There is an expectation that a mountain event will be special. Maybe it’s the lofty surroundings that elevate anticipation? We found four events that impressed us, so take a peek, linger and learn.

Midnight Masquerade
Aspen

What better place to spend New Year’s Eve than glamorous Aspen, Colorado? Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) holds three fundraising events annually in cities like Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago, Montreal and Cannes, and 2015 marked the first one held in Aspen. “It’s the newest event in town where people can do good and have fun under the stars,” says COO Kathryn Everett, who organized the soirée that took place inside a glass tent in the St. Regis Aspen’s spacious Fountain Courtyard.

Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Paul Haggis, star polo player Nacho Figueras and his wife Delfina Blaquier and one of St. Regis Aspen’s owners, Stephane De Baets, were among the hosts for a four-course culinary experience prepared by Chefs Club by FOOD & WINE, a restaurant located at the downtown Aspen property. Other highlights were an open bar featuring Billecart- Salmon Champagne, a musical performance by Grammy winners Win Butler and Régine Chassagne of Arcade Fire, and hand-painted masks by a Tony-nominated Broadway designer for all guests.

With only 180 seats available, the event was truly one to remember with décor designed by Eclectic Hive of Denver and featuring aspen trees and branches and thousands of candles, including a special surprise of candle-lit balloons that guests could light, make a wish and let float to the top of the tent. Fireworks shot off at nearby Aspen Mountain for the public to view added sparkle to the night under the warmth of the glass enclosure.

Founded in 2009, APJ is a New York City-based nonprofit organization that encourages peace and social justice and addresses issues of poverty around the world. The immediate goal is to serve the poorest communities in Haiti with programs in education, healthcare, and dignity through the arts, prompted by the massive January 2010 earthquake. One hundred percent of money donated by the general public for fundraisers such as this goes to APJ programs in Haiti.

Everett says, “After a year of endless bad news, we wanted to conclude 2015 on a positive note of hope, joy and belief that there can be a great hope for all.”

BC/Vancouver Night 
Vancouver

Vancouver was the 2014 host city of Rendez-vous Canada, an international tourism marketplace conference. Destination British Columbia and Tourism Vancouver teamed up to host the closing celebration, BC/Vancouver Night – Show Us Your Adventurous Side, for 1,700 guests. The organizations enlisted e=mc² events, an event management and experience company with offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

Highlights included a 150-foot aerial line of athletes sailing overhead, mountain bikers performing on 100-foot ramps and ladders, a mix of BC neighborhoods and regions with themed food areas, wine stomping, miniature golf, photo stations, a 9-foot animatronic grizzly bear foraging and dancing with guests, and a giant BC Adventure vending machine dispensing kayaks, bikes, trips and more. The results were so successful that the gathering won an International Special Events Society 2015 Esprit Award for Best Corporate Event over $150,000 (U.S. dollars).

“We have gained lots of recognition for this event, and we definitely attribute the success to the fact that our client trusted us to do our thing, but they also contributed quite heavily to the creative process,” notes Tony Talarico, event producer for e=mc² events.

Key to transforming the exhibition hall of the Vancouver Convention Centre into an outdoor experience was 3,400 square feet of video walls and the aerial line that took West Coast athletes (skiers, surfers, snowboarders and kayakers) over the heads of guests while massive scene-scapes appeared on the walls matching their sports.

A cedar First Nations Longhouse with First Nations artists interacting with guests was a focal point to the entrance, providing a warm welcome with tastes of bannock and smoked salmon and live drumming, carving and painting. An interactive floor projection of salmon swimming in front of the longhouse surprised guests, as when they stepped close to a fish, it swam away! The event space was divided into six regions of BC and the lower mainland through strategic placement of décor and food stations. A full-size RV acted as an additional themed lounge with faux-fire pit and Adirondack chairs.

Stage performances included solo acoustic performer Colin Bullock and a Bollywood performance by SHIAMAK. The finale featured mountain biking aerial stunts transitioning into a high-energy Bollywood flash mob that finished with fireworks on 150 feet of wall projection. Famous Players Band then performed classic hits that had attendees dancing until early hours of the morning.

“Guests were blown away; even our competitors came up to us to say that we did a great job,” Talarico says. “People’s faces told all—they were shocked, surprised, delighted, with a sense of wonder and wow!”

Utah Tourism Conference 
Bryce Canyon City

Tourism spending is at an all-time high in Utah, according to a recent University of Utah study, and a Utah Office of Tourism “Mighty 5” campaign has increased interest in the state’s five national parks. Holding the 2015 Utah Tourism Conference on October 6–8 in Bryce Canyon City, the closest community to Bryce Canyon National Park, resulted in the conference being sold out well before beginning for the first time in its history.

“Everyone that I talked to very much enjoyed the conference, especially having it in a unique location and not in the normal big-city-type of venue,” says Falyn Owens, executive director of Garfield County Office of Tourism, the local organization that worked in tandem with the Utah Office of Tourism and Utah Tourism Industry Association to plan the conference.

The first day featured various board and membership meetings and a Social Media Lab, before outdoor activities including horseback rides in Bryce Canyon, two ranger-guided hikes inside Bryce Canyon, a bike tour on the newly completed multiuse path from Red Canyon into Bryce Canyon, and ATV tours. The opening reception was especially memorable with rides to the rim on the Ruby’s Inn train or a horse-drawn wagon, welcome from Utah Governor Gary Herbert, and a Western cookout.

Utilizing three venues—Ruby’s Inn, Bryce Canyon Grand and Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill—and outdoor spaces made it possible to host more than 330 tourism representatives, showcase a unique and scenic part of the state, and break the mold of a typical conference that takes place within the walls of one property. “We had shuttles on hand if needed, but most people commented that they enjoyed getting fresh air walking from different venues. It was completely different than any other type of conference they had attended,” Owens explains.

On the second night, the highlights were a dine-around at local restaurants in Bryce Canyon City and surrounding towns and a star party on the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park to see the galaxies, planets and stars.

The opening general session featured Olympic speed skater Derek Parra and was followed by nearly two full days of keynote addresses, concurrent workshops, a silent auction and tourism updates. An optional day of post activities featured two canyoneering options in Red Canyon and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

“Folks are always trying to be more active and what better place to have a conference than to host it in a location where people can get out and explore the beautiful scenery after being in meetings all day?” Owens says. “The other benefit was doing it during the off-season when room blocks are less expensive, and you basically have the hotels, conference centers and portions of the national park to yourself!”

Get Connected brycecanyoncountry.com; visitutah.com; utahtourism.org

Library Foundation Gala
Jackson Hole

The residents of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, also know how to throw a party for a good cause and have been doing so for the past 13 years to support the Teton County Library Foundation. In fact, the 450 tickets for the December 2015 event sold out in a mere five minutes. “The gala is definitely the party of the year in Jackson Hole, the hot ticket,” says Hannah Lujan, operations manager for RMC’s Jackson Hole office.

The gala was selected by then General Manager Paul Cherrett to be the beneficiary of the hotel’s grand opening celebration, and property has continued to host the benefit every year since, with RMC getting involved six years ago. “It’s raised over $1 million dollars since inception, now raising over $100,000 per year,” says Pauline Towers-Dykeman, executive director of the Teton County Library Foundation.

All partners including RMC, a destination management company with 11 offices including one in Jackson Hole, and the host venue, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, donate their services. “Because the event has so many underwriters, 100 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales go to the foundation,” says Lujan.

Two foyers, a hallway, the Cottonwood Ballroom and a terrace are transformed to fit the theme, which this year was a Prohibition Era speakeasy. The prefunction space looked like a bookstore, and when guests peaked around the bookshelves, they caught a glimpse of chandeliers and grand decor. “We were trying to create a balance between rustic elements with barn wood and whiskey barrels to glitz and glamour,” Lujan says. “A whiskey barrel tower was the focal point with fog underneath and lit up with reds.”

Last year’s theme was a Jackson Hole winter wonderland, with features such as a Jackson Hole tram that housed the DJ in the middle of the ballroom, snow machines, live trees and a tree decorated with Barbies dressed in ski outfits. The year before was Old World meets new with the colors black and red.

“RMC pulls out all the stops with their use of amazing furniture and décor (trucked in from their warehouses), dramatic lighting and accessories galore. This year, they even installed a hardwood floor over the entire ballroom carpet!” Lujan says. “The Four Seasons exceeds expectations every year with their incomparable guest service and attention to detail, divine food and creative cocktails, and their outreach to additional partners like Veuve Clicquot, which has been on board for two years now.”

Towers-Dykeman’s favorite part of the event is the way the community has embraced and expanded it. “Folks used to be devastated when they didn’t get tickets, but thanks to the Four Seasons—the great locals’ rate they offer, the music in the Ascent Lounge, and the after-party in the Handle Bar—there are a variety of ways for everyone to be part of the fun.”

Three top accoutrements dress up drinks.

 

Under direction of the Utah Office of Tourism, a team of volunteer geocachers have thoughtfully placed geocaches in locations of exceptional scenic, historic and cultural interest throughout the state. Groups and individuals can download an app from geocaching.com that highlights all of the stashes.

 

In light of current events and the changing industry, the association for special event planners changes its name.