Small Market Meetings September 2022

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ROOM EXPLORETO Welcome to Colorado Springs, Olympic City USA, where stunning, wide-open scenery is the backdrop to your next meeting or event. From unique venues and properties to outdoor adventure and delicious dining, COS has what you need to create a memorable attendee experience. Here, you’ll find room to inspire, innovate and reconnect. Pre-approved applicants can earn a 10% rebate between $3,500 and $10,000 against eligible hard costs for meetings and events held by 6/30/24. Learn more at KATHY REAK, CFMP V ice President of Kathy@VisitCOS.comSales| 719.685.7632

866-356-5128SMALL MARKET MEETINGS is published monthly by Pioneer Publishing, Inc., 301 E. High St., Lexington, KY 40507, and is distributed free of charge to qualified meeting planners who plan meetings in small and medium size towns and cities. All other meeting industry suppliers may subscribe by sending a check for $39 for one year to: Small Market Meetings, Circulation Department, 301 East High St., Lexington, KY 40507. Phone (866) 356-5128 (toll-free) or (859) 253-0503. Fax: (859) 253-0499. Copyright SMALL MARKET MEETINGS, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of editorial or graphic content in any manner without the written consent of the publisher is prohibited. TO ADVERTISE CALL KYLE ANDERSON Mac T. ExecutiveHerbertPublisher/PartnerLacySparrowEditor/Partner Brian Jewell VP & Managing Editor Ashley Ricks Graphic Designer Kyle AdvertisingBryceDirector,AndersonSales&MarketingWilsonAccountManager Donia Simmons Creative Director Rena Controller/OfficeSarahProofreaderBaerSechristManager 8 INSIGHTS InvestingDiversityin 10 CONFERENCE Wichita prepares to welcome Small Market Meetings 16 PROFILE BorgesonSutra INSIDE VOLUME 23 | ISSUE 8 ON THE COVER: Sunset casts warm tones over downtown Knoxville. Photo by Kevin Ruck. NorfolkVisitCourtesy 18 MANAGING Event Marketing 24 IDEAS Military Destinations 34 CITY Knoxville, Tennessee 38 TOWN Williamsburg, Virginia 48 MEETING GUIDE Iowa DEPARTMENTS

Why? Because Kearney has the best facilities between Denver and Omaha, and experienced staff that make sure every event is a win!

Kearney, where the Heartland gathers. (Planning your next event in Kearney is no gamble.)

Kearney, where the Heartland gathers. (Planning your next event in Kearney is no gamble.)

If you’re looking for a host city for your next event, make sure you look at Kearney, Nebraska.

If you’re looking for a host city for your next event, make sure you look at Kearney, Nebraska.

If you’re looking for a host city for your next event, make sure you look at Kearney, Nebraska.

If you’re looking for a host city for your next event, make sure you look at Kearney, Nebraska.

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“Here, you smell, taste and feel,” said Albert Herrera, senior sales manager for Visit Las Cruces. “Food is very important; it’s not just convention center food.” The sensory experience isn’t confined to the convention center as visitors ven ture into the community. Board meetings adjourn to local restaurants to learn tama le making and enjoy one or two. Groups tour gardens and a gift shop at the Chile Pepper Institute, part of New Mexico State University (NMSU). Visitors explore restaurants and businesses collectively called the Walk of Flame, known for sell ing items tied to chile peppers.


Las Cruces: The spice is right

A lot of places talk up local flavor, but Las Cruces, New Mexico, tru ly delivers.Thecity of 110,000 sits amidst mountain ranges in the fertile Mesilla Valley, where two crops grow exceedingly well--chile peppers and pecans. Chiles stretch to the sun as pecan trees shelter their brown nuts and provide the city with leafy shade.


When the convention center opened a decade ago, it elevated the city to a regional meeting destination. Then, in 2019, when another 17,000 square feet of meeting space and an adjacent 125-room Courtyard by Marriott were add ed, the city became suitable for many national and international meetings. About 600 of the city’s 3,000 hotel rooms are within walking distance of the convention center.


Lucky for visitors, peppers and pecans work their way into food and drink in sur prising and delicious ways. There are green chile egg rolls at a Chinese restaurant; green chile lasagna at an Italian one. A bar touts its pecan-crusted stuffed peppers as an ice cream shop scoops green chile sun daes and a winery infuses its white with chiles and serves sweet and spicy local pe cans alongside. Gift shops sell chile salsas, chile jerky and chile pecan brittle. Peppers and pecans are also plentiful at the city owned Las Cruces Convention Center, where chefs invigorate everything from plated dinners to passed hors d’oeu vres with the local products.

The proliferation of chiles and pecans is one of several surprises for those new to Las Cruces. The area is the oldest wine-producing region in the country, and nine area wineries carry on that tradition. People who haven’t been to this corner of New Mexico are also a little fuzzy on the location of the state’s second-largest city. “A lot of times, the first question is ‘Where is Las Cruces?’” said Herrera. The city is 41 miles north of the Mexican border, so close to El Paso, Texas, that air travelers land there and drive 50 miles north to Las Cruces. Interstates 10 and 25 cross paths near the convention center.

“Meetings of 400 to 600 are our sweet spot,” said Mauro Monsisvais, the center’s general manager.

The LEED Gold-certified facility has a 17,236-square-foot exhibit hall, an 8,950-squarefoot ballroom, 10 flexible meeting rooms, 7,100 square feet of indoor prefunction space and 12,000 square feet of outdoor space.

7September 2022 FOR MORE INFORMATION: VISIT LAS CRUCES Albert MeetinLasCruces.comVisitLasCruces.comalherrera@las-cruces.org575-541-2387Herrera

“The convention center isn’t stand alone,” Herrera said. “It is really about the entire community.”

The convention center’s ongoing work ing relationship with NMSU, whose cam pus is adjacent to the center, benefits meet ings. The center can turn to the university when it needs more space than its 375-space parking lot provides or if its indoor meeting spaces are stretched thin. Students from the school’s hospitality management program work at the Marriott Courtyard, so the hotel doesn’t have the staffing issues so common theseDuringdays. the pandemic, the center made important upgrades, from installing touch less faucets, toilets and water stations to adding bipolar ionization, which rids air of pathogens.A1Gfiber optic backbone, part of the orig inal infrastructure, can be expanded to meet any customer’s needs, according to Monsis vais. The Wi-Fi system can handle 10,000 unique devices but given the center’s size, that hasn’t been required. In past meetings though “it has handled up to 2,000 unique devices on Wi-Fi without a problem,” he said. No doubt such a forward-thinking con vention center is a big advantage, but Her rera and others realize that cities like Las Cruces — with a strong sense of place and palpable community spirit — are where the best meetings happen.

For the past 10 years, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has measured cities’ attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people with its Municipal Equality Index. It scores 506 cities on policies, laws and services that af fect LGBTQ+ people.


The HRC website includes an index of results by city. ( It is a great tool for getting a handle on how LGBTQ friendly a destination will be. Blooming ton, Indiana; Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky; Iowa City, Iowa; and Ann Arbor, Michigan, are among the long list of those with perfect scores. Another perfect scorer is Palm Springs, California, home to the most same-sex households in California and the country’s first all-LGBTQ+ city council. WITH MITCHELL

Host cities strive to make everyone feel welcome

Three years ago, Mesa, Arizona, became the first-ever Autism Cer tified City in the U.S. Since then other cities, including Visalia and Palm Springs, California; Billings, Montana; and Springfield, Missouri have become Certified Autism Centers. The designations, from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education stan dards (, mean the destinations have completed training to better understand and welcome visitors who have autism and special sensory needs. In Mesa, nearly 4,000 community members, including 60 businesses and organizations, did the training. Individual attrac tions and venues can also receive certification. Mesa’s intense focus on autism training is one reason the AutismOne 2022 Conference was held there in August.

Each year, there’s been an increase in the number of cities with a perfect score. In 2021, 110 cities scored 100, up from 94 cities in 2020, and far above the 11 cities with perfect scores 10 years earlier.

A key to planning a meeting that’s inclusive is choosing a meeting destination that measures up in terms of its appreciation for and accep tance of people who are different, whether they be LGBTQ+, Black or have a mental, physical or emotion al disability. Many smaller cities have made outsized efforts to become more welcoming to all, and various organizations that monitor their efforts sometimes publish data and rankings that can help planners get a handle on whether a city will be a welcoming one. Here are a few sources of information and points to consider.



LGBTQ+ Friendly Cities Grow

Efforts Expand on Autism


Accessibility Gets Attention If your attendees mirror the general public, one in seven will have a mobility issue, according to the Centers for Disease Con trol and Prevention. It makes sense to look for cities that have become better places for all to live through their work on acces sible transportation systems, all-encompassing health systems and other social supports for the disabled. Who isn’t heartened to discover a city that has made sure its parks have paths and restrooms that are wheelchair accessible? A number of acces sibility studies indicate small cities are taking action to improve accessibility. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s top 10 wheelchair-accessible cities include Lubbock, Texas, and Al buquerque, New Mexico, both applauded for their highly acces sible bus systems. Money Inc.’s top picks include Raleigh, North Carolina; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Rochester, Minnesota.

In Virginia Beach, the success and growth of Black-owned busi nesses signals a community that seeks economic equality. Meanwhile, Raleigh, North Carolina, made the top 10 in terms of opportunities for Black and Hispanic children in a study done by Brandeis University. Tal lahassee, Florida, ranked No. 1, followed by Lansing, Michigan, in Live’s list of the 10 best cities for African Americans.

Kindness Gives Off Good Vibes Arrive in a city you’ve never visited, and almost immediately you pick up on its vibe. From your Uber driver and hotel front desk clerk to the restaurant server, you notice if the locals are friendly and happy to see visitors like you. Qualities that add up to kindness — being con siderate, helpful, humane and charitable — became even more valued during the pandemic, so VolunteerMatch decided to look at data that would indicate a city’s kindness levels. The result is its 2022 list of the 50 most kindhearted cities. Five of the top 10 are second-tier cities: Portland, Ore gon; San Jose, California. Austin, Texas; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Madison, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, WalletHub, a fi nancial website, has rated the happiest cities in America. A number of smaller cities made its top 20 list earlier this year including the California cities of Irvine, San Jose, Huntington Beach, Anaheim and Oakland; Overland Park, Kansas; Fargo and Bismarck, North Dakota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Madison, Wiscon sin; and Scottsdale, Arizona.

9September 2022

Diversity is Celebrated

Appreciation of cultural and racial diversity can express itself in a number of ways. In some cities, it means lively festivals and celebra tions. Columbus, Ohio, home to the country’s fifth-largest Hispanic pop ulation, celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month each fall with music, art and food. In Arlington, Virginia, a Latino American festival and a ton of Latin American restaurants remind that the city is home to the largest Hispanic community in the D.C. metro. In St. Augustine, Florida, Hispan ic roots are remembered throughout Hispanic Heritage Month.

All photos courtesy Visit

In their continual search for fresh places to hold meetings, con ferences, retreats and conventions, the planners will have up to 50 appointments with destination providers during two marketplace sessions. Dozens of destinations will be pitching their properties and services in hopes of winning new business from the meeting planners. That is the main reason both sides have come to Wichita.


“We are excited to host this group of peers and planners,” said Bran dy Evans, vice president of marketing for Visit Wichita. “While we are looking forward to seeing familiar faces, it is important for Visit Wichita to host dozens of professional meeting planners in our city, as we build back our meetings segment, which is part of our post-COVID recovery.”

At last year’s conference, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, planners had dozens of options to choose from among the destination providers. They came with agendas and worked hard sorting out the details.

Wichita is the largest city in Kansas and conveniently located right in the heart of the country. Leaders feel confident they can win its share of the meeting business.

“Our experience has been when planners get to visit our city, meet BY DAN DICKSON Wichita

he time is fast approaching when meeting planners from around the nation will descend on Wichita, Kansas, for the annual Small Market Meetings Con ference. The local convention and visitors bureau, Vis it Wichita, will host the conference, scheduled for October 2-4.


This year’s conference will be held at Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center, which boasts more than 200,000 square feet of exhibition space. All attendees will be staying, enjoying meals and doing their work at the connected Hyatt Regency Wichita, which is a 300-plus-room hotel with meeting space. Delegates can meet, eat and sleep all in one convenient venue.

Amy Preher of the Kentucky Justice Association in Louisville loved the convenience.



“I want to make connections,” she said. “It is great we are all in one place to hear about destinations and venues to see if they are a good fit. It would take me years to see all these sites in person. Now I don’t have to.”


The opening night’s dinner and entertainment are al ways a highlight of the Small Market Meetings Confer ence. Visit Wichita will not disappoint and will host the first evening’s activities at Tanganyika Wildlife Park, fa mous for its behind-the-scenes tours and up-close expe riences between rare animals and humans.


11September 2022 our locals, visit our attractions, dine at our restaurants, and experience our meeting and hotel venues, they are more likely to host their next conference in Wichita,” Evans said.




Visit Wichita will provide transportation to the park. Once there, attendees will interact with the animals, led by animal ambassadors. And then everyone will also be able to enjoy drinks and dinner.


The first full day of the conference promises to be a busy one. Breakfast will be sponsored by Visit Williamsburg, which also includes historic sites like Jamestown and Yorktown. The CVB will tell delegates about its potential meeting facilities.

After the first marketplace session concludes in the main ballroom, lunch will be served. It will be presented by the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office and Wittwer Hospitality, which will show a video and inform attendees about their beautiful corner of southern Utah and its vast meeting and tourism opportunities.


Tanganyika Wildlife Park is the place to be. Tanganyika offers more firsthand opportunities than typ ical wildlife parks, Evans said. “Their foremost mission is to support exotic and endangered animals and conservation. They educate the public and help fund their mission by pro viding people a connection to the natural and wild world.”

“It is one of the only places in the country where you can hand-feed lemurs,” said Evans. If delegates have ever wanted to hang out with a sloth, pet a kangaroo or hold hands with an otter for a wildly different kind of experience,

Then it will be time for local sightseeing tours, a high light of any Small Market Meetings Conference. Visit Wichita is planning an afternoon of adventures. Delegates can look forward to exploring local breweries, tasting the delights in sweet shops, seeing some of Wichita’s beautiful architecture and more. That evening, Visit Wichita will sponsor a progressive dinner showcasing various restaurants in the Old Town entertainment district, located in the heart of the city. It is a busy shopping and entertainment area with more than 100 businesses and nightlife venues. It features repurposed

19th century warehouses that have been turned into modern and cool places to visit. That evening’s event will give Wichita an opportunity to show planners what it can do for them should they decide to bring a meet ing to the city. “When we conduct site vis its, planners are always surprised by all that Wichita has to offer,” explained Evans. “To be able to show this many planners all at one time exactly what Wichita can provide their attendees is a priceless opportunity for us.”

Some notable destinations represented at the conference will buy sponsorships, which gives them added visibility. These come in several forms and often include name badg es, signs, the registration desk, meal func tions or educational modules.

The last day of the conference will feature a breakfast sponsored by another CVB locat ed in a historic place — Valley Forge (Penn sylvania) Tourism and Convention Board. After the second and last marketplace ses sion, lunch will be sponsored by the host city for the 2023 Small Market Meetings Confer ence — Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Tourism. Cedar Rapids, located in eastern Iowa, is an arts and cultural hub with theater, museums, live music, professional sports, and a growing dining and craft brewery scene.

“Sponsors step up and say they want to host these planners and to get to know them and to try to get them to come to their plac es,” he said. “It is good for both sides.”

But one of the prize sponsorships is a podium appearance, where a destination spokesperson delivers a carefully crafted message and shows a beautiful video that could entice planners to take a closer look.

VIS I T L U B B O C K . O R G #LIVELOVELUBBOCK Meet in the of Lubbock “ Big, Small Town”

Escape the hassle of a large metro area and plan your next meeting in the “Hub City.” Scan the QR code below to learn more about the big-city resources available in Lubbock, Texas.

Of course, agreeing to be the host city for the Small Market Meetings Conference is the ul timate honor, and Wichita stepped up to do Charlie Presley, a founder, and organizer of the conference, likes to see sponsors use their influence whenever they can.

“The Visit Wichita team is prepared to assist planners with all aspects of hosting a successful event,” said Evans. “We have a variety of complimentary services during all phases of meeting planning.”


offered to groups that want to do business there.

Meet in Wichita, the heart of the country. The largest city in Kansas blends Midwest friendliness with the ingenuity of being the Air Capital of the World to create a truly unique place for you to gather. Groups love the amenities, affordability and welcoming spirit. Planners love how easy it is to work with Visit Wichita and our partners. And if 50-plus attractions and 1,200-plus eateries on top of all that kindness and energy sounds good, we’re just your kind of place to meet.

Geissler will highlight different technologies that event orga nizers and travel providers can use to simplify multiple aspects of the meeting or travel experience.

SPEAKERS EDUCATE Speakers often come to the conference to present the latest strat egies that meeting planners can put to work to be more productive in organizing meetings.

“We will discuss using technology for reservations, payments, travel protection, building lists, offering additional purchase op portunities and communication with travelers prior to and during the travel experience,” said Geissler. “My presentation highlights multiple options and trends we are seeing in the event and travel marketplace and the ideal ways to embrace those trends.”

A guest speaker for Small Market Meetings Conference will be Bud Geissler, an industry professional who will offer a few new tools for meeting planners to use in their work.

Proud 2022 Small Market Meetings Host

Planners who choose Wichita should be impressed by the ameni ties a city that size (390,000) offers. They include “the Q Line,” which provides their meeting attendees with free transportation every 15 minutes over 3.3 miles to some of the more popular entertainment districts such as Delano, Old Town, Douglas Design District and Clifton Square. These includes after-hours entertainment spots, popular restaurants and the area known as Museums on the River.


“It is opportunities like hosting meeting planners at Small Mar ket Meetings Conference that solidify Wichita as a genuinely great CO

Evans said that includes recommending and sourcing properties, hosting city site tours, providing attendance-building services like videos, custom e-blasts or brochures, and providing event collateral like registration bags, visitor guides, dining and shopping discounts, a cell phone charging station and more.

Learn more at or use this QR code to request a Meeting Planners Guide.


T he Greater Zion area and its red sandstone cliffs and canyons draw millions to Utah’s southwest cor ner each year. But after visitors arrive, they soon realize that the 232 square miles of Zion National Park is just a small slice of the 2,400-squaremile encompassing region. “We cover such a wide area,” says Jacqueline Grena, meeting and sales manager for the Greater Zion Convention and Tour ism Office. “Forty-five minutes one way there’s Zion; 45 minutes another are sand dunes; 45 minutes in another are pine trees and mountains.”

GREATER ZION IS A PLANNER’S PARADISE Grena is based in St. George, a town of 87,000 where most meetings convene. Four hotels have significant meeting space, but larger meetings often land at the Dix ie Convention Center, with 100,000 square feet of meeting space. The Dixie Conven tion Center is also surrounded by four ad jacent flagship hotels who are all under the a five-minute drive or a nice walk along paths that wind through St. George. The revitalized area with night life and live entertainment has five bars including one at the luxury Marriott Ad venire hotel. Local restaurants and shops are anchored by a historic town square for events like movie nights. A new visi tor center with many interactive elements opens in October.

“We have four state parks,” says Grena. All have different landscapes, and one not to be missed is Snow Canyon State Park, 20 minutes from the convention center. “We joke that if Utah didn’t already have five national parks, Snow Canyon would be a national park,” Grena says. “It’s the one thing we tell people to make sure they see.” Ebikes for rent at the park entrance make touring it a breeze; picnic areas are popular for catered lunches.


For a different way to enjoy the outdoors and red rocks, the Tuacahn Amphi theater’s Broadway series runs from May to late October. Staff there help plan preshow group dinners.

Although summer is a busy time at the national park, it’s quieter in St. George and a good time for meeting business. To encourage summer business, the Greater Zion CTO offers an incentive for meetings held June 1-August 31. Based on room nights and meeting pattern, it can mean as much as $5,000 paid toward the group’s bill at a local meeting venue. (The same offer applies to meetings held January 1-31 in Springdale, UT.)


GREATER ZION CONVENTION AND TOURISM OFFICE Jacqueline greaterzion.comjacqueline@greaterzion.com435-986-6612Grena Zion – It’s even Greater than you think CUSTOM CONTENT

Outdoor activities lead meeting attendees to extend their stay. It is also easy to work those activities into a convention schedule. Take golfing. Thirteen courses ring the city. “Wherever you stay, it’s 10 minutes to a golf course,” says Grena. Groups can rent ATVs and zip up and down sand dunes nearby. Iconic hikes at Zion National Park are another option. And, Zion isn’t the region’s only park.

No matter the season, the region will likely be a delightful surprise. “People know us because of Zion,” says Grena “but there’s so much more to discover.”


Borgeson strives to inspire those who have never been big travelers. She especially wants to inspire those with disabilities, who may be prone to avoid the complications of travel. As a disabled veteran herself, she is an accessibility specialist.



Building relationships is not only one of Borgeson’s personal strengths but also her pri mary piece of advice to the people she mentors.

Borgeson’s company logo — a winding road with a hot air balloon rising over a moun tain peak in the distance — was inspired by a trip she took driving from Arizona to Utah, where she had seen such a scene in person. With that special experience, her thoughts culminated into what became the company’s tagline: “Let the experience inspire you.”

“Don’t be afraid to get a little bit lost and find something new,” she says. “I love creat ing opportunities to connect people through community and through culture. Travel is an opportunity to soothe your soul and re plenish your reserves, and I love being able to help people do that.”


Borgeson especially likes traveling with a purpose and giving travelers on her trips the opportunity to connect with a local nonprofit organization and do something that makes a socio-economic impact on the place they’re visiting, such as bringing local kids school sup plies or helping with a community gardening project. Along with that, her passion is to cre ate bespoke experiences like a cooking class in a chef’s own home kitchen when visiting Italy.

rowing up in Germany, Sutra Borgeson spent spring break traveling to countries on the European continent, learning about other cultures and visiting historic sites instead of partying on the beach. Those trips helped develop her love of travel.

“I found that so many people were asking me to help them plan a cruise or a trip to Dis ney, and that’s when Creative Travel and Events was born,” she said. “I can help people create the travel, trips, and special events of their dreams.”


NAME Sutra

Borgeson TITLE CEO/International Travel and Event Specialist ORGANIZATION Creative Travel and Events LOCATION Oklahoma City, Oklahoma BIRTHPLACE Bamberg, Germany EDUCATION • B.S. in Nursing 1994 Clark • Environmental Studies 2004 University of Washington • B.S. in Business Leadership 2011 Marylhurst University CAREER HISTORY • U.S. Navy, hospital corpsman and German translator, 1990-1994 • U.S. Army Reserve, practical nurse, 1994-1997 • Business coach and consultant, 2009-2015 • Creative Travel and Events, 2016-Present

“Every year, we would go somewhere different — I always loved to travel,” said Borgeson. “I was inspired by my mom, who encouraged me to go into business for myself, having traveled all over the world.”

Borgeson went into the U.S. Navy, where she was a hospital corpsman, then earned a bachelor’s in nursing. While she loved working with people, she found herself drawn to helping small business owners launch and grow their businesses. So she started a consulting firm with that in mind. Along the way, she worked at events like travel trade shows, where a different type of business began to take shape.


“Don’t be afraid to get a little bit lost and find something new. I love andpeopleopportunitiescreatingtoconnectthroughcommunitythroughculture.”

“Those relationships can be a lifesaver whenever you have issues,” she said. “One of the top reasons I go to trade shows is that I meet people. When you are networking in your community, you meet people who be come advocates for you — you build those relationships, and people help you and you’re able to help them. While it may be scary for someone to go to those things for the first time, if you attend, you will have a whole new vision of travel and of your business.”

“Everyone should have the ability to trav el, regardless of their situation,” she said. “So many people stay in their hometowns, and it has been an adventure to send people to see the wonders of the world. What I love is that on trips people develop a lot of camaraderie, and I love building relationships through com munity and culture. Smaller groups especially can be more intimate, and I am able to get to know them and add a more personal touch.”



TIPS BORGESON If you are not earning, you should be learning. Learn about destinations in person. Or if this isn't possible, attend trade shows where you get to meet and connect with those in the industry. You are expected to be the subject matter expert so become one.

• Find a mentor if you are just starting. Working with a mentor can help you start earning income faster. Make sure the mentor you select has adequate time to work with you, and stay •accountable.Buildrelationships. Get to know the sales team of hotels by attending trade shows and events. You never know when you may need to call them directly for an assist. And network! BOREGSON


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17September 2022



Lesley Brandt, co-founder and senior event producer of Planit Inc., frequently plans events within an industry. Her company is a third-party meeting planning company, which means their marketing often targets a predetermined set of potential attendees rather than the general pub lic. When events are geared toward a particular subset of industry professionals or even individ uals from one company, the marketing may look like a company-wide email campaign or sending out postcards to those on a mailing Marketinglist.

An event’s marketing isn’t just something that takes place pri or to an event — it’s an ongoing experience for attendees, from the moment planners get the word out to when they send follow-up surveys. Here are some things for planners to consider that will help them expertly market any event.

Every event will have different goals, depend ing on the type of event or conference and the ob jectives that drive the organization. This is some thing that planners and everyone else involved with the event need to be aware of, because it determines the audience to which they’ll be mar keting. Is the event designed to attract as many newcomers as possible, or is it designed with a specific group of people in mind?


“If you're promoting your conference to a gen eral attendee, you're going to have a certain mar keting strategy behind that,” said Kristen Turner, an events director at the Allegheny Conference, a Pittsburgh-area nonprofit. Some companies may prioritize generating new members, she said, which calls for marketing that casts a wide net, like boosted posts on social media.

ven the most well-designed program can flop without the right Plannersmarketing.oftengo to great lengths to design elab orate meetings, conferences and events by selecting the right speakers, caterers and venues. But to a great extent, an event’s marketing determines its registration, attendance and expectations for all stakeholders involved. In other words, it de termines the success of an event and whether attendees will come back, which is why it’s so important to get the marketing right.



“If driving membership and getting more members for your association is a main goal, your events need to support that, so you need to make them attractive to nonmembers as well.”


The Allegheny Conference Experience: 18+ years BY RACHEL CRICK

“We have to be concerned about engaging and re-engaging these attendees so that it’s a no-brainer for them to choose the event to come back to again.”

Factors like age and job industry will affect which social media platforms attendees use or if they’d be more reachable with print advertising rather thanKnowledgedigital. is power, and the more knowledge a planner has about an event and its stakeholders, the more effectively they will be able to market it.

Brandt PRINCIPAL AND SENIOR EVENT PRODUCER Planit Experience:Inc. 23+ years

These days, leaving something to the imagi nation is more likely to turn a potential attendee off rather than pique their interest. In the age of uncertainty, effective marketing of an event sets expectations for attendees and gives them plenty to go


19September 2022


“It could be education; it could be a safe environment; it could be location; it could be an efficient schedule; it could be priced right,” said Brandt. “When we consider those elements and what our at tendees are after, it becomesPlannerseasier.”should consider platforms their tar get attendees are most active on, and this will help them determine where to push their information.

In addition to knowing an event’s goals, planners should learn as much about its target attendees as possible. Information like attend ee demographics, likes and dislikes, if they’re well-traveled and other relevant factors helps planners know what to highlight in their mar keting materials. For example, if a group of prospective attendees is in health care or a related field, advertising the event’s plans for pro moting a healthy and safe environment may attract more attendees.

In a post-COVID world, this extra informa tion includes event safety precautions, the logis tics of travel and any other relevant information attendees need beyond just the date and where abouts of the conference.

“We’reon. seeing a little more information in cluded in save-the-dates,” said Brandt.

In addition to helping attendees set expecta tions for their time, this extra information can entice them. Brandt said these “nuggets of infor mation that encourage people to attend a confer ence” include an event’s main selling points, such as keynote speakers, incentives or the launch of new products or platforms.

“People don’t necessarily want to be surprised when they get somewhere,” said Turner.


The toolkits provided by CVBs can include materials such as photographs, videos and 360-degree touring soft ware that can help attendees and partners better visualize the destination. These toolkits can also include tons of rel evant information, such as vendor lists, menus for local caterers and activities for attendees to do in their downtime.


“We're starting to find that you have to sell and promote the experience, what the attendee journey is going to be,” Turner said. rendezvous at a time your most unique event

Planners may have difficulty rounding up all the relevant information about a meeting destination that attendees will need to know, which is where a contact at a destination’s convention and visitors bureau can help.

ever 70+ Restaurants

When encouraging attendees to register for an event and to later attend that event, an important factor to con sider is the event’s location. Planners often put great effort in choosing a destination and a venue, so it’s equally im portant to market that information to prospective attend ees. Most event destinations have great local attractions, dining and shopping that attendees can take advantage of, and promoting this is a great way to draw them in.



“With higher education and association-based organiza tions, they’re trying to promote and encourage the attendee to take advantage of not only the education component of the conference but to also build in some of the experience of the destination,” said Brayfield.

“A lot of destinations have tools for meeting planners,” said Kendra Brayfield, president of the Kansas City chap ter of Meeting Professionals International. Brayfield also previously worked as a sales director at Explore Lawrence, where she worked closely with meeting planners to devel op their events.

While the return to in-person events has been unprece dented, many events still do include digital and virtual com ponents, from online registration to live-streamed presen tations. Making the details clear for these is also important.

One of the best ways to maximize a destination’s appeal to attendees is to partner with the local CVB. Making use of their promotional materials, visual aids and itineraries ensures prospective attendees see the benefits of traveling to the area where the event will be held.


Gillette, Wyoming's CAM-PLEX multi-event facilities encompasses over 1,000 acres of land and features a fine arts theatre, a convention/exhibit hall, two multipurpose pavilions, a racetrack, rodeo grounds, 1,730 RV sites, and a 21-acre park and picnic area. daily jet service to and from denver

“Having a seamless registration and having everything right at your fingertips helps,” Turner said of the impor tance of having your event’s information consolidated on one platform, such as a website.


21September 2022 Call 800.245.4254 or visit for 360o tours! Whether it’s a one-night event or week-long conference, our professional staff is here to ensure a top-notch experience both inside and out. 123,000 Square Feet For Convening, Collaborating, Dining & Even Dancing. Staff Is 92% Friendlier Than The Other Guys 35 Minutes Away From CLE 8 Out Of 10 Visitors Rate Food “Excellent” (the other 2 think it’s “Really Good”) 15 Minutes Away From CAK John S. Knight Center Let’S StArt PLAnning {AgAin}! Akron, o H WE’RE READY WHEN YOU’RE READY JOHN S. KNIGHT CENTER | AKRON, OH ENSURING THE HIGHEST FoodBuildingSTANDARDS:SanitationPreparation/HandlingAirFiltrationSystems

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Kendra Brayfield

Another way to attract attendees is to offer them a trip that kills two birds with one stone. Many planners and organizations are beginning to market their events to attempt to “capture the attendee to come earlier, stay later, make it a family event or a leisure experience,” said Brayfield.

Another aspect of an event’s experience that’s increasingly crop ping up is appealing to the socially conscious attendee. If an event is eco-conscious, supports minority-owned businesses or funds a good cause, it’s beneficial to everyone involved. Many attendees are concerned with making a positive impact on the communities they’re visiting and contributing to causes they care about, making them more likely to choose events that allow them to give back.

CVBs are useful to meeting planners during the marketing

“It’s a really big win for everyone,” Brayfield said of these charita ble initiatives at events.

“Weprocess:can give you the marketing ability that a Hilton or Marriott couldn’t because we’re marketing to the meetings and also the leisure side of travel.”

Whether it’s a raffle that supports a local charity or a team-build ing activity where attendees provide a service to the community, making attendees aware of an event’s charitable initiatives can boost an event’s attendance. A CVB can help organize activities like this or even offer a resource directory of local businesses attendees can feel good about supporting.

Relax, MeetingYou’reinMurrieta

Murrieta maximizes your meeting experience while minimizing the hassles found in more highmaintenance destinations. Everything is at your fingertips here — a splendid California wine country and a budding brewery culture. This is the place to gather again and enjoy the feeling of being face to face in a place designed for in-person interaction. From small intimate corporate venues to larger conference locations, Murrieta has everything you need to take your meeting to the next level. Where You Meet Matters. Make It Murrieta.

Courtesy Visit Norfolk

Above: With a major naval base and mid-AtlanticmeetingmilitarydestinationisWisconsin,BattleshipdecommissionedtheNorfolkapopularforgroupsintheregion.

excel at hosting military




From coast to coast, these towns often began as military settlements with rich histories. In addi tion to having unique and historic venues, they are exceptionally friendly to those in the service, with many of their local hotels, restaurants and shops offering military discounts. This makes them ex ceptional locales for military ceremonies, reunions, meetings and other events. destinations events BY RACHEL CRICK

“Naval Station Norfolk is the largest by land,” said Mel Hopper, associate director of tour and travel at VisitAsNorfolk.aprominent Navy town, Norfolk has many impressive and unique venues on the water, which should come as no surprise. The Battleship Wiscon sin offers an unforgettable venue for military events, with multiple distinct indoor and outdoor spaces available for attendees. The ship’s main deck, which features views of the gun turret and Norfolk’s skyline, can accommodate up to 600 reception-style, while the fantail can accommodate up to 250 seated attend It may seem like a tall order to find a venue that appropriately honors the sacrifices and significance that accompany a role in the U.S. military, but there’s no better place to look than a town with great military heritage.

Thanks to the mix of freshwater and saltwater where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic, the waters in Norfolk never freeze. That’s one reason why Norfolk became a U.S. Naval Base. Another is its long past intertwined with major events in Amer ican history. Today, the lively city is home to the Battleship Wisconsin, one of the last U.S. battleships ever commissioned. Norfolk is also the final resting place of famed General Douglas MacArthur. Its ties to the military make it the perfect East Coast desti nation for military events.


As a prominent Navy town, Norfolk has many impressive and unique venues on the water, which should come as no surprise.

Photos courtesy Visit Pensacola

25September 2022 ees. For a more intimate indoor setting, the officer’s wardroom provides seating for up to 80 guests. Groups with up to 55 attendees can take a sun set cruise along the Elizabeth River on the Schoo ner Virginia, with private charters being available during the year’s warmer months. Another distinct venue for military events is the MacArthur Memo rial, which honors the late general. The memorial contains multiple classrooms, a visitors center and a theater seating up to 200 occupants. Norfolk also has plenty of hotels with meeting and event space, including the Main, the Marriott and the Sheraton.

Pensacola was first established by Spanish settlers in 1559 and has been owned by several differ ent countries over the years, earning it nicknames such as “America’s First Settlement” and “The City of Five Flags.” It should come as no surprise that a city this old has played an important role in the de velopment of America’s military. In 1914, Pensacola became America’s first dedicated Naval Air Station. Today, it’s also home to the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. In addition to its military contributions, it fea tures a vibrant and walkable downtown with plenty of shopping, dining and nightlife.

“Pensacola actually is the cradle of naval aviation for the city’s development of the U.S. Navy,” said Kaya Man, destination sales manager at Visit Pensacola. In addition to its famous beaches, Pensacola has a variety of unique venues that serve as excellent backdrops for a distinguished military event. The Historic Pensacola Museum complex, eight and a Pensacola scenes, clockwise from left: A Blue Angels exhibition; National Museum of Naval Aviation; MemorialVeteransPark



Reunions, meetings and events can be held at Fort Leavenworth’s Frontier Conference Center, which can accommodate up to 500. Attendees can also tour the area to see the Frontier Army Muse um, as well as a piece of the Berlin Wall, a historic Courtesy Leavenworth


half acres of cobblestone streets and historic build ings designed to look like the Pensacola of several centuries ago, contains multiple museum venues.

Current and retired service members and their fam ilies can visit the Naval Aviation Museum to see historic aircrafts and military memorabilia. Any vis itor to the Pensacola area can appreciate its military heritage as they watch the Blue Angels take flight at practice or in an air show.

Because of the city’s rich history and its active army base, it’s an ideal destination for Midwestern military events. Its quaint downtown also offers a rich local arts scene, a hand-crafted carousel, and shopping and dining for attendees to enjoy in their downtime.

“Not only can you visit an active army fort and delve back into the history of that, there are just a lot of attractions in our area,” said Kristi Lee, director of the Leavenworth Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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worth, the oldest active military fort west of the Missis sippi. The fort, founded in 1827, is eight square miles in the hillsides near the Missouri River. Today, it’s known as the Intellectual Center of the Army, as it’s home to several military institutes and schools. Leavenworth played an important role in supplying pioneers passing through during the westward expansion.

Trader Jon’s, a museum replica of a historic bar fre quented by military personnel, can accommodate up to 75 guests reception-style. Events such as military meetings and reunions can also be held at Pensacola’s beachfront hotels, such as the Hilton Pensacola Beach, which can seat 200 for a banquet and offers four breakout rooms.

Known as the first city of Kansas and the post that opened the West, Leavenworth is home to Fort Leaven-

Albany has implemented numerous precautions to combat the spread of COVID-19 and help visitors feel safe to explore our destination.

There are a variety of convention, special event, sports, and creative venues for your next event. Including the Capital Complex made up of four different venues: The Albany Capital Center, The Empire State Plaza Convention Center, The Egg Performing Arts Center and MVP Arena. Connected via enclosed walkways, these venues combine to make up the largest meeting space in Upstate New York at 159,000 square feet.

Located at the crossroads of the northeast, Albany is easily accessible by plane, train, or automobile and is a short jaunt from major metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York City, and Montreal.

Visit and learn how we can make your next meeting beyond conventional!

you r M EETIN G

— Noelani Schilling-Wheeler, Oahu Visitors Bureau Courtesy Leavenworth CVB



disciplinary barracks and a national military ceme tery. Events can also be held at the Riverfront Com munity and Convention Center, a 53,000-squarefoot converted railroad depot with river views and four distinct meeting spaces. The convention center can seat up to 675 total and provides both catering options and audiovisual services.

“We have a very healthy military community here in Hawaii, and I think that in itself is a drawing point.” IDEAS

Booking a meeting in Laredo, Texas, means plenty of options for accommodations, incredible facilities of all sizes, and personalized service, all at affordable prices. And when it’s time to unwind, the nightlife on Iturbide St. and all throughout downtown welcomes anyone ready for a good time. Book your meeting today and see if your group qualifies for incentives.

Flexible floorplans and state-of-the-art technology allow for all groups of any size — from as intimate as 10 guests to as grand as 400 attendees — to gather together in the premier event and meeting venue in Kentucky.

The premier event and meeting venue in Kentucky. Centrally located between Louisville and Lexington, the Shelbyville Conference Center melds versatility, beauty, and modern amenities to provide a welcoming and accommodating venue for events of all types.

Call (502) 633-6388 to discuss availability and for all inquiries.

Photos by Dana Edmunds, courtesy HI Tourism Auth. Jason jring@manitowoc.infoRing920-686-3070

“We have a very healthy military community here in Hawaii, and I think that in itself is a drawing point,” said Noelani Schilling-Wheeler, executive di rector at the Oahu Visitors Bureau. Waikiki, a Honolulu neighborhood, offers a wide range of different hotels and resorts that offer spe cial accommodations for military groups, including the Hale Koa Hotel, reserved exclusively for military personnel. The Hawaii Convention Center, also lo cated in Honolulu, offers a modern, nature-inspired venue with an abundance of meeting and exhibition space, including a 35,000-square-foot ballroom and twoEventstheaters.orceremonies can also be held at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, which contains a visitors center and museums that can be used as historic



Manitowoc Area Visitor & Convention Bureau


Below: Groups can hold events indoors and outdoors at Honolulu’s Hawaii Convention Center.

While most people know Hawaii as a beautiful island vacation destination, the U.S. military has long recognized the islands’ strategic significance. The strong military connection with Hawaii was el evated with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and today Hawaii is unique because it features all five branches of the military. Oahu is Hawaii’s most populated island, and Honolulu, its capital, has no shortage of military-friendly venues for reunions, conferences and meetings.

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Just 45 minutes outside of Nashville, Clarksville is known for being a military-friendly town and has been hosting the Welcome Home Veterans event an nually for the past eight years. Clarksville also boasts a diverse food scene and plenty of hospitality, which only add to its appeal as an events destination.

venues for military-themed meetings and events.

While Fort Campbell’s official location may be in Kentucky, the majority of the U.S. Army installation is actually in Clarksville, Tennessee. Fort Campbell, built in 1941, is home to the 160th Special Opera tions Aviation Regiment and is an active base re sponsible for training. Many soldiers and their fam ilies live on the Clarksville side of the installation.

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is one such ven ue, as is the newly renovated Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum. Events can also be held on the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the battleship where the treaty that ended the World War II was signed.

“Everyone who comes to Clarksville often com ments that it’s a very welcoming city,” said Karyl Kirkland, director of tourism/special events market ing at Visit ID-holdingClarksville.service members can tour Fort Campbell, while the Don F. Pratt Museum on the base is open to the public. There are plenty of venues popular for military meetings and events, such as the Wilma Rudolph Event Center, named for the late track and field Olympic champion. The center can accommodate up to 1,000 reception-style or 500 for a seated event, banquet or meeting, and offers au diovisual equipment and a list of approved caterers.


Another popular site is the Customs House Mu seum, an elegant venue in downtown Clarksville with several distinct spaces for events, including gal leries, a courtyard and boardrooms. Hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn and TownePlace Suites in Clarks ville are also full-service meeting venues.

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There’s a special type of magic that happens when you gather people in the ideal space at the right time. What it generates is a feeling of togetherness and connectivity that inspires the best work, and the happiest people. Greater Ontario takes that magic and makes it soar with the perfect setting where you can get down to business, and moments later, you can set free on any adventure of your choosing. It’s all here for you, right now. Are you ready to get connected?



The Tennessee River runs through Knoxville, a city just west of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains.


The Tennessee River runs through Knoxville, a city just west of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains.

By Steve Bearden, courtesy Visit Knoxville


by inside-the-city-limits mountains — but

Mountains and shape identityKnoxville’s is an Appalachian culture, not it Holton and French create the which flows reaching the Ohio the nearby Great Smoky Mountains shape help make this metro


city — by

also is a river city. The

through three more states before

Tennessee River,

River. The river and


Broad rivers converge here to


Knoxville’s identity and

area of almost 900,000 people ready for meeting groups’ business and enjoyment. BY TOM ADKINSON CITY KNOXVILLE AT A GLANCE LOCATION: East Tennessee ACCESS: McGhee-Tyson Airport; interstates 40 and 75 HOTEL ROOMS: 1,800 within one mile of convention center; 9,200 in the county CONTACT INFO: Visit visitknoxville.com865-523-7263Knoxville MEETING SPACES Knoxville Convention Center EXHIBIT SPACE: 120,000 square feet OTHER MEETING SPACES: 14 meeting rooms Knoxville Expo Center EXHIBIT SPACE: 78,000 square feet OTHER MEETING SPACES: 7 meeting rooms MEETING HOTELS Marriott Knoxville Downtown GUEST ROOMS: 302 MEETING SPACE: 17,746 square feet Hilton Knoxville GUEST ROOMS: 320 MEETING SPACE: 13,814 square feet WHO’S MEETING IN KNOXVILLE Congressional Medal of Honor Society ATTENDEES: 350 Alpha Kappa Alpha ATTENDEES: 3,500 National Street Rod Association ATTENDEES: 5,000

The World’s Fair Exhibition Hall provides another 70,000 square feet of space in the immediate vicinity of the convention center. Two venues away from downtown have even more space. Chilhowee Park and Exposition Center is east of town with 57,100 square feet of exhibit space (plus a 4,500-seat amphitheater), and the Knoxville Expo Cen ter is northwest of the city center. It bills itself as the largest privately owned exposition center in Tennessee.


The American Planning Association named the city’s pri mary corridor, Gay Street, to its Great Streets in America list. Two of its biggest draws are the Tennessee Theatre (a 1928 movie palace transformed into a modern performing arts center) and the more intimate Bijou Theatre (a now-restored Vaudeville showplace).

Knoxville Convention CenterMAJOR MEETING SPACES

Destination Highlights


Major Meeting Spaces

he 500,000-square-foot Knoxville Convention Center and the Knoxville Museum of Art share World’s Fair Park as their backyard. In partnership with the art museum, the convention center offers meeting attendees a wide-ranging collection of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, murals and other works of art. The Sunsphere, the 266-foot-tall signature structure of the 1982 World’s Fair, demarks the neighborhood. The Sunsphere’s gleaming gold exteri or makes it impossible to miss.

World's Fair Park Market Square


Just off of Gay Street is a bustling area any city would envy — Market Square. It is a pedestrian space surrounded by shops and restaurants and regularly enlivened with special events, in cluding a real farmers’ market much of the year. Among the events are outdoor concerts, summertime movies and “Shake speare on the Square” productions.

n addition to being a mountain city and a river city, Knoxville also is home of the University of Tennessee’s main campus. The university’s 31,000 students add a special vibe to the city, especially in football season when up to 101,915 fans file into Neyland Stadium. The stadium is one of only two college stadiums reachable by boat, and the Vol Navy — the conglomeration of pontoon boats, houseboats and runabouts that ties up just outside the stadium — is a quite a sight.

Downtown Knoxville, just blocks from the UT campus, is a destination itself and the site of the city’s convention center and major hotels. It is walkable, vibrant and, in places, quite colorful because of an array of murals. There’s even a murals walking tour (download an app or pick up a map at the visitor center on Gay Street).



Another downtown zone is simply called the Old City. Its old buildings have new uses as boutiques, nightclubs and barbecue joints, as well as places to enjoy craft cocktails, sushi, pizza and, in a college town, beer. In Old Town’s future is a $74.5 million multi-use 7,000-seat stadium for the Knoxville Smokies baseball team. The first cry of “Play ball!” will be in 2024.



DISTINCTIVE VENUES Tennessee Theatre Star of Knoxville

Leisure activities abound no matter which direction you head out from town. On the horizon to the south is America’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Before you get there, however, you’ll pass the myriad attractions and diversions of Se vierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The most popular of those is the Dollywood theme park, Tennessee’s most visited ticketed attraction.

37September 2022

I n a city with as many historic, cultural and leisure-oriented facilities as Knoxville has, planners can work variety into their meetings. An event at the Knoxville Museum of Art is a highlight for many meetings. The museum, which celebrates East Tennessee’s visual culture, is downtown and convenient to the major meeting hotels. Its primary perma nent exhibition is “Higher Ground,” which features more than a century of East Tennessee art, and a big topic of conversation is “Cycle of Life.” It is one of the largest figurative glass-and-steel works of art in the world. The artist is Knox ville native Richard Jolley.

The grand Tennessee Theatre on Gay Street is another memorable event venue. Built in 1928 as a movie palace, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. A $25.5 million project in 2005 transformed it into a multi-use per forming arts center.

Knoxville Museum of Art

While the Great Smoky Mountains have their special appeal, less crowded mountain destinations are to the northwest at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. One way to start that trip is on the Norris Freeway, a new Tennessee Scenic Byway, covering 21 miles along the Clinch River and across the top of the TVA’s Norris Dam. Also in that general direction is Oak Ridge, which earned its nickname of the Secret City because it sprang up as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb in World War II. It is one of three units of Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The others are in Hanford, Wash ington, and Los Alamos, New Mexico. If you head out to the northeast, there’s another moun tainous destination to explore. It’s Cumberland Gap Nation al Historical Park along the borders of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. This was a major gateway to the west as Euro pean settlers spread into the interior of North America.

KnoxvilleVisitCourtesyKnoxvilleVisitCourtesy KnoxvilleVisitCourtesy DISTINCTIVE VENUES

Distinctive Venues

hen a Knoxville meeting concludes, at tendees easily can spend an extra day in town. Enjoy a walk or a jog at Volunteer Landing, Knoxville’s riverfront park on the Tennessee Riv er, or watch the river flow by at a waterfront restaurant. Even better, take a trip on the Star of Knoxville or Volun teer Princess riverboats, which dock at Volunteer Landing.

For a fun night out, Maple Hall, also on Gay Street, lets attendees cut loose for an 11-lane bowling experience enhanced by conversation lounges, a full bar and a hefty food menu. More fun-style exercise is available at the award-win ning Zoo Knoxville. Enjoy a meal, a stroll and visits with animals from A to Y (African elephants to yellow-backed duiker antelope). Yet another way to get outdoors is with an event at the Ijams Nature Center, a 300-acre wildlife sanc tuary minutes from downtown.

After the Meeting W



Lodge Courtesy

Courtesy Great Wolf Visit


Williamsburg has everything a planner could want for a unique event: a satisfyingly mild climate, verdant spaces, and instead of one central conference magnet, multiple unique and historic meeting hotels. Plus the ‘Burg, as locals call it, is home to the world’s largest living-history museum: ColonialWhetherWilliamsburg.youplanto stay in or around the historic district, your attendees can dine at Washington’s favorite haunt (wooden teeth optional), chat with a Thomas Jefferson impersonator about the Declaration of Independence, and listen to marchers in tri-cornered hats play fifes and drums. Exploring Colo nial Williamsburg’s historic buildings — like Virginia's first capitol, the Gover nor’s Palace and the nation’s oldest continually operating church — is a great way to spend an afternoon or two. Entertainment abounds outside the historic center as well. Venture into the city for the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, the Williamsburg Winery (Virginia's largest), the Williamsburg Botanical Garden, the National Center for State Courts and the Virginia Musical Museum. Thrills are easy to find, too: Williamsburg has two major theme parks.

or your next event, consider enthralling your guests where George Washington held his own crucially important meeting: Williams burg, Virginia. It was there that the general assembled the First Con tinental Army and altered the trajectory of American history.




“With ample meeting venues in a region that boasts unmatched history and culture, attractions and activities, innovative food and beverage and charming places to stay, Williamsburg is a premier destination for small to midsize meet ings,” Visit Williamsburg CEO Victoria Cimino said. The city has landed nu merous awards for a visitor-friendly vibe too, thanks to its mild climate, food, abundant nature and of course, historic value.

Williamsburg has everything to delight planners and attendees alike.

“Where else can you explore an active archeological dig site on the grounds where America began?” Cimino added. “Or dip your kayak paddle into the wa ters of a peaceful river, get your thrills at a theme park and enjoy farm-to-table freshness, craft beverages or Colonial taverns?”


The James and York Rivers flank the area — so plan an afternoon of outdoor activities like kayaking or paddleboarding. Golf lovers will enjoy a wealth of highly rated courses in Williamsburg.

Or check out the historic district’s Bassett Hall, the former residence of the Rockefeller family. Want to add an element of adrenaline to your event? “Groups can also rent certain areas or buy out the entire park at Busch Gardens Williams burg,” Cimino added.

The Kingsmill Resort is on the James River — a golfer’s dream. Up to 450 guests can enjoy the riverfront vistas from the 16,000-square-foot confer ence center or its 6,050-square-foot ballroom.

Before and After Activities

Unique Meeting Spaces

Meet in Colonial Williamsburg at the modern Williamsburg Lodge. Its 45,000 square feet of event space hosts up to 1,000. The stately Williams burg Inn has 48 meeting rooms and 67,000 square feet of event space. Just outside of the historic area is the Fort Magruder Hotel, with 26,000 square feet of meeting space, accommodating up to 1,200. The Williams burg Woodlands Hotel hosts up to 250 in floor-to-ceiling windowed spaces surrounded by verdant outdoors.

Paddle On Williamsburg offers yoga and fitness classes on stand-up pad dleboards for private parties and corporate events. Make the trust fall look tame with pulse-pounding, ax-throwing fun at Axe Republic. Head to Busch Gardens or Water Country USA for thrills together, or reach out to Colonial Williamsburg Resorts for custom team-building group activities.

Major Meeting Hotels

Guests are free to wander the historic district, but some activities re quire tickets. Download the Colonial Williamsburg app to purchase tickets, book carriage rides and more.

Want everything under one roof? The Great Wolf Lodge boasts its famed indoor waterpark and 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

Williamsburg has several unique event venues. The ‘Burg is home to the Col lege of William and Mary, the nation’s second-oldest university. Owing its name sake to England’s King William III and Queen Mary II, the Virginia Colony campus anchors the western end of the historic district and can accommodate nearly any size event, thanks to its boardrooms, ballrooms, amphitheaters and stadiums.

39September 2022 LOCATION About 2.5 hours south of Washington D.C., on the Virginia Peninsula ACCESS Interstate 64 and Richmond International Airport; Norfolk International Airport; Washington Dulles International Airport MAJOR MEETING SPACES Williamsburg Lodge, Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Woodlands, Kingsmill Resort, Fort Magruder Hotel HOTEL ROOMS 2,194 OFF-SITE VENUES College of William and Mary,Busch Gardens Williamsburg CONTACT INFO Visit visitwilliamsburg.com757-229-6511Williamsburg WILLIAMSBURGVIRGINIA

Team-Building Opportunities


The Colonial Capital is a great place to grow stronger as a team. Williams burg’s Go Ape is an interactive treetop adventure made with adrenaline-filled obstacles like rope ladders, net bridges, trapezes, Tarzan swings and zip lines.

Few places offer as much revolutionary history as Williamsburg. From tour ing the opulent Governor’s Palace to experiencing every facet of Colonial life (bricklaying, wig making, bookbinding, gunsmithing, law drafting and 30-plus other time-transporting activities), guests aren’t going to run out of things to do.

radled in southern Indiana’s Hoosier National Forest, the op ulent French Lick Resort offers meeting planners everything they could want for a resplendent event under one roof — actually, three.

With 165,000 square feet of meeting space, an activities team and a fa cility stacked with amenities, the resort is well equipped for groups of all sizes. “I think what planners like about us is we can handle the very small est meeting all the way up to 1,400 guests,” Vezzoso said.



And with championship golf courses, 15 onsite restaurants, activities for all ages and more, “we have everything anyone needs,” Vezzoso said. “French Lick Resort is like a city within a city.”


The grandiose resort has 762 guest rooms and dozens of flexible, im pressive meeting spaces across its three joint properties.

A Hoosier Hideaway

“The event center is attached to the French Lick Hotel,” said French Lick Resort VP of sales Joe Vezzoso. “The West Baden has boardrooms around the Atrium. Plus, we also have Valley Tower, an addition off of French Lick connected to the casino. Planners can pick whichever center they want.”

The resort, swimming in accolades, comprises the French Lick Springs Hotel, the West Baden Hotel and the new Valley Tower. Prior to the 19th century, French trappers hunted wildlife drawn to the area by salt deposits. By 1845, those same deposits attracted a physician, who built the French Lick Springs Hotel to lodge patients hoping for heal ing at the mineral springs. After growing and changing hands multiple times over 150 years, the hotel underwent a $640 million restoration to return it to its full splendor in 2007.



Between its three properties, the French Lick Resort offers meeting spaces from as small as 350 square feet up to grand ball rooms of 5,500 square feet.

French Lick Resort catering and banquet services provide cus tom menus for planners. “Our banquet department is second to none,” Vezzoso said. “It’s like eating at a wonderful restaurant.”

“The most we can fit in a room is 600 people, down to intimate gatherings of half a dozen,” Vezzoso said. “And we have a decent amount of large rooms for breakouts.” Plan to use the resort’s more than ample outdoor spaces, too. The West Baden Springs Hotel welcomes guests through its formal gardens, and offers board rooms, conference rooms, reception halls, a veranda and the regal West Baden Springs Hotel Atrium.

French Lick Springs Hotel has more than two dozen spaces, including rooms, exhibit halls, ballrooms, foyers and a gilded, open-air mezzanine.

Guests can find whatever they crave at onsite restaurants, in cluding the Grand Colonnade Restaurant, Power Plant Bar and Grill, Pluto’s Pizzeria, Spring No. 8 Deli, Casino Park Grill, Bal lard’s in the Atrium, Xanadu Coffee and Creamery, and more.

“The Valley Bar is new, close to the casino operation in the new hotel,” Vezzoso said. “It’s a pub-type operation and very well ac cepted by the public. Our 1875 Steakhouse is sold out every eve ning,” he added.


THE PETE DYE COURSE AT FRENCH LICK Photos courtesy French Lick Resort LOCATION French Lick, Indiana SIZE 762 guest rooms MEETING SPACE 165,000 square feet ACCESS One hour and 15 minutes from Louisville airport; 90 minutes from Evansville, Indiana, airport; two hours from the Indianapolis airport. CONTACT INFO frenchlick.com866-706-4354 FRENCH LICK RESORT


41September 2022




“The atrium is a special place,” Vezzoso said. The 34,000-squarefoot atrium can accommodate 3,000 for a reception or 2,000 with banquet seating. Full buyouts or custom uses are available.

DOWNTOWN FORT WAYNE, INDIANA | | 260.426.4100 WHAT YOU’LL LOVE ABOUT US: • Full in-house services for In-person, Hybrid, or Remote meetings • 225,000 sf of beautifully appointed space • 18 carpeted, fully equipped event rooms • 4500 theatre; 3100 banquet; 2900 classroom • 3 adjacent hotels with garage parking • In-house Sales, AV, Catering, Event management, and Guest experiences • 60+ walkable restaurants and pubs, boutiques, and riverfront parks • Easier event planning & guest navigation >> SAVE UP TO 15% versus comparable cities! Easy Drive-To Destination! Easy by Air via FWA NOW BOOKING your best event! Meagan Drabik | Sales Manager @GrandWayneCC #yourGrandWaynestory “Grand Wayne Center is a stunning work of architecture with easy access to hotels, restaurants and entertainment. Our members were impressed with how clean, modern, walkable, and friendly downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, proved to be.” — Dallas. W. Johnson, North American SCRABBLE® Championship Hello, Fort Wayne!INDIANA THE WEST BADEN SPRINGS HOTEL POOL DECK

— Joe Vezzoso, French Lick Resort



BEFORE AND AFTER “We have everything anyone needs. French Lick Resort is like a city within a city.”

“Dave Harner, the director of golf, has been serving the prop erty for many years,” Vezzoso added. Enjoy dining at Hagen’s Club House Restaurant on the Donald Ross or The Mansion at the Pete Dye Course.

Attached to the French Lick Hotel via a pedestrian walk is the French Lick Casino. “We’re fortunate to have the full Las Vegas experience 24/7,” Vezzoso said. “The people who stay at French Lick can go to the conference center, the casino and the meeting rooms without ever having to leave the building.”

Thanks partly to its location on one of the highest points in Indiana, the resort boasts two championship golf courses with panoramic views of beautiful, rugged terrain. Mention the Pete Dye Course and even beginners will grab their clubs — this ex emplary course hosted the Senior PGA Tour in 2015. The 1917 Donald Ross Course has maintained its hold as one of Indiana’s top two courses for over a decade.

Feel like getting outside? “We have hiking trails that go to the Indiana State Forest,” Vezzoso said. Water sports and fish ing are available on Patoka Lake, just a short drive away.

The casino is just the tip of the iceberg. “We have everything anyone needs,” Vezzoso said. “Stables, four swimming pools be tween the three properties, activities for young and old. Dropoff programs for children. And Kids Fest has art therapy pro grams, games like croquet, badminton and table games.”

Your Next Memorable Meeting Our Storied Past 812-936-3418 • • #MyFrenchLick •

All of the resort’s 199 the rooms have balconies and share a spectacular view of the land and water that spawned the unique style Muscle Shoals music The rooms tower over the resort’s figure-eight outdoor pool, which has a bar and waterslide. If the weather turns bad, families can enjoy the resort’s indoor pool.


The Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa in Florence provides mem orable Southern cooking and fine-dining experiences, ample meeting facilities, a relaxing spa, a stunning view of the Tennessee River and proximity to world-famous music studios in nearby Muscle Shoals.

The resort’s fine-dining establishment — called 360 Grille — is the state’s only revolving restaurant with breathtaking views of the river, along with Wilson Lake.


Swampers, the resort’s casual restaurant, is named after the band of local tal ent that rose to fame working with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, The Rolling Stones and many other greats.

Located in northwest Alabama, it is a place steeped in songs dating back to the native Yuchie Tribe, which called the Tennessee “the singing river.”

For time away from the resort, guests can tour FAME Studio, where many famous music recordings occurred. Guests can also go to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame to learn about the extensive line of musical talent that has come to the region. There are numerous other local attractions, including Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller, who published 12 books and overcame the challeng es of being blind and deaf. There are plays and storytelling events at the Shoals Theatre, and golfers can enjoy two 18-hole championship courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals.

Meetings, Music and a Marriott

roups meeting at the Marriott Shoals are immersed in quintessen tial Alabama experiences.

“We can help put together all the things you want to do,” said Selena Miller, director of sales and marketing. “If you want speakers and activities, we can help. Our team is very seasoned. We are selling the destination and all the things that make us who we are.” BY KEVIN OSBOURN

At the base of the resort’s distinctive tower is a spa where guests can get mas sages, body treatments and facials. Young and old alike can stroll to the nearby River Heritage Park and marvel at its splash pad with spray jets and LED lights.



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With more than 30,000 square feet of well-lighted meeting space, including a 12,000-square-foot ballroom, the resort is well equipped to accommodate groups. The resort conference center has its own culinary team providing restaurant-style cuisine. The resort offers a certified meeting planner, photographer, audio-vi sual technician and other staff. The center also has a public address system, easels, flip charts, name cards and a portable stage. There are 17 event rooms, 10 breakout rooms and a ballroom that can accommodate up to 2,000 guests.

Swampers offers Southern flavors for breakfast, lunch and dinner and includes a terrace for outdoor dining. It is known for delicious burgers, pretzels with beer cheese, shrimp and grits, beer chili and an array of flat-bread pizzas, but the main attrac tion is live music seven days a week. In the 360 Grille, guests can choose from an extensive wine list with separate lunch and dinner menus that feature steak entrees, fresh fish and decadent desserts like crème brulee. The restaurants offers both vegetarian and glu ten-free meal options.


Hikers will enjoy the Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve, a 700-acre, privately owned natural area just south of Muscle Shoals. It offers 11 miles of hiking trails and beautiful places for picnics and wading in creeks. About 45 minutes from the resort is the William Bankhead National Forest, which is well-known as an ideal spot for birdwatching species ranging from the Louisiana waterthrush to the Acadian flycatcher. The park has many scenic views along with Kinlock and Payne Creek waterfalls and is home to Alabama’s only National Wild and Scenic River, the Sipsey Fork.

Photos courtesy Marriott Shoals

Guests can tour the Florence birthplace of W.C. Handy, the fa ther of the blues. The cabin houses a collection of Handy’s tunes and his piano. Groups can also tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosen baum House, which architecture critic Peter Blake said was “un excelled” in America for its beauty. There is also a massive stone wall that weaves through the forests near Florence built by Tom Hendrix as a memorial to his great grandmother, a member of the Yuchi Tribe who was forcibly removed during the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma and walked all the way back to the area.

SWAMPERS BAR AND RESTAURANT AT MARRIOTT SHOALS PAYS HOMAGE TO THE AREA’S IMPRESSIVE MUSICAL HISTORY. LOCATION Florence, Alabama SIZE 199 guest rooms MEETING SPACE Over 30,000 square feet ACCESS Interstates 65 and 22; Northwest Alabama Regional Airport; Huntsville International Airport CONTACT INFO marriottshoals.com256-246-3600 MARRIOTT SHOALS HOTEL AND SPA

“Kalahari Wisconsin Dells is a perfect location for events from 35 to 3,500 guests,” said Kyra Popp, Kalahari’s corporate director of sales. “Event planners can expect to see a 15% increase in attendance in events held at Kalahari, resulting from the excitement Kalahari generates for their event.”


There are also luxury villas along Lake Delton, five-bedroom entertainment villas and suites with kitchens, fireplaces and balconies.



Located in the heart of the state along the Wisconsin River, the allunder-one-roof resort contains vast entertainment options and meeting accommo dations with just about anything that groups with families could want.

alahari Resorts and Conventions in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, com bines a convention center, water parks, thrill rides, restaurants, a spa, guest rooms and more with African-themed décor in one massive loca tion dedicated to business and fun.

Water cascades from falls throughout the property, and children plunge down multi-colored water slides of varied heights and sizes. The slides curl among its sta dium-sized water parks, while people of all ages enjoy everything from rock climbing to laser tag to sipping a drink at the Piano Bar and Lounge.


Fun Meets Function

There is so much to see and do, it takes hundreds of employees to run the massive operation.Anyone staying in one of the 794 guest rooms and suites has admission to the in door and outdoor water parks, with 30 waterslides and 20 pools included. The indoor water park boasts being the largest in the state at 125,000 square feet, and it’s available no matter what the weather is outside.

If thrill rides are what a group is looking for, Kalahari offers the Tom Foolerys Ad venture Park. It has a six-story Ferris wheel, a ropes course, zip line, climbing walls, laser tag, go-carts, miniature golf, bowling lanes and a sports bar.

The convention center has 212,000 square feet of flexible space with three ball rooms, 47 meeting rooms, four luxury board rooms and exhibit space for more than 750Forbooths.guests who want to relax, Spa Kalahari and Salon offers massage, facials, skin care, nail care and hair services, while golfers can play 27 holes at Trappers Turn or a fun par-three course.

Kalahari has more than doubled its Wisconsin Convention Center to better accommodate trade shows, exhibitions, conven tions, conferences, retreats and other gatherings. It’s pretty much everything a group might require, next to the far-ranging lodging and entertainment options. For group events, Kalahari prides it self on exceptional service, especially for receptions. The resort consults with groups on best practices for post-pandemic exhibit hall floor planning, physical distancing to protect attendees and offers suggestions to protect guest health and safety during group meetings.Kalahari has multiple dining experiences, including Double Cut Steak House, with craft cocktails and family-style sides, and the Wisconsin Brew Pub, which features local beer and celebrates all things Wisconsin. Redd’s Piano Bar provides live nightly entertain ment beginning at 7 p.m. In addition to the Ivory Coast Restau rant, located off the main lobby, other dining options include the Great Karoo Marketplace Buffet, Rattlers Cantina, Ingraffia’s Pizza Kitchen, Sweet Hut and Java Manjaro. There are places to eat in side the water parks, including a poolside bar called the Mud Hut, which serves drinks and beer.

47September 2022 A MASSIVE INDOOR WATERPARK IS THE CENTERPIECE OF THE KALAHARI RESORT IN WISCONSIN DELLS. LOCATION Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin SIZE 794 guest rooms MEETING SPACE 212,000 square feet of flexible meeting space ACCESS Interstate 90, Dane County Regional Airport CONTACT INFO kalahariresorts.com608-254-3314 KALAHARI WISCONSINRESORTDELLS

Wisconsin Dells is called the waterpark capital of the world, and Kalahari’s water entertainment ranks among the city’s best known. It’s not just water thrill rides. Guests of all ages float on the peaceful lazy river, and younger kids enjoy the multi-level tree fort called Splashdown Safari. There are tube slides and more intense slides like The Smoke That Thunders, a high-speed ride that drops into a pool. At the indoor park, little ones have lots of options like Tiko’s Watering Hole, for kids who just want to get used to being in theWisconsinwater.


EXTRAS Photos courtesy Kalahari Resort


Dells has been a popular tourist destination for a long time because of its theme parks and location. The city is less than three hours from Green Bay and under four hours from Minneapolis/St. Paul, and two and a half hours from Chicago. The surrounding region has lakes, horseback riding, caves, golf resorts and boat tours. Venues rent jet skis, ski boats, pontoons, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, and there are tours of Wisconsin’s lon gest and deepest canyon and many other attractions.



Sioux City has more than 2,400 guest rooms and 125,000 square feet of meeting space, which can host smaller groups or large conferences and trade shows. Courtesy Explore Sioux City

owa’s largest cities harken back to the very beginnings of American history. Dubuque, Dav enport and Sioux City got their start as riverboat towns, situated on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, while Des Moines and Cedar Rapids sit on smaller rivers. All five of these cities offer first-class meeting venues and lodging with plenty of entertainment, shopping, cultural and historic attractions to keep attendees engaged.


SIOUX CITY Sioux City is part of a larger tri-city metropolitan area that includes South Sioux City, Nebraska, and North Sioux City, South Dakota. On the Iowa side of the city, groups can visit The Lewis and Clark Inter pretive Center and the Sergeant Floyd Monument, which sits on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River and commemorates the life of Charles Floyd, the only member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition who died on the upstream voyage in 1804.

The Siouxland Expo Center has 10,000 square feet of flexible space that can host events up to 1,500 people for trade shows and conventions. Sioux City Convention Cen ter has 40,000 square feet of space and is connected to the Courtyard Sioux City Downtown/Convention Center hotel. For something a little more elegant, the Orpheum Theatre is available for rental, offering 1920s opulence and charm, reminiscent of its days as a 1920s vaudeville theater and moving picture house.

Sioux City used to be known as Little Chicago, in part because notorious mobster Al Capone used to come to the city to meet his brother who worked in law enforcement. The brothers would meet in the basement of The Warrior Hotel, which is now part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. The historic hotel has 2,800 square feet of flexible meeting space and is minutes from the city’s downtown meeting venues.



The Iowa Events Center offers 286,300 square feet of meeting and event space, with a 17,000-seat arena, 150,000-square-foot exhibit hall and 37 meeting rooms. The 330-room Hilton Des Moines Downtown has eight meeting rooms and a total of 10,032 square feet of meeting space.

Situated on the Mississippi River — at the junction of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin — Dubuque was first settled in 1785 by fur trader Julien Dubuque. Visitors to the area enjoy getting out on the water for a scenic cruise. The 750-passenger paddlewheel boat Celebration Belle has three levels offering entertainment and food options that can accommodate larger groups. One of the most popular attractions in the city is the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which was built as part of the redevelopment of Port Dubuque. The museum tells the story of the Mississippi River Valley, the settlers and Native Americans who made the area their home. It also relays Dubuque’s boat-build ing history and how the river helped drive commerce into the area.

One of the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest, Des Moines has plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment to keep meet ing groups occupied during their free time. Groups can catch a baseball game at Principal Park on the Des Moines River. The sta dium is home to a AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Smash Park offers street-style food and handcrafted cocktails and features the state’s largest patio and games like pickleball, shuffleboard, bocce ball, pingpong and cornhole.


The Iowa State Fairgrounds has 315,500 square feet of space, with 110,400 square feet in its largest space. It has 14 different meeting venues onsite. One of the newest venues in Des Moines, MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex, opened in fall of 2021. It is a sports and entertainment complex that encompasses 66 acres and offers 6,400 square feet of meeting space. It has an ice arena, indoor soccer field, basketball courts and an Esports Center with 30 water-cooled computers, six gaming consoles and lounge seating.


The 86,000-square-foot Grand River Center is the largest meeting venue in Dubuque with a 30,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a 12,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom for gatherings up to 1,000 people. The third-floor River Room has floor-to-ceiling windows and a large balcony overlooking the Mississippi River walk, a trail that follows the river.

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Art lovers will want to visit John and Mary Pappajohn Sculp ture Park, a 4.4-acre park with 30-plus works of art or stroll through the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden with its exotic plants, lush gardens and conservatory.


The museum can host events up to 1,500 people, allowing attend ees to explore the exhibits that feature animals found in and around the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The 40,000-gallon saltwater tank makes an awe-inspiring backdrop for any event.

Cedar Rapids is home to the newest convention complex in the state of Iowa. The 267-room Doubletree by Hilton is connected to the Alliant Energy Powerhouse, a 68,822-square-foot meeting and event venue that can host events up to 10,000 guests. It has 20 meeting rooms, with the largest room covering 27,300 square feet. The complex is just two blocks away from the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and the Paramount Theatre.

The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, a AAA Four Diamond luxury boutique hotel, is attached to the city’s Culinary and Hospitality Arts Program. It has 19,000 square feet of venue space and com prehensive planning and catering services.


Unique venues include the National Czech and Slovak Muse um, a Smithsonian affiliate, and the Indian Creek Nature Center, which has a bird sanctuary, exhibits, trails and an outdoor theater. Groups can host farm-to-table dinners and outdoor receptions on the patio. The Paramount Theatre, which was built in the 1920s, hosts concerts, corporate meetings, Broadway shows and Orches tra Iowa Cedarperformances.RidgeWinery and Distillery was named Distiller of the Year in 2017 by the American Distilling Institute for its craft spir its. The facility has indoor and outdoor meeting spaces. For fun, meeting attendees can visit Czech Village/New Bohemia Main


DAVENPORT Downtown Davenport sits on the banks of the Mississippi River and is the largest city in the Quad Cities metro area, which in cludes cities in both Illinois and Iowa. The downtown area is full of fun local shops, craft breweries, museums, live music venues, historic and unique hotel properties, and a casino resort. LeClaire Park provides easy access to riverfront biking and walking trails. The Quad Cities have more than 6,500 hotel rooms and 800,000 square feet of meeting space to choose from. Davenport itself has 431 downtown hotel rooms. The largest convention facility in Davenport is the RiverCenter, with 100,000 square feet of flexible space for meetings, conventions, trade shows, and sporting and special events. The convention complex is attached by skywalk to the 130-room Hotel Blackhawk, which has nearly 9,000 square feet of meeting space, and the 223-room Double Tree by Hilton, which overlooks the river and has 12,000 square feet of meeting space. Other convention hotels in Davenport include Rhythm City Casino Resort, Best Western Plus Steeplegate Inn, The Current Iowa, and Holiday Inn and Suites. Offsite meeting spaces include the Renwick Mansion, River Music Experience, Figge Art Muse um, which overlooks the river, and the Rogalski Center at St. Am brose University, which has a ballroom that can host groups of 500. After hours, groups can engage in retro arcade fun at Analog Arcade Bar or get competitive at TBK Bank Sports Complex, which offers bowling, laser tag, escape rooms and an arcade. Celebration Belle offers dinner cruises and the QC Ale Trail offers a mini-pub crawl.


Courtesy Cedar Rapids Tourism Office CEDAR RIDGE WINERY AND DISTILLERY

Street District, a hip, historic neighborhood connected by the Lion Bridge that crosses the Cedar River. The area is filled with unique dining, shopping, music and art.

Meeting Guide

Cedar Rapids is home to the newest convention complex in the state of Iowa. The 267-room Doubletree by Hilton is connected to the Alliant Energy Powerhouse, a 68,822-square-foot meeting and event venue that can host events up to 10,000 guests.


The event space has a private entrance, two private re strooms and a full catering kitchen. It has full audio-visual capabilities. The space, which has custom ice cream wall paper and giant desserts hanging from the ceiling, is totally customizable. Groups hosting events there can take a guided tour of the visitor center, which includes an extensive ice cream parlor, and an immersive ice cream experience with interactive displays and videos showing how ice cream is made and what makes Wells’ ice cream so special.

Meeting Guide


The makers of Blue Bunny ice cream have an interactive visitor center and ice cream parlor in the heart of Le Mars, widely con sidered the ice cream capital of the world. The center received an extensive remodel in 2019, moving its event space to the main floor and expanding it into an adjacent building so that it could host groups up to 97 people at round tables. Without tables, the space is large enough to accommodate up to 208 guests. Groups using the space can set up a sundae bar. The room has a portable bunker that can hold a three-gallon container of ice cream. There are no restrictions on bringing in out side food. The only caveat is that the facility would like to provide the dessert.




Another exhibit is dedicated to the history of Wells and Blue Bunny and how Le Mars became the ice cream capital of the world. Courtesy Wells Visitor Center


owa has an extensive agricultural, industri al and frontier past that meeting planners can tap into when visiting the state. From a presidential museum and a reconstructed 1850s-era fort to former German colonies and the self-proclaimed ice cream and pearl button capitals of the world, there are plenty of fun options to spice up any conference or event.

West Branch

Many people have heard of Herbert Hoover but don’t know much about him except he was the 31st president of the United States who presided over the beginning of the Great Depression. A visit to his presidential library, which is one of 14 such institu tions operated by the National Archives and Records Adminis tration, shows him to have been a great humanitarian who at the age of 40 turned his back on his fortune and spent the next 50 years dedicated to serving the public. Groups wanting to learn more about Hoover can view exhibits about his life and accomplishments. As part of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, visitors can tour his birthplace cottage, the Quaker Meeting House where his family worshipped, the first oneroom schoolhouse in West Branch and a blacksmith shop simi lar to the one Hoover’s father, Jesse Hoover, operated. President Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, are both buried at the site.

The Amana Colonies were established by Germans fleeing reli gious persecution. The seven colonies were based on communal living practices. Residents didn’t use money, and everything was commu nally owned. Members lived and worked together, sharing the fruits of their labor. The colonies realized in the 1930s that the communal way of life was not sustainable and they changed to the more mod ern system they have now, but the colonies and many of their original buildings are perfectly preserved, housing businesses and museums.


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Courtesy Amana Colonies

The colonies are a wonderful place to host a meeting or event, with several event centers. Price Creek Event Center offers 12,000 square feet of space on two levels. The main level ballroom can

The 65-room Hotel Millright took over a former textile mill, preserving the woodwork and historic architecture of the mill itself, turning it into a stunning space for any type of event.





There are four spaces available for rental at the Presidential Library and Museum, including the museum lobby and rotunda, which is available after the museum closes, and the auditorium, which seats 180 people and comes complete with a stage and au dio-visual equipment. There is a conference room that is ideal for smaller meetings up to 20 people and another room that seats 30 to 40 people. Events at the facility must be cultural, recreational, corporate or educational in nature.

Courtesy Hoover Presidential Library


Fort Dodge

“Eventually, the mussel harvest was unsustainable at that rate,” said Dustin Joy, executive director of the museum. “The industry dropped back as availability of shells decreased.” The average shell produced five to 10 buttons. “That’s hundreds of millions of living creatures taken out of the river for several years. Consequently, cer tain species went extinct,” Joy said. The museum talks about the Mississippi River and the mussels that fueled the pearl button frenzy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It also explains how plastic became a cheaper alternative to pearl buttons. The museum can host groups up to 100 people for corporate dinners, meetings, parties, reunions and concerts in its second-floor event space overlooking the Mississippi River. The fa cility has tables, chairs and tablecloths, a wired podium connected to a sound system and video screens that can be interlocked so a speaker can give a presentation and have videos or slide shows play ing during their speech. Groups can work with local caterers or bring in their own food, beer and wine. Attendees can tour the museum as part of their event.

The fort has an extensive display of First Nation and Native American artifacts and a room dedicated to the area’s veterans from National Pearl Button

Meeting Guide Courtesy Amana Colonies Courtesy

seat up to 250 guests, and upstairs is a wedding chapel and venue that can also be used for conferences. That space can hold 300.

The town of Muscatine dominated the world’s pearl button in dustry from 1890 to the 1950s, with most of the town’s occupants employed by button factories. In the early 1900s, the town was mak ing 1.5 billion pearl buttons annually from mussel shells pulled from the Mississippi River.

The 65-room Hotel Millright took over a former textile mill, pre serving the woodwork and historic architecture of the mill itself, turning it into a stunning space for any type of event. Attached to the hotel is a 7,000-square-foot banquet and conference facility. The Indigo Room restaurant offers breakfast and lunch fare and classic cocktails.


The Fort Museum and Frontier Village tells the history of Fort Dodge and includes a replica of the fort that was originally built in 1850 in downtown Fort Dodge. The replica was produced from the original plans. Two buildings are original, the General Store and the Brevet commander’s office. At the time the fort was built, Captain Lewis Armistead was the person in charge. He later rose to fame as the brigadier general in charge of the Confederate States Army during the Battle of Gettysburg.



Electric Thread Social Club has a nice selection of craft beer and bourbon made by local distillers. The Beer Garden patio overlooks the Millrace stream and offers live music and events. The club is available for private events.


World War I through Desert Storm, displaying some of the items they brought back from their travels and from war, including uni forms and medals. Front Street, the museum’s replica main street, includes an origi nal log cabin from the 1850s, two one-room schoolhouses, one from the pioneer era and one from the early 20th century, the original jail, blacksmith shop, livery stable, which is attached to a veterinarian office, and a general mercantile store.


The fort has an extensive display of First Nation and Native American artifacts and a room dedicated to the area’s veterans from World War I through Desert Storm, displaying some of the items they brought back from their travels and from war.


Pictured: Dive with the Coral Restoration Foundation, as they replant and restore coral reefs in the Florida Keys meaningfultr a v e l p l a a p Tr a v el w ith Pur p o se A c ro s s N orth Am e ri ca .

As travelers, we all want rich, authentic, and meaningful travel experiences. As travel professionals, we want to ensure we use travel as a force for good. Through the Meaningful Travel Map of North America, visitors can connect to locally owned social and environmental impact experiences and opportunities, unique and hands on cultural experiences, products, and services

Meeting Guide

Groups wanting to host banquets or special events at the Fort Museum can rent the Frontier Opera House, which can host groups up to 200 people for a seated banquet. Smaller groups can hold meetings or lectures in the Pioneer Chapel.


Courtesy Fort Museum and Frontier Village

SO MUCH. SO CLOSE. SO NEVADA. Trek along hundreds of miles of trails. Cruise or cast a line on the waters of Lake Mead. Paddleboard, jet pack, or kayak at Lake Las Vegas. Play at one of our nine championship golf courses. All of this, just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.

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