles served as a backdrop for a screen and small stage.

Other nominee:
Best Use of Floral

  • Raed Kakish, Indulge & Bloom



Play Maker’s Ball

Bonnie Toppin, Common Roots Catering
Category: Best Off-Premise Catered Event

An event held at the Minnesota Children’s Museum raised money to help pay for museum admission fees and memberships for low-income and foster-care families. The caterer was asked to meet specific goals, such as generating no waste by using compostable or reusable materials; serving healthy food made with local and organic ingredients; and engaging guests with theme-related custom food and cocktails. Food was served on biodegradable plates and with compostable drink cups and cocktail napkins. As they moved from floor to floor, guests tasted local cheeses, ceviche, savory crepes, grass-fed roast beef, and a variety of custom cocktails.

Other nominees:

  • Amy Brown, Chowgirls Killer Catering
  • Brian Rubenzer, Lettuce Cater



Camrose Hill Farm Wedding

Brian Rubenzer, Lettuce Cater
Category: Best Menu Innovation

For the wedding of two foodies who wanted a rustic, country feel, the caterer created a menu with fresh ingredients, many sourced locally. Various cheeses, olives, spreads, dips, crackers, and bread were served from a four-by-four-foot tiered butcher-block display at the reception. Antique glass containers dispensed lemonade and sweet tea. Other food, including grilled vegetables, mixed salads, and chicken Provençal made with fresh lavender, was set out on old furniture and antiques.

Other nominee:

  • Lisa Brenna, Mintáhoe Catering & Events



Bavarian-Chic Oktoberfest

Elizabeth Plaetz Lori, Catherine Alexander Designs; Jennifer Warner, Event Lab
Category: Best Event Design & Décor (Budget $25,000 and Over)

SPS Commerce threw a client appreciation event at Minneapolis’ Brave New Workshop that took Germany’s Oktoberfest as its theme. A pre-party event at Crave restaurant was “crashed” by four “German maidens” and an accordion player, who escorted the guests across the street to the theater. They were served beer and treated to a comedy improv show. Afterward, guests gathered in a Bavarian-themed lounge space for more refreshments. Décor included faux animal mounts, a cuckoo clock, and an antler chandelier. Two large fireplace images were projected on the walls to give a feeling of warmth. Guests were treated to a buffet of German-inspired dishes and German beer tasting.

Other nominees:

  • Andrea Bach, Apres Party & Tent Rental; Russell Toscano, Wisteria Design Studio, Ltd.; Julia Kotlovich-LaCroix, Bellagala
  • Pete Nelson, Event Lab; Tim McVean, AVEX



Shots & Ladders

Lisa Brenna, Mintáhoe Catering & Events
Category: Best Specialty Item

As part of a showcase of new event trends, a caterer paired four menu items with beverages, all served as shots in small vessels. The food was presented on ladder-style shelves to complete the concept. The pairings were:

Other nominee:

  • Sarah Johnson, Bon Appetit at the Minnesota History Center




Vintage Farm Wedding

Katrina Hannermann, Studio Laguna Photography
Category: Best Wedding Photography

For their wedding, a couple wanted to combine a casual atmosphere, good food, and unique décor. The wedding designer pulled together an eclectic mix of vintage and school room furniture, lace and chiffon, hay bales, and rustic foods in a manicured garden setting. Because of the variety, the photographer avoided focusing on single elements and instead included multiple pieces of the décor in each shot to give an overall view of the event’s design. The schedule for photographs on the wedding day kept family and bridal party portraits to a minimum and ensured there was time to for shots focused on the bride and groom.

Other nominees:

  • Laurie Falk, Lauren B. Photography
  • Rod Wilson, Andrews Photography



Tour de Cure

Amy Coppersmith, Coppersmith Photography
Category: Best Non-Wedding Photography

A charity bike tour that raised money for diabetes research included five bike routes that passed through Minneapolis, St. Paul, and other metro cities. The photographer for the event was asked to capture images of each route, vendors and volunteers, and the riders. The client wanted photos that could be used to promote participation in future bike tours. The images needed to show future riders the rest stops, care stations, and other amenities on the tour; illustrate to volunteers what jobs they’d be doing for the event; and show vendors how people used their products or services. The images are used both by the Minnesota organization and the national office of the American Diabetes Association.

Other nominees:

  • Laurie Falk, Lauren B. Photography
  • Todd Buchanan, Corporate Event Images



Bobby & Stephen’s Wedding

Sarah Glad, A Milestone Paper Company
Category: Best Use of Marketing/Graphic Design

A couple incorporated custom laser-cut images into the design of their wedding stationery. The invitation boasted a sleeve with laser-cut images of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, wedding elements, and the couple. Silver cardstock inserted in front of the invitation set off the cut designs. A combination of formal script and modern type styles were used on the invitation’s white metallic paper. The same cardstock was used for place cards and table numbers.

Other nominees:

  • Gretchen Berry, Gretchen Berry Design Company; Lindsay Piram, Lindsay Piram Creative
  • Sarah Glad, A Milestone Paper Company



Great Girl Gathering

Colleen Healy, Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys
Category: Best Logistics

The local Girl Scouts chapter celebrated the organization’s 100th anniversary with 140,000 attendees at the Mall of America. The planners created 15 themed event spaces that featured hands-on learning opportunities, such as science and technology experiments, camping and outdoor skills demonstrations, environmental awareness activities, and a financial literacy challenge. The event’s main stage showcased speakers such as the explorer Ann Bancroft and Disney star China Anne McClain, and a fashion show of 100 years of Girl Scout uniforms. New speakers and activities in each event space were scheduled for 20 minutes on the half hour, with 10 minutes of transition time. A smartphone app for the event detailed speakers and schedules.

Other nominees:

  • Mike Whaley, Ultimate Events
  • Nancy Jacobs, EdgProductions



Virtual Member Meeting

Stephanie Pfeilsticker, Thrivent Financial
Categories: Best Technical Production, Best Corporate Event

A financial organization wanted to broadcast its shareholder meeting in such a way that the organization’s members felt not only like viewers but participants. Milwaukee’s Miller Park baseball stadium served as the venue, and a team dugout was used as a control room for the broadcast. A virtual emcee served as the “voice” of the audience during the meeting, and “pre-game” and “post-game” shows allowed the audience to ask questions of organization staff and executives. During the main meeting, audience members shared their thoughts in an online chat room. The organization’s goal was to attract 500 members to the meeting, but ultimately 1,323 tuned in. In addition, there was a 196 percent increase in new product purchases in the six months after the meeting.

Other nominees:
Best Technical Production

  • Dan Zunker, Zunker Production Services

Best Corporate Event

  • Char Mason and Cookie Coleman, Coleman Mason Events
  • Lauren Segelbaum, Event Lab



Geared to Win

Ryan Kettenacker, Festivities
Category: Best Rental Support (Non-Tenting)

A company’s event for more than 500 employees featured team-building games that promoted cooperation and encouragement among coworkers. Company leaders wanted to foster a team spirit that would help the business be “geared to win.” Planners had only four hours to set up the room for the event, including lighting, ceiling drape, signage, staging, and 14 game stations that provided a variety of activities. The space also provided comfortable seating with inflatable furniture and bars for refreshments.

Other nominee:

  • Michael Basler, Midway Party Rental



East Meets West Wedding

Russell Toscano, Wisteria Design Studio, Ltd.
Category: Best Table Top Installation

A bride who was looking for “quiet, sophisticated drama” in her wedding design got a dramatic head table at the reception. Oversized to stand out from the other tables, it was composed of four rectangular tables wrapped around a square “pool” of water made with four plexiglass trays supported by columns. Candles and flowers floated in the pool, which was illuminated from below. In the center of the display, a 52-inch glass vase was topped with a ball of deep-red roses accented with red orchids and manzanita branches. The table also boasted Moroccan-style lanterns and punched-tin votive candle holders.

Other nominee:

  • Pete Nelson, Event Lab



VIP Venue Creation

Tim Smith, Ultimate Events
Category: Best Tent Installation

A professional sports team needed space for pre-game VIP hospitality, from September through December in Minneapolis. They chose a climate-controlled tent outfitted with carpeting, ramps, lighting, graphics, and tables. The venue managers had to both heat and cool the structure to match weather between -8 degrees and 88 degrees during the months-long installation. An interior fabric liner with back lighting softened the look of the tent venue. Custom vinyl wall and overhead banners were made to fit the space exactly.

Other nominees:

  • John Swanson, Ultimate Events



Tubman Annual Gala

Pete Nelson, Event Lab
Category: Best Creative Solution

To create an intimate dining area inside the mammoth Metrodome, planners for the annual Tubman gala created a canopy grid that used 800 yards of fabric and 12-foot branded columns with 1,000 feet of string lights. The fabric had to be cut and sewn to fit 52 upright and 58 crosspieces of the pipe-and-drape structure. The bases had to be placed exactly 10 feet apart in order for the structure to work and to provide the proper distance between each table. More than 100 paper lanterns were hung from the crosspieces. The columns with swags of string lights surrounded the dining area to create an even more defined space.



Night of Possibilities

Kevin Hall, Halls of Entertainment
Category: Best Entertainment Production

The 2012 National Charter Schools Conference marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of the first charter school. The conference’s welcome reception at Target Field hosted 1,500 guests on one entire level of the stadium. Several performers throughout the space encouraged attendees to explore and mingle. Entertainment included strolling actors, a fortune teller, dancers, and “feature” shows with quick-change, comedy, and magic acts. Many of the performers had multiple skills and sometimes joined one another’s shows—i.e., two magicians who challenged each other to a contest or the fortune teller who began dancing flamenco. The sudden shifts and combinations reinforced the theme that “anything is possible.”

Other nominees:

  • Char Mason and Cookie Coleman, Coleman Mason Events
  • Susan Milteer, Event Lab



Love on the Lake

Gretchen Culver, Rocket Science Weddings & Events; Allison Munsell, Ultimate Events; Raed Kakish, Indulge & Bloom; Andrew Nygaard, AV for You; Robin Guerrero, D’Amico

For a wedding on Lake Minnetonka, the lake was the focal point of the event design. It began with the invitations, which were made of wood with a laser-cut design of Lake Minnetonka. A compass icon was used for place cards and table numbers. During the social hour, guests mingled on the lawn overlooking the lake. A cleartop tent for dancing was set up close to the lake.

The bride also wanted a ceremony that mimicked the feel of the wedding in Twilight: Breaking Dawn, and hung trees with 1,000 strands of orchids and lights for a dramatic visual centerpiece to the event. The groom’s Italian heritage was reflected in the dinner menu, which included Chianti-braised short ribs, antipasto, salmon, penne with Italian sausage, and a panzanella salad from the groom’s family’s recipe.

Other nominees:
Best Wedding

  • Gretchen Culver, Rocket Science Weddings & Events; Maari Cedar James, Chowgirls Killer Catering
  • Matthew Rush, Bellagala



Summer Spectacular

Susan Diamond, Jigsaw Unlimited; Tim Smith, Ultimate Events; Erv Haman, RES Specialty Pyrotechnics
Category: Best Social Event (Non-Wedding)

An annual summer event for 1,000 guests at the client’s large lake home catered to adults and kids alike with authentic barbecue, live music, and fun activities. Food options included hors d’oeuvres, barbecue buffets, a signature cocktail, a candy bar, and festival-type concessions such as mini doughnuts, snow cones, and popcorn. Kids could enjoy three bounce houses, face painting, and balloon twisting, and parents had access to a “mommy” room for changing, nursing, or rocking in a quiet space. A live honky-tonk band got people dancing, and after dark, guests enjoyed a musically choreographed fireworks display under a full moon.

Other nominees:

  • Char Mason and Cookie Coleman, Coleman Mason Events; Neal Wallace, Event Pro



Building Bridges

Christie Altendorf, Bon Appetit Management Company
Category: Best On-Premise Catered Event

A client putting on a reception—and hosting guests from many different countries—wanted the caterer to create an international culinary experience. Attendees would encounter foods from their own traditions, while having the opportunity to sample dishes from their colleagues’ homes. A series of food stations offered:

  • Pan-Asian cuisine such as chicken and vegetable curries, rice, and chilled prawns.
  • Latin American fare including empanadas with grilled vegetables, and paella cooked during the event.
  • North American hors d’oeuvres such as beer-battered walleye and barbecue pork sliders.
  • European dishes including bratwurst, pasta, and gratin.

Other nominees:

  • Amy Brown, Chowgirls Killer Catering; Diane Storevik-Hoeltz, The Vintage Type



Dawn of a Dream

Emily Siebold, Children’s Cancer Research Fund
Category: Best Nonprofit Event

The Children’s Cancer Research Fund chose the idea of “one” for its annual fundraising gala: one child with cancer, one doctor with determination, one parent with hope, and one person’s contribution or one research project to make a difference. As part of the concept, doctors shared their “one” dream of research they would fund, given unlimited resources. Presenters and videos expressed to donors how their “one” contribution can make a large impact. The venue décor was a nod to vintage style, with neutral and metallic tones accented with pops of color.

Other nominees:

  • Angela Mens-Eastman, Events by Eastman, Inc.
  • Karin Krull, American Swedish Institute



The SPAMtastic Grand Opening

Char Mason and Cookie Coleman, Coleman Mason Events; Andrea Bach, Apres Party & Tent Rental
Category: Best Public Event

A two-day outdoor festival marked the 75th anniversary of the Hormel Foods Corporation’s Spam brand, with tours of the new corporate offices expansion, food trucks, Spam craft stations, Spam costumed characters, games, and Motown legends the Temptations. A cathedral-style tent in the headquarters parking lot hosted more than 8,000 visitors to the event, who were shuttled from a mall parking lot a mile away with 20 buses and a complex routing plan.

Other nominee:

  • Josh Franz, Twin City Bridal Association

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