Minnesota Meetings + Events Spring 2024

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ROCHESTER, MINNESOTA Your Home for Successful Meetings Safe. Welcoming. Walkable. Fun. See why Rochester is recognized as a Top Meetings Destination. Contact us Today. 507.424.0803 info@experiencerochestermn.com Compact Convention District 50+ Walkable Restaurants 2,000 Hotel Rooms Connected by Skyway 200,000 sq. ft. Convention Center Largest Ballroom in Minnesota International Airport Modern Upbeat City Unique Community Experiences for Attendees www.mayociviccenter.com Book your 2025 event
and receive FREE space rental.*
may apply.

Discover the latest industry updates through our Minnesota news

26 Snapshots

ILEA-MSP event focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion with keynote speaker Jove Meyer

28 People Profile

Rachel Thompson leads the team at Visit Greater St. Cloud with dedication and persistence

2 MN M+E » SPRING 2024 PHOTOS (FROM ABOVE) U.S. Bank Stadium, The Market at Malcolm Yards Contents SPRING 2024 & Iconic IMPRESSIVE plus! HAVENS Magnificent Mankato On the Cover The view from Windows at Marquette on the 50th floor of the IDS Center PHOTO COURTESY WINDOWS AT MARQUETTE OF THE MARQUETTE HOTEL/TYLER DEWLAND The Market at Malcolm Yards 16 Downtown Minneapolis viewed from U.S. Bank Stadium 20 In Every Issue // 4 Editor’s Note
6 Meeting Notes
Take your next meeting from drab to fab with the help of these products, places, and inspiring ideas 12 Destination Picturesque and historic Mankato in the Minnesota River Valley charms attendees
16 Meet + Eat Diverse food halls across the Twin Cities serve up flexible group dining options
24 Industry Update
Feature // Spectacular
Astonishing views abound at remarkable venues around the state

Your RSVP for exclusive resort events, amenities, and guest only access ~ Join the party.

Book your group event by emailing lisa.flzen@pierbresort.com

It’s Time to Knock Your Socks Off

» LAST WINTER, I attended a Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Minnesota Chapter gathering at Windows at Marquette on the 50th floor of the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis. The venue is operated by The Marquette Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. More than 100 people were in attendance that night, noshing on appetizers, bidding on items in the silent auction, and sipping cocktails—all with floor-to-ceiling views of the Twin Cities from near the top of the tallest building in Minnesota.

A while back when writing a guidebook to the Twin Cities, I visited the Endless Bridge at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater, a cantilever that extends 178 feet from the face of the building toward the Mississippi River. I was awestruck by the views of the river and the Stone Arch Bridge, and by the seemingly impossible architectural marvel. Today, the Endless Bridge is available for gatherings of up to 150 people.

Being a dad, I have also been to the Science Museum of Minnesota many times with my son. In addition to exhibits of dinosaur skeletons, the human body, a gigantic astronaut, and cool science experiments, this one-of-a-kind event venue has multistory windows that look out on the majestic Mississippi River. With multiple meeting rooms available with room for up to 400, the Science Museum of Minnesota provides an otherworldly gathering space.

There are many more event spaces in Minnesota that will knock your socks off. This is a state with a remarkable combination of thriving cities, innovative architecture, abundant waterfronts, and stunning natural beauty. You can gather on the 27th floor of W Minneapolis–The Foshay, in the hotel’s Prohibition Bar; at U.S. Bank Stadium, home to the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and on many lists of the coolest stadiums in the league; at St. Paul’s Union Depot with its soaring marble pillars and windows in the Waiting Room; and in the bucolic courtyard at The Hutton House in Medicine Lake.

Some in the meetings and events industry have talked about a return to “wow.” In Minnesota, it never left. TODD

4 MN M+E » SPRING 2024
R. BERGER Senior Editor tberger@greenspring.com
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4-hour event in the multi-purpose lobby with FREE access to the Museum

4-hour event in the multi-purpose lobby with FREE access to the Museum

4-hour event in a modern venue with ample open space for mingling and hosting Vikings Museum Innovation Center

4-hour event in the multi-purpose lobby with FREE access to the Museum

4-hour event in a modern venue with ample open space for mingling and hosting Vikings Museum Innovation Center

4-hour event in the multi-purpose lobby with FREE access to the Museum

4-hour event in a modern venue with ample open space for mingling and hosting Vikings Museum Innovation Center

4-hour event in a modern venue with ample open space for mingling and hosting Vikings Museum Innovation Center

4-hour event in a modern venue with ample open space for mingling and hosting Vikings Museum Innovation Center

$4,000 F&B minimum*

$4,000 F&B minimum*

$4,000 F&B minimum*

$2,000 F&B minimum* 4-hour event in the multi-purpose lobby with FREE access to the Museum

$4,000 F&B minimum*

$4,000 F&B minimum*

$2,000 F&B minimum*

$2,000 F&B minimum*

$2,000 F&B minimum*

$2,000 F&B minimum*

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The Essential Keynoter Survival Kit

Many things can go wrong when you bring a keynoter into your event: forgotten equipment, coffee spills—you name it. Taking a little time to put together a keynoter survival kit to address the most common issues can ensure the presentation will progress smoothly with minimal behind-the-scenes headaches. Here are a few essential things to have on hand to keep your keynoters comfortable, well-hydrated, smooth talking, and on their game.

This is essential everywhere for a clean and healthy environment.


Get those hairs or other hangers-on off of pantsuits.


There is little that is more annoying than not having the tools to write things down when you need to.

keynoter’s white shirt.

Practice sessions and extended speeches can make for scratchy throats.


From drippy noses to makeup touchups,


Bring a backup copy of the presentation on a USB drive. Save multiple versions to the cloud in different formats, and make sure to bring a printout of the presentation in case technology fails.


Speaking makes one thirsty—have several bottles on hand.

6 MN M+E » SPRING 2024 MEETING NOTES Products, Places & Inspiring Ideas
MEETINGSMAGS.COM/MINNESOTA 7 Meet in Owatonna...where we go the extra mile to help plan your meeting or event. visitowatonna.org 800-423-6466 Affordable No metro traffic A variety of lodging options Group friendly dining Regional airport Team building opportunities Networking activities Start planning today! At the crossroads of I-35 & US Hwy 14, Owatonna is conveniently located in Southern Minnesota. 218-847-9202 Ext. 248 FOR YOUR AHA! MEETING MOMENTS. Conference venues up to 350 at the Lakes Experience the rustic casualness of Kinni Creek Lodge, a ne boutique y shing lodge stream-side on the Kinnickinnic River in the Northern Driftless Area of River Falls, Wisconsin. EST 2000 Where timelessness still exists... Experience a World Class Kayak Rentals | Fly Fishing Guides & Fly Shop | Stream-side Lodge — 545 N Main Street, River Falls, WI 54022 — kinnicreek.com 715-425-7378 Fly Fishing and Kayaking

A Little Razzle-Dazzle on the Table

» WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME you planned an event—large or small—at which attendees could not stop raving about the gorgeous table displays? Enter tablescaping, a service in which a professional designer assembles a variety of items—from fresh flowers to vintage china—to create a beautiful table setting that, if done well, will elicit strong emotions in many who gather.

“I get a lot of pleasure from when a client sees the tablescape after I have set it, stands back, and says, ‘Oh, my goodness! I never would have thought to combine these elements to make such a beautiful table,’” says Amy Leyden, owner of Kaleidoscope Table Settings in Minneapolis, whose tablescaping service specializes in small gatherings of up to 12 attendees.

Tablescaping also can bring in a little “razzle-dazzle” to your table settings, says Tess Rockwood Hoag, owner and CEO of Vintage Soirees in Eden Prairie. She notes, “Eye candy and dopamine-boosting decor is a current trend, and vintage pieces hit all those pleasing circuits. A few eye-catching details don’t go unnoticed and really boost an event or meeting.”

Myra Patterson, owner and designer of Rison Design in Spring Lake Park, focuses on the green elements of tablescaping. She says, “Sustainability is integral to our designs. We emphasize the use of glass, ceramic, and textiles over single-use items. If acrylic material is used, we repurpose and reuse.” In fact, all three tablescapers mention the sustainable elements of their craft. Hoag adds, “Reusing is often overlooked and is so important for our planet.”

But where tablescaping really shines is in the carefully chosen individual items in the settings. Hoag has made use of old clocks, disco balls, glass bunnies, pearls, and lots of whimsical flowers in teapots for her tablescapes. Leyden has incorporated everything from Czechoslovakian cut wineglasses to deer antlers.

Just about any event can be elevated by tablescaping, including corporate gatherings. Hoag says, “Being whimsical and cheerful and bringing in those extra details transforms your event from standard to dreamy.” –Todd R. Berger

k-tablesettings.com | risondesign.com | vintagesoirees.com

8 MN M+E » SPRING 2024
NOTES Products, Places & Inspiring Ideas
Events Mixed-Use Healthcare -Parking Management -Valet -Transportation -Consulting - Payment Technology -Parking Enforcement -Contract Management -Valet -Transportation -Consulting - Payment Technology -Parking Management -Contract Management -Valet -Transportation -Greeter Services -Consulting - Payment Technology cornerstoneparking.com
Earthy, elegant tablescape by Rison Design; Right: A spring table from Vintage Soirees

“REM5 VR Lab helps companies and teams go beyond the traditional and mix it up with something fun, new, and exciting,” says Brian Skalak, head of marketing and special events at REM5. “We work with groups to figure out exactly what will make this year’s event better than ever and make it happen.”


Looking for someplace unique, beautiful, and unforgettable? Let Duluth be the breath of fresh air your convention or meeting needs.

When you come to Duluth, you become a part of what makes this place so special. And even when you leave Duluth, it never leaves you. You’ll get it when you get here.


we can help.

Adding digital tactics to your marketing will increase touch points and combining it with traditional media like print will increase your ROI


PHOTOS (FROM ABOVE LEFT) K Solberg Photography, Jenna Carlin, Twin Birch Studios/Mike Levad Love It Like We Do
Great Lake. Grand Spaces.
TAMMY GALVIN , Publisher tgalvin@greenspring.com • 612-371-5869

Plan your unforgettable cruise event today!


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Company Cruisin’

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Get on their itinerary. Advertise with Group Tour magazine! In print and online, there’s no greater audience of group tour operators.

M ake your next meeting or event flow smoothly with a corporate cruise along the Mississippi River or Lake Minnetonka through businesses like Paradise Charter Cruises and Minneapolis Queen or Al & Alma’s. Planners can arrange a networking luncheon while floating down the Mississippi River on the historic Minneapolis Queen, a paddle-wheel riverboat suited for up to 125 attendees; or one where attendees can enjoy the beauty and serenity of a sunset cocktail cruise on Lake Minnetonka aboard one of three vessels from Paradise Charter Cruises for up to 100 passengers. Appetizers and buffet options can be enjoyed onboard, and package pricing is available. Al & Alma’s is another Lake Minnetonka staple with over 50 years in the cruise business. Its cruises are suitable for nearly 150 attendees with options to add live entertainment, beer and wine tastings, and its supper club’s famous Al & Alma’s Campstyle Walleye dish— all adding to a relaxing Lake Minnetonka tour. –Linden M. Bayliss

al-almas.com | twincitiescruises.com

10 MN M+E » SPRING 2024
MEETING NOTES Products, Places & Inspiring Ideas
Al & Alma’s cruise on Lake Minnetonka PHOTOS (FROM LEFT) Al & Alma’s, Lake Superior Art Glass


» FOR GROUPS LOOKING for a unique team-building activity in Duluth, Lake Superior Art Glass will engage teams of up to 15 in the craft of glassblowing.

“Unlike a lot of group experiences, this is one where you get to be creative,” says Kristen Austin, group sales coordinator and marketing coordinator for Lake Superior Art Glass. “You get to show your own style, and you get to have a little fun with your coworkers in a way that is safe but unusual. And you get to have a memento afterward, which is a really special thing.”

Located in the city’s Canal Park neighborhood next to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the studio offers several options for group classes such as making blown ornaments, paperweights, glass flowers, wine goblets, pendants, or glass icicles. Groups also can choose to design a product themselves but watch the artisans make it instead. All creations need to cool in the annealer (a machine that slowly cools the glass) overnight and can be picked up the next day or shipped.


Mankato o ers a wide variety of venues and ample amenities for hosting successful meetings, events, and conventions.

• State-of-the-art facilities

• New and renovated venues

• Convenient location

• Comprehensive event planning services

• Small town hospitality with big city amenities

Scan the code to get started! visitmankatomn.com


Meet on the Blue Earth

The riverside city of Mankato has everything planners need—plus a scenic setting

» MANKATO GETS its name from the Dakota word “mahkato,” which means “blue earth.” The name describes well the area surrounding this city in south-central Minnesota. Nestled in the scenic Minnesota River Valley, Mankato is known for its picturesque landscapes of prairies, forests, and towering bluffs. It is also the home of Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The city of Mankato lies 75 miles southwest of Minneapolis-St. Paul and offers the perfect spot for a meeting or event outside of the congestion and bustle of the Twin Cities. Planners can find many terrific spaces for their events in Mankato, both in the city’s charming downtown and on its outskirts with easy access to major highways.


Mankato’s largest meeting and event space is the Mayo Clinic Health System (MCHS) Event Center. Built in 1995 as the Mankato

Civic Center, the MCHS Event Center is within the City Center Campus in downtown Mankato. The facility is home to the Minnesota State University, Mankato, men’s and women’s hockey teams. MCHS Event Center has more than 70,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 21,100-square-foot Grand Hall that can hold up to 2,200 people seated theaterstyle. A banquet hall at the center also offers 11,201 square feet of space that can be split into two rooms. Plus, the facility has several conference rooms perfect for smaller breakout sessions or classrooms.

The most unique space at the MCHS Event Center is its reception hall, known as The Ellerbe Room. The Ellerbe Room is a historic landmark built in the early 1900s. For more than 70 years, the building served the Mankato community as the First National Bank. Its prairie-style design is the work of architect Franklin

Ellerbe, after whom the space is named. The Ellerbe Room still has its original Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired stainedglass windows and the one-time bank vault. When the city of Mankato decided to build the MHCS Event Center, it built the event space around the historic landmark, preserving it for years to come. “It’s a really unique space,” says Brian Sather, co-director for the MCHS Event Center.

Several major agricultural events are held every year at the MCHS Event Center, including the MN Ag Expo and the Minnesota Pork Congress. Pam Voelkel, director of events and promotions for the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, says the center has everything the Minnesota Pork Congress needs for its trade show, annual meetings, and seminars. “The space is fantastic,” Voelkel says. “We use the arena and the grand hall for trade show booths. The meeting rooms all have

12 MN M+E » SPRING 2024
PHOTOS (FROM LEFT) Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center, Courtyard by Marriott Mankato
Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center is the largest venue in Mankato; Opposite: Courtyard by Marriott Mankato’s on-site restaurant, The Bistro, offers catering for events.

access to Wi-Fi and built-in audiovisual, and can be set up any way we like. Everything is up to date, and the staff is amazing to work with. There hasn’t been anything we have asked for that they haven’t been able to provide.” Najwa’s Catering has been the exclusive caterer for the MCHS Event Center since 1995. “Najwa’s is out of this world and very willing to create menus specifically for us,” Voelkel adds.


Also located within the City Center Campus in Mankato is the Hilton Garden Inn Mankato Downtown. While the hotel offers convenient access to the MCHS Event Center, it also has its own meeting spaces available. The hotel has 3,146 square feet of meeting space spanning five rooms that can accommodate anywhere from 14 to 60 people. Its largest meeting room is 830 square feet and can hold up to 60 people seated theater-style.

Catering for events at the Hilton is provided by the hotel’s on-site restaurant, Olives. “Our on-site catering is top of the line and meets all dietary needs and

special requests,” says Victoria Vogel, director of sales at the Hilton. A skyway connects the hotel to the MCHS Event Center, making it an ideal place for show attendees to stay or planners to schedule overflow meetings in conjunction with events happening at the event center. “We work closely with all our clients and enjoy building relationships with them,” Vogel says. “We want to help your meeting be the best meeting it can be, and our sales manager will assist you in making sure all your meeting room needs are met.”

For planners looking for a venue closer to the main highway in Mankato, there’s the Courtyard by Marriott Mankato hotel and event center. It is located off U.S. Route 14 on the city’s east side, near the River Hills Mall. “As a Marriott brand, we have high standards of excellence in providing great service,” says Brooke Moore, director of sales at the hotel. “We host everything from trade shows, large conventions, small meetings, networking events, trainings, weddings, retirement parties, class reunions, and even formal dances.” Last year, Courtyard by Marriott Mankato underwent an extensive renovation, which included updates to its event spaces, guest rooms, and all common areas.

“We work closely with all of our clients and enjoy building relationships with them.”

Courtyard by Marriott Mankato has 8,892 square feet of total meeting space. Its large event center can be separated into four different meeting areas, each of which holds about 50 attendees. There is also a private boardroom, and the site’s outdoor courtyard provides an excellent space for social gatherings of up to 200. The hotel’s event center offers top-notch audiovisual systems with six drop-down screens, projectors, plug-and-play hookups, and microphones. Executive Chef Jorden Gerdes provides catering for events from The Bistro, the hotel’s on-site restaurant.



The newest meeting and event facility in Mankato is The Venue, located at The Pond on Madison, a former Shopko store on the city’s east side that has found new life as an entertainment complex. It contains a hockey rink, ale house, pickleball courts, golf simulators, an arcade, a duckpin bowling alley, and an event space. “Mankato needed something like this,” says Susu Sadaka, event coordinator for The Venue. Sadaka notes that bookings at the Venue have exceeded expectations since it opened its doors last July. The site had 80 bookings within its first six months of operation.

The Venue offers 12,000 square feet of meeting space that is perfect for corporate events, nonprofit gatherings, educational seminars, and the like. The event space is divided into three sections: a main section with capacity for 350, a pre-venue for 125, and an outdoor grotto that holds 225. A VIP Executive room offers a more intimate meeting space for 35 people and a community room that holds 50. The Venue works with three on-site caterers and one off-site: Sadaka’s Catering, Sterling Catering, Green Mill Catering, and Crooked Pint Catering. All audiovisual and technical support are included in the room rental.

Where The Venue really stands out from other meeting spaces in Mankato is with on-site activities that guests and attendees can take advantage of while they are there for a meeting or an event. They can try their hand at pickleball, play a round on the golf simulators, or kick back on a private deck that overlooks the hockey rink. There is even a stage where planners can bring in a band, DJ, or other entertainment.





PHOTOS Stephanie LaCombe (2) Left and right: The Venue at The Pond on Madison features event space and multiple entertainment options.
MEETINGSMAGS.COM/MINNESOTA 15 We have to start meeting like this. We help make your event
eventful with
of room to mix, mingle, meet, and greet. 20 Civic Center Plaza Mankato Minnesota 56001 +1 (507)-344-1111 mktmd-salesadm@hilton.com Mankato Downtown Stunning historic venue • Central location Multiple spaces accomodate groups 10 to 1,200 On-site beverage service • Open catering 651.292.3293 | hilari@landmarkcenter.org An ideal setting for meetings & events

Food Hall Fix

Mix and match menus in a welcoming atmosphere at any of several Twin Cities food halls

» NOTHING BRINGS PEOPLE together like breaking bread, so including a group happy hour, meal, or any event where food is served is a surefire way to build community among your attendees. Instead of stressing about the perfect menu, book your event at one of the Twin Cities’ food halls.

As Jason Miller, the director of operations at Eat Street Crossing in South Minneapolis says, “The rough decisions: what to eat, what everyone wants, making everybody happy—it’s eased a bit. It’s a little bit more relaxed, and a relaxed environment for groups of people works really well in this time of coming out after being cooped up (since the pandemic began).”

Despite the casual name, food halls today are a big step above any stale mall court the mind conjures—especially in the Twin Cities. Multiple food courts are situated in renovated historic buildings, and many host activities or public events in their spaces. Even the food halls located in Minnesota’s malls, such as Rosedale Center’s Potluck, emphasize the local and original over the fastfood and ubiquitous. There is certainly no shortage of delicious options for planners to choose from in the North Star State.


With food halls, attendees can enjoy cultural offerings that double as some of the Twin Cities’ local favorites. One shining example is Union Hmong Kitchen, celebrity chef Yia Vang’s eatery in Minneapolis’ Graze Provisions + Libations food hall in the North Loop neighborhood. Featuring four private and semiprivate event spaces, it also offers a full buyout for up to 500. While Vang has been on Netflix’s “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend” and hosted “Feral” on the Outdoors Channel, his kitchen has been dishing out Khao Poon and Tim-Tim Noodles. Nearby, Viva Taco (Mexican street tacos with a Vietnamese twist), the Fabled Rooster’s Southern-inspired fare, Soul Bowl, and the sweet Dream Creamery are excellent options.

Need another? North Loop Galley offers partial and full buyouts available for up to 60 and has a lineup that includes Wrecktangle Pizza, a Detroit-style pizza concept created by Minneapolis’ Jeffrey Howard Rogers. This crave-worthy option shares the building with Ono Hawaiian Plates and Ramen Kawae, not to mention the in-house bar beverage options.

“For buyouts, the client picks from different packages,” says Taylor Block, the galley’s director of marketing. “We have an order station, passed hors d’oeuvres, small plates, family-style dinners,

16 MN M+E » SPRING 2024
PHOTOS (FROM LEFT) Jux Agency/Madeline Eli, The Market at Malcolm Yards
MEET + EAT Food Hall Fix

a buffet, and a dessert station. What you would do is pick an option from each kitchen, which is great for guests to try different foods. It’s a great way to cover dietary restrictions, too.”


Plain to see, food halls are prized for their variety, so we would be remiss not to mention Midtown Global Market, a hallmark of the Twin Cities’ global cuisine. The space isn’t strictly a food hall, but a public market that just so happens to include almost 20 restaurants and specialty food vendors.

“We want it to be easy, we want it to be fun … and we want to have some of those things that speak to our corporate clients.”

“I find the majority of people like to pick their own food,” says Amber Greelis, Midtown’s events and community engagement lead. “What a lot of companies do is give everyone a gift card, so they can get food and bring it back to the meeting space.” If you want something ready for your attendees, though, planners can

order directly from a restaurant and have it sent over to their reserved space as well. Order coffee and hot chocolate carafes from Mapps Coffee & Tea, or try delicious Mexican sandwiches from Manny’s Tortas, to name a couple.

While Midtown Global Market has been the site of staff parties, happy hours, conferences, and more, it is also a popular—and logical—destination for community outreach events. The nonprofit CLUES (Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio) has held many public events there, even bringing in an impressive 3,500 visitors at its most recent Día de los Muertos holiday event.

“What we have done in the past is essentially booked performers for the stage,” says Hannah Novillo Erickson, CLUES’ associate director of arts and cultural engagement. “But then, also, artmaking is a very important practice in our events, so what we have

Below: Diverse cuisine options at The Market at Malcolm Yards; Opposite: Eat Street Crossing in South Minneapolis

done is collaborated with the market to have booths for artists to be working out of and to engage the public by making art with them.”

Michelle Malone, the early childhood education center director at the YWCA, says Midtown Global Market has created a collaborative relationship with the organization. Malone might work with the entertainment for a YWCA event, but the two organizers team up on raffle prizes, and the market hosts. She adds, “As someone born and raised in the Philippines, when my work first took me there, it felt like Midtown Global was home away from home. It’s just everything culturally that you could want.”

For those who want private events, Eat Street Crossing in South Minneapolis offers chic, historic, yet contemporary urban elegance with private options for groups as small as 12, as well as a full buyout, which easily fit the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s (Mia) recent holiday staff party for 250.

Mia’s Facilities Operation Coordinator Carolyn Stanley loves the accessibility and layout of the food hall. “The venue offered spaces that were more tucked away and quiet, and plenty of space to celebrate with a crowd,” she says. Some extra bonuses? Signature cocktails named after art terms (Eat Street Crossing’s bar program is helmed by the nationally recognized Trish Gavin), delicious food, excellent and welcoming service, and a perfect DJ pick by Jason Miller, the food hall’s director of operations.


Many food halls are amenable to event planners bringing in their own activities, but some also offer them. Midtown Global Market has a bounty of options, and while Greelis says they are most often used by educational programs, attendees also may take advantage of options such as a chef-hosted food demo or dance lessons.

The Market at Malcolm Yards, located in Northeast Minneapolis, also offers group activities including scavenger hunts; wine, beer, and spirit tastings; cooking demos; trivia; game shows; packing events for nonprofits like HandsON Twin Cities or Everymeal; cornhole tournaments; and the quickfire challenge, a relay-style series of light-touch challenges for teams to complete.

The Market at Malcolm Yards’ Community Outreach and Events Manager Molly Herrmann says, “We want it to be easy, we want it to be fun—I like to call myself the director of fun instead of my actual title—and we want to have some of those things that speak to our corporate clients, like the CliftonStrengths sessions (an assessment program for determining individual talents and values).”

She recalls one event planner hosted a large meeting that transitioned into a happy hour, but right before the happy hour began, The Market at Malcolm Yards’ team arranged a cocktail class led by mixologist and Bittercube Bitters owner Nick Kosevich. Another event was a buyout (maximum capacity of 100) that activated almost every room in the food hall and not only tapped into The Market at Malcolm Yards’ ax-throwing activity, but also brought in a fashion artist and the cover band Riverside Entertainment.

Food halls have hit their stride in the Twin Cities. Full of memorable food and relaxing atmospheres, these dining options provide planners with an easy way to give everyone something they will love. No matter which one you select, Minnesota’s food halls offer vibrant and flexible options for attendees to enjoy.






18 MN M+E » SPRING 2024
MEET + EAT Food Hall Fix
North Loop Galley in Minneapolis PHOTO North Loop Galley

U.S. Bank Stadium

o ers endless elevated event experiences with luxury spaces for groups of all sizes. Explore the possibilities and book your event today!

private.events@usbankstadium.com usbankstadium.com/PrivateEvents

meeting planning services provided
20 venues and 18 incredible hotels to choose from including the four-star Omni Viking Lakes Hotel
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A gigantic astronaut in front of multistory windows at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul; Opposite, from above: The Third Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River, as seen from Minneapolis’ Nicollet Island Pavilion; Impressive views from Windows at Marquette in Minneapolis

hen planners narrow down lists of potential venues for meetings and events, choosing a space with a particular design or aesthetic might not be highest on the list of priorities. Sensibly, important features such as capacity, location, and technological capabilities need to be checked off first—after all, a planner cannot move forward with a venue if it simply can’t accomodate the number of expected attendees or doesn’t have the audiovisual capabilities needed for the programming.

However, it is important to note that booking a space that’s easy on the eyes can do more than solicit a gasp from attendees as they walk in the door. A beautiful venue, or a locale providing views overlooking a picturesque or urban setting, can whisk attendees out of their typical meeting mindset and give them fresh perspectives. “It takes you out of your norm and gives you a sense of creativity,” says Sarah Hill, director of sales and marketing at the St. Jame s Hotel in Red Wing.

Eye-catching spaces can also make events more memorable, providing vivid visuals that eventgoers will associate with your company for years to come. Stunning spaces can serve as an icebreaker for attendees who don’t know each other, giving them something in common to chat about. No matter what benefits a planner hopes to reap, Minnesota has dozens of uniquely beautiful venues to explore that are set to impress.


Naturally, many Minnesota venues take advantage of views overlooking its more than 10,000 lakes. However, the lakes are not the only bodies of water that provide blue backdrops: The Mississippi River and its hundreds of miles of riverbanks serve as the scenic setting for several venues as well. One in particular is the St. James Hotel, where several of the event spaces, such as the Summit Room, provide

PHOTOS (CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT) Science Museum of Minnesota, Nicollet Island Pavilion, Windows at Marquette of the Marquette Hotel/Tyler Dewland
ELEMENTS Adobe/IrisImages, Adobe/LauraCrazy

sweeping views from the fifth floor. “It’s completely panoramic,” says Hill. “You can look from the north all the way down to the south, and you can see the barges coming through. You can also see the fishermen and women coming through.”

Another space that provides views of the Mississippi from above is the Guthrie Theater, located in the Mill District of downtown Minneapolis. While the theater has several event spaces to choose from, the colored glass walls in the Amber Room give a gold-tinted glimpse of not only the river but also the historic Stone Arch Bridge and downtown St. Anthony Main. The cantilevered space extends 178 feet from the side of the building, which provides spectacular views for cocktail receptions of up to 150 people.

While the Guthrie Theater and St. James Hotel both provide views of the river from a few floors above, other venues such as Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis offer event space along the shoreline—something that several environmental nonprofits love to lean on year after year for their annual fundraising galas. “For us, the relationship to the river is really important,” says Sara DeKok, development director for nonprofit organization Friends of the Mississippi River. “I think it’s the best venue in town as far as views and experience of the river.” Another nonprofit, Save the Boundary Waters, echoes that same sentiment. “Our supporters like being there on the river,” says Kelsey Polcher, development director for the organization. “Being an environmental organization, it’s a community of paddlers. Having a river there is very on-brand for us.”

Although environmental nonprofits like these appreciate the proximity to the water at Nicollet Island Pavilion, the interior of the venue is just as beautiful with high ceilings, exposed brick, and an overall industrial look—all thanks to the building’s past life as a boiler works factory. “This building is very old, and there are so many new venues every year popping up,” says Gabriella Panebianco, sales consultant for Mintahoe Catering & Events, which provides catering for the Nicollet Island Pavillion. “But the river and the skyline are really what sets it apart and makes it very unique compared to the new glitz and glam venues.”


While Minnesota’s natural beauty is always striking, the urban landscape in Minneapolis is also something to be admired. One iconic place to scout the skyline is from the top of the W Minneapolis–The Foshay, where many who gather there visit the Observation Deck and Museum on the 30th floor. Planners can convene their group at this popular

spot by renting the Observation Deck and Museum for small events. Another option for happy hours, holiday gatherings, product launches, and more is Prohibition Bar, which touts art deco design on the 27th floor with windows that overlook the city.

Another sky-high venue is Windows at Marquette, located on the 50th floor of the IDS Center. The property can host almost any type of gathering in its four ballrooms—including corporate meetings of up to 300 people—where floor-to-ceiling windows allow visitors to see panoramic views for miles in every direction.

“My goal every time I go up there is to try to find something new that I have never seen,” says Kathryn Franko, director of

Clockwise from below: The Great Room at the W Minneapolis–The Foshay; Summit Room at the St. James Hotel in Red Wing; Gathering on the lawn of the neoclassical Union Depot in St. Paul
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PHOTOS (CLOCKWISE FROM BELOW LEFT) Katy DeZellar, St. James Hotel, Union Depot

sales and marketing at Windows at Marquette and Marquette Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. “You get to see the Chain of Lakes (comprised of Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet, Brownie Lake, and Cedar Lake). You can see the airport, and you can see planes coming and going. It’s something I never take for granted. It’s a wonderful place to showcase for customers when they are coming in for a meeting.”

Within eyesight of Windows at Marquette is U.S. Bank Stadium, another iconic spot where planners can host small and large gatherings alike—as long as it’s not a Minnesota Vikings gameday. Any of the six large club spaces have views of the field, which will impress.


Without a doubt, views of the Mississippi River and the Minneapolis skyline will blow attendees away, but distinctive design details in the venues themselves are often the ones that are most memorable. One place to find unique event spaces is the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, where groups can gather amid museum exhibits after the museum has closed. Guests can make company with a triceratops and stegosaurus in the Dinosaurs & Fossils Gallery, or take turns projecting their face onto the helmet of the 36-foot-tall Giant Astronaut. Of course, planners can also host events in more traditional spaces such as Discovery Hall and Elements Cafe, and purchase access to the museum so each of the attendees can explore the exhibits before, during, or after the programming.

The Science Museum is not the only unforgettable St. Paul venue. Not too far away from the venue is Union Depot, a building that functioned as an operational train station for decades before being transformed into the




venue it is today. (It is once again a train station, too.) The building maintains several original features such as marble pillars and flooring from its neoclassical design in the breathtaking Waiting Room. Smaller meetings and events can be hosted in one of the several other spaces such as the Red Cap Room, which provides plenty of daylight and a view to admire—something that many smaller meeting spaces lack.

“When you do an all-day event, you really want a space that has natural light,” says Kathleen Lohmar Exel, vice president of community advancement and the foundation executive director of the St. Paul Area Chamber Foundation, which has hosted many events in the Red Cap Room. “That’s the thing that’s nice about the Red Cap Room in particular: There are windows on both sides. You can see down into the concourse, which people love to see, and then they have some natural skylights in there, too, so it doesn’t feel like you’re just stuck in a corporate, windowless room.”

Natural light is also a highlight at the Hutton House in Medicine Lake. In addition to garage doors that flood the space with sunlight, the overall clean, minimalistic aesthetic and materials keep the space feeling airy and bright. “We are definitely known for our warm white ambience, and that little bit modern, very minimalistic design aesthetic,” says Nicki Gavin, marketing director at Hutton House. The design style also enables planners to dress up and decorate the space to fit their branding, color palette, or chosen theme easily—making it a versatile venue for planners to return to again and again for various meetings and events. “If the company is leaning into a certain theme for the event, just having that clean, minimalistic backdrop allows that to be the focus of the celebration,” says Gavin.

Thanks to one-of-a-kind designs, views, and settings, these spectacular sites will leave a lasting impact on attendees.








» AT THE END OF LAST YEAR, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) launched, along with partner Delta Air Lines, the single-largest interior renovation of concourses and passenger gate areas at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) Terminal 1. Dubbed the Airport Modernization Program, this is the latest in a series of ongoing projects at the airport. The MAC has invested more than $1 billion in the transformation of Terminal 1 since 2016.

The latest renovations will include updated flooring, brighter and more sustainable LED lighting, upgraded technology including more dynamic flight screens throughout, and a full refresh of 75 Delta gate hold rooms. Updated gate seating, including more power outlets, is also slated. The project began in late October and will continue through next year.

“We’re proud to work with and have the support of Delta to deliver an expansive interior makeover that will create an exceptional airport experience for Delta passengers as they make their way from security checkpoints to their gates,” says MAC CEO Brian Ryks in a prepared statement. “It’s another major investment to create brighter, more modern spaces that complement MSP’s award-winning customer service.”

Travel through Delta gates will continue as usual during the renovations, with gates remaining open throughout construction, and the heaviest work will be scheduled during overnight hours. The renovation will cover 378,000 square feet. –Linden M. Bayliss

delta.com | metroairports.org | mspairport.com

Topgolf & Main Event to Open in Woodbury

» AFTER OPENING its first location in Brooklyn Center in 2018, Topgolf will launch its second in the Twin Cities next year in the eastern suburb of Woodbury. The driving range and entertainment center will sit on a 14-acre parcel near the southeastern corner created by the intersection of Interstates 94 and 494. Nearby, Main Event, an entertainment center that will include bowling, laser tag, arcade games, and virtual reality games, will also open. –Todd R. Berger mainevent.com | topgolf.com Gate

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Rendering of the driving range at Topgolf Minneapolis–Brooklyn Center
on the agenda for updates at MSP. INDUST R Y UPDATE Regional News

Explore Minnesota Tourism Grants Announced

The 2024 Explore Minnesota Tourism Recovery Grant program has awarded over 100 destination marketing organizations and other tourism associations throughout Minnesota with funds to aid in promoting their communities. Explore Minnesota Tourism is the state’s tourism promotion office that works to market the state as a year-round leisure and business destination.

Funds from the grants will go toward expenses such as general consumer marketing, the marketing of public events, website development, and social media management, among other things. A few of this year’s grant recipients include:


Odyssey Resorts, a Duluthbased owner and manager of Minnesota resort properties, promoted Howard Anderson to chief executive officer, effective May 1, to replace the retiring Kirk Schulz. Anderson joined Odyssey Resorts in 2022 as vice president of strategic planning, and he was promoted to chief operating officer in 2023. He has more than three decades of experience in the hospitality industry. He served as vice president of operations at ZMC Hotels in Duluth before joining Odyssey Resorts. Odyssey owns and manages nine resorts in northern Minnesota.

» Bloomington, Minnesota Travel & Tourism

» Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce

» Experience Rochester

» Lake County Chamber

» Lake of the Woods Tourism

Christy Loy joined Meet Minneapolis as the organization’s senior vice president of destination sales in early February. Most recently, Loy served as the general manager of Canopy by Hilton Minneapolis Mill District. Loy’s long tenure in the hotel industry includes past general manager roles with Minneapolis hotels such as W Minneapolis–The Foshay and The Chambers Hotel. Prior to that, she served as the multisite general manager for dual lifestyle hotel brands Aloft & Element Boston Seaport District. In all, Loy has spent over 20 years in the hotel industry.

» Meet Minneapolis

» Visit Bemidji

» Visit Cook County

» Visit Greater St. Cloud

» Visit Mankato

– Linden M. Bayliss exploreminnesota.com

Bjorn Thompson brings over two decades of culinary experience to his new role as executive chef at both Breva and Masa & Agave inside Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis. A graduate of Minneapolis’ Le Cordon Bleu, Thompson got his start at Cafe Levain in Minneapolis and at Hazelwood Food + Drink in Bloomington. With an extensive resume spanning kitchens like Wolfgang Puck’s in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the award-winning Terraza Waterfront Cafe in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Thompson has honed his skills in diverse restaurants across the country.

Visit Greater St. Cloud received $20,000 in tourism grant funds this year. IMAGES (CLOCKWISE FROM BELOW LEFT) Metropolitan Airports Commission, Topgolf, Adobe/Jacob, Caitlin Abrams, Meet Minneapolis, Odyssey Resorts

DEI Focus for ILEA-MSP

In mid-January, the International Live Events Association Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter (ILEA-MSP) hosted internationally recognized speaker Jove Meyer at The Luminare in Minneapolis for a discussion on how event professionals can be more inclusive in their respective industries. Jove, an expert in design and event planning, brought his infectious energy to the stage, which, in turn, ramped up the audience. He spoke to 75 event professionals about the power of inclusivity, strategies for becoming more inclusive as a vendor, how to build authentic connections with diverse groups, and ideas to expand understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

1. Melya Owens 2. Table decor by Ashley Skeie Events 3. Mel Hesse

4. Rachelle Mazumdar 5. Ashley Cook, Julia Jakubiak, Erika Baum, and Jasmine Hamsa 6. Liz Paronto and Lilian Carroll

7. Christie Altendorf, Paige Bond, and Tyler Stabnow 8. Josh Reitan and Marcos Juarez-Gosselin 9. Jove Meyer

To have your meeting or event photos featured, contact tberger@greenspring.com

PHOTOS Coppersmith Photography
7 8 9 6 3 1 5
MEETINGSMAGS.COM/MINNESOTA 27 BRING SOMETHING COOL + CREATIVE TO YOUR NEXT EVENT! Visit MINNESOTA-ICE.COM to GET STARTED. www. PhilThompson.com booking@philthompson.com 651-206-2269 Minnesota’s #1 CORPORATE ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCER FULL-SERVICE ENTERTAINMENT & PRODUCTION Where Lakes & Meetings Begin Plan your next event in the Willmar Lakes Area! Home to the Little Crow Event Center, the Willmar Conference Center and a variety of unique venues. 320-235-3552 willmarlakesarea.com

Passion & A Big Voice

Rachel Thompson rose quickly in her profession by learning from others and boldly expressing her ideas

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Stout with a degree in hotel, restaurant, and tourism management, Rachel Thompson knew she wanted a job with a convention and visitors bureau—any job. And to get one, she was willing to risk annoying the very person who could hire her.

“The executive director (of Visit Greater St. Cloud was Julie Lunning) at the time, and I’m surprised she didn’t block me for how persistent I was in asking if she had absolutely any position available with the organization, and that I would love to be considered for it,” she recalls. “After college, I moved back home to help the St. Cloud Country Club run its weddings and events. At the end of my first season there, I made one last reach out to Lunning, and she responded with, ‘I’d love to consider you for one of the openings.’ And here I am.”

Hired as the sales coordinator in 2015, she moved up to sales manager in 2018, and stepped into the top job in 2021. She is also the chair of the Minnesota Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus board of directors, and, this year, Gov. Tim Walz appointed Thompson the central tourism marketing region representative for the Explore Minnesota Tourism Council.

“I come with a lot of passion and a really big voice, and sometimes it surprises people, coming from a person with such a small stature, how big of a presence I can make,” she laughs, noting she is 4-foot-11 “on a good day.”

Likely, her presence has caught the attention of most, as she was honored as an emerging tourism leader by Explore Minnesota Tourism last year, an emerging tourism star by the E-Tourism Summit in 2022, and an up-andcoming supplier of the year in the Minnesota Meetings + Events Hall of Fame Awards in 2020.

However, when asked to highlight meetings and events in Greater St. Cloud, she talks about her staff, not herself. She says, “We are so fortunate to have three team members who are dedicated to event bidding and securing events in our region. They are the powerhouse behind our meetings, events, and sports, as well as in conjunction with our venues. They are the ones pushing hard every day to help event planners see what hosting in the area can look like.”

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PHOTO Anderson Hughs Productions
PEOPLE P R OFILE Rachel ompson

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