Philadelphia: A Little History, A Lot of Sparkle The Meeting Professionals International's World Education Congress came to Philadelphia last summer with a bang. The 3,500 attendees gathered atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which were made famous by the movie Rocky, for a private fireworks display. Staged to Rocky's theme song, "Gonna Fly Now," the show was produced by Pyrotecnico, which worked with the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and the city of Philadelphia to close down the surrounding streets for the event.
A Warm Harley Welcome in Dallas The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau surprised 50 corporate and incentive planners on the opening night of a three-day familiarization trip with a parade of 50 Harley-Davidsons and a 30-foot stretch Hummer led by the Dallas motorcycle police and the president of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. The bikers took each guest on a 20-minute ride to a warehouse, where the festivities continued. As traffic was stopped to make way for this entourage, passers-by ran out of restaurants and leaned out of their cars to wave and applaud this unexpected spectacle.
The local Harley Clubs provided the 50 bikes and drivers for no charge--all they asked for was a night of good food, drinks, and dancing. This event made such an impression that two attendees incorporated it into their own programs.
DaimlerChrysler Checks Out Seattle's Art Scene What classier setting for a product intro party than a private boathouse? For the opening reception for its new Jeep Grand Cherokee, DaimlerChrysler had award-winning glassblower Dale Chihuly open his boathouse on Lake Union to several groups of guests. Partygoers were treated to the creation of the Fiori di Como, a ceiling sculpture composed of more than a thousand handblown forms that is now installed in the lobby of Las Vegas' Bellagio Resort. Top executives of the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based car company, as well as the chairman, were so impressed by Chihuly's work that they later commissioned several pieces.
St. Louis Shows Off Its River City Past For a visiting group in August, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission closed a three-square-block area along the cobblestone streets of Laclede's Landing, an entertainment district reminiscent of this river city's past. St. Louis' best blues musicians played on two stages, and the group enjoyed a tented buffet dining area and specialty dessert and drink stations. The CVC also helped to plan a fireworks display that lit up the sky above the city's famous 630-foot Gateway Arch.
Denver Scores Big With Baan When the Baan Co., a software company based in Chicago, Ill., wanted a fun, high-energy, interactive event around a basketball theme, the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, along with the McNichols Arena and other organizations, arranged to lend the Denver Nuggets basketball floor. "This floor had never been loaned out before," says Vikki Kelly, director of convention services for the Convention & Visitors Bureau. "I don't know if we could ever get an NBA floor again." Kelly also helped to get the Harlem Globetrotters to entertain.
Milwaukee Takes the Governors to the Circus Milwaukee wanted to host the National Governors' Association so badly that it moved its internationally renowned Great Circus Parade from July to August so that the group could enjoy the festivities. During its four-day trip in 1998, this Washington, D.C.-based group brought more than 1,500 governors and their senior staff, security personnel, guests, and media to town. NGA attendees and their families enjoyed private bleacher seating while more than 300 of Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau's staff and volunteers checked credentials, staffed the media desk, ran the hospitality and information centers, and worked the many social events.
Newport, R.I., Does It Big For its largest convention ever, the entire city of Newport, R.I., pulled together like never before. The mayor, hoteliers, restaurant owners, shopkeepers--even residents--lined up to form a welcoming corridor to greet 2,500 arriving guests. At a reception on the grounds of the Eisenhower House, a tent the size of a football field featured five entertainment areas that changed every 15 minutes and the Rhode Island Philharmonic playing the 1812 Overture as the Newport Artillery fired Paul Revere cannons.
San Francisco Brings the Outside In Seven of the city's most popular neighborhoods were recreated for a reception at San Francisco's recently refurbished City Hall for the 2,800 attendees of the 44th annual meeting of the Professional Convention Management Association in January. The group enjoyed dim sum, sushi, and more traditional fare, plenty of California wine, spectacular flower arrangements, and music ranging from a 10-piece orchestra to solo sax to synthesized harp.
SITE Gets Its Name in Lights in Las Vegas At its annual conference in Las Vegas in December, the New York City-based Society of Incentive Travel Executives was treated to the sight of its name in lights in front of 30 hotels on the strip. "Having your name on a Las Vegas marquee is a significant achievement," says Jim Lauster, former sales executive for corporate and incentive sales for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. The welcome began at the airport where, while waiting for their luggage, group members saw a video that featured messages from the president and CEO of the CVA, Manny Cortez, as well as Las Vegas entertainers such as Wayne Newton and David Cassidy.
Atlantic City Celebrates Its Maritime Heritage The first private festival at Gardners' Basin, Atlantic City's newly renovated marine park, this past June featured swing dancing lessons, carnival games, crafters, an open-air picnic, fortune-tellers, caricaturists, and other strolling entertainers. Visitors were allowed access to Ocean Life Center, which celebrates Atlantic City's maritime heritage with tanks of more than 100 varieties of fish and marine creatures, a 750-gallon "touch tank," and indoor and outdoor observation decks. To top off the day, the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, along with destination management company Destination A.C.!, produced an evening with the band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
A Magical Evening in Orlando for CIGR As the doors of the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom opened, members of CIGRE, an international committee on high-voltage electrical systems, got their first glimpse of an elaborate formal dinner setup, complete with an accompanying harpist. After dinner, desserts and cordials were served in the castle courtyard, with guests invited to ride in Cinderella's golden Carousel. The evening concluded at 11:30 p.m., with guests being escorted down a now-empty Main Street USA.
IBM Gets a Red Carpet Welcome in Miami As IBM employees from all over the world landed at Miami International Airport, they literally stepped from the plane onto a red carpet and were handed freshly squeezed orange juice and gifts, which included "I love Miami Beach" pins. The group of 6,000 came to the city over a seven-week period. Michael Aller, director of tourism and conventions and chief of protocol for the city of Miami Beach, met with each of the seven groups and presented them with keys to the city. The city also arranged a fireworks display on the beach for all seven groups.
A Fountain Full of Wishes in Singapore For breakfast one morning at "Incentive Isle Singapore '99," a five-day program with a feng shui theme, 80 top-end incentive buyers from Europe, Australia, and the United States were treated to a visit to the Fountain of Wells in Suntec City, a complex that includes office buildings, a shopping mall, and the Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre. Each day of the conference was devoted to one of the Chinese geomancy signs of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. On the day focusing on water, which symbolizes wealth and prosperity, the group was led through the ritual of walking around the fountain for good luck. Breakfast was then served in a unique setting--inside the fountain on a special platform that was constructed to accommodate the group of more than 100.
Morning Coffee with the Lord Mayor in Dublin When Abbott Diagnostics, Abbott Park, Ill., wanted to reward its top sales agents with a change from previous "fun and sun" locales, the city of Dublin, Ireland, did the trick. One of the highlights of the incentive trip was having coffee one morning with the Lord Mayor of Dublin in his mansion. "Not only was this visit out of the ordinary, but it was meaningful as well," says Anne Wold-Graham of EGR, the New York City-based meeting and incentive company that helped to plan the trip. Each member of the group was asked to pack a stuffed animal, which, in a first-time-ever goodwill gesture, the mayor brought to underprivileged Protestant children in Northern Ireland.
Bacardi's President Welcomes Group to Puerto Rico The President of Bacardi Rums was on hand to welcome 3,000 attendees at a convention last summer during a reception that included two bands and a full spread of specialty Puerto Rican foods and beverages. Other highlights of the week included an evening function at Ballaja, a historic site that once served as barracks for Spanish troops and their families, and a VIP dinner for 1,000 people at the Roberto Clemente arena. The dinner featured a fireworks display and 50th anniversary cakes on each table.
Flying High in Montreal At precisely 5:30 p.m. one evening, several people doing a site inspection of Le Centre Sheraton were persuaded to move closer to the windows to take in the panoramic view from the hotel's 36th floor. As they gazed out, an airplane flew by with a huge banner that read, "Montreal welcomes you." Some group members were moved to tears by this gesture, and the organization chose Montreal as host for its August 2004 convention.
A Mardi Gras Greeting for Meeting Industry Group Members of the host committee for the Birmingham, Ala.-based Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) greeted more than 2,000 incoming guests dressed in the traditional colors of Mardi Gras: green, purple, and yellow. As the attendees traveled by bus from the airport to the Marriott and ITT Sheraton on Canal Street, Hurricanes, the potent rum-based drink native to New Orleans, were served. When guests arrived at the hotel, they found that their luggage had already been delivered to their rooms. The conference highlight was a re-enactment of the Battle of New Orleans on a closed-off portion of Canal Street, with actors in full costume and on horseback.
Showing Off Chicago at Navy Pier "Ben the Bull," the Chicago Bulls basketball team's mascot, and its Luvabulls cheerleaders took park in an event showcasing the city's highlights at Chicago's Navy Pier. Highlights also included stunts by an acrobatic plane and a tugboat pulling a fireworks display blazing "Welcome ASAE."
"Dinner's on Us" in Atlanta for American Freightways Amy Crosland, manager of marketing events for American Freightways, a trucking company based in Harrison, Alaska, wanted to organize a pre-meeting dinner for a group of 850 upper managers arriving the night before the company's annual management in Atlanta. She contacted the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau to help her create a page of "Dine-Out Incentive" coupons at several restaurants within walking distance of the Hyatt Regency Downtown, where the group was staying.
Cannes Throws a Private Film Festival Sacramento, Calif.-based London Pacific Life & Annuity Co. built on Cannes' reputation as host to the international film festival for an event that was both unforgettable and motivational. Atlanta-based US Motivation designed the London Pacific Video Challenge for its client. Teams of attendees were assigned a classic film title, and they had to create videos that were given to an on-site team of editing professionals for polishing. Later, when the group arrived at the Debussy Theater at the Palais du Festivale, it was greeted by paparazzi and screaming fans. Each team's film was shown, and awards were presented in categories including best film, best actor, and best actress. The group returned to the Hotel Carlton for dinner in the Grand Salon, which had been decorated with film festival props, including directors' chairs, cameras, customized clapboards, and life-size cutouts of famous movie stars.