THE judges deliberated, the winners took the stage, and the crowd cheered the year's outstanding event work as trophies were awarded at the annual Gala Awards ceremony, held Jan. 13 at The Special Event conference in Dallas. Here, we present the winning entries in 35 categories, as chosen by members of the Special Events Magazine Advisory Board. These dazzling events represent the top achievements of talented event professionals from around the world.
The Editors

Note: Our 2006 Gala Awards competition, which is open for events taking place between Sept. 1, 2005, and Aug. 31, 2006, will begin this June. You will find entry forms in our June, July and August issues, as well as on our Web site beginning June 1. The entries will be due in early September. We look forward to seeing your work.

Best Fair/Festival

CITY OF GARLAND, GARLAND, TEXAS

The City of Garland's 2005 “Star-Spangled Fourth” festival, held over the Fourth of July weekend, featured the theme “With Liberty and Fun for All.” The 17th annual festival included a carnival midway with rides, craft booths, a food court, and a hospitality tent decorated with a New York skyline and a 6-foot-tall Statue of Liberty that highlighted the “liberty” theme. More than 153,000 people attended the four-day celebration, which had musical performances by veteran rock band Styx, jazz singer Jeffrey Osborne and country artist Tracy Lawrence, as well as nightly fireworks shows.

Best Invitation

ARLENE SEGAL DESIGN GROUP, NORTH MIAMI BEACH, FLA.

An oil magnate's surprise 50th birthday party at a Las Vegas hotel inspired a “Mission Impossible” themed invitation from Arlene Segal Design Group. Each guest received an invitation that consisted of a custom-fitted brushed steel attaché case filled with seven components, including a CD player and original CD recording that guided guests through the steps of completing their “birthday mission,” a dossier filled with information about the guest of honor, a magnifying glass, and an official-looking passport filled with the time and date details of the birthday celebration.

Best Dining Table Design

SASHA SOUZA EVENTS, NAPA, CALIF.

A wedding in Mexico with a “Noche del Fuego” (Night of Fire) theme inspired a flaming tabletop designed by Sasha Souza Events. A custom 6-inch-wide fire pit — filled with volcanic rock and sea glass and bordered by handmade terra-cotta tiles — ran along the center of a 60-foot-long table set up on a secluded beach. The glowing fire pit highlighted tabletop items that played off the wedding's exotic tropical locale, such as a tablecloth made from banana leaves, woven grass place mats, and clear hand-blown margarita and wine glasses with cobalt blue rims.

Best Off-Premise Catered Event

MAJOR THE GOURMET LTD., VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Major the Gourmet changed the Vancouver Port Authority Cruise Ship Terminal into an “Inukshuk Trail” themed event that showcased traditional Canadian culture and cuisine to 2,300 international guests. To keep guests moving through the cavernous space, the catering team divided it into four areas representing different facets of Canadian life. The Longhouse area, for example, reflected the First Nations tribal culture and served dishes of in-digenous ingredients such as fiddlehead fern salad, cedar planked salmon, Dungeness crab cakes and blueberry bars.

Best Catered Event Produced by a Hotel Banquet Department

HARITH PRODUCTIONS, WILLOW GROVE, PA./THE WESTIN LOS CABOS, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO

The sights and flavors of the Baja Peninsula were incorporated into a pharmaceutical company's “Evening at Los Cabos” themed incentive event, where guests dined at tables covered in aqua and turquoise linen that enhanced the topical setting. The five-course menu highlighted the ingredients and culture of the Baja Peninsula, such as avocado-and-ginger soup with a crispy cookie in the shape of a whale's tail, a cactus-and-passion-fruit sorbet, and grilled beef tenderloin and spiced lobster tail framed by a baked cracker shaped like the region's famed El Arco rock formation.

Best Fund-Raising Event

ALISON SILCOFF EVENTS, MONTREAL

The Canadian Cancer Society's 12th annual Daffodil Ball lived up to its name, incorporating 50,000 fresh daffodils and 15,000 silk versions into a decor scheme that included a dramatic daffodil carpet at the venue entrance. The 660 guests attending the sold-out event, held at Montreal's historic Windsor Station, sat at tables clustered together in monochromatic groups of yellow, turquoise and green. A performance by swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a high-ticket item auction and the addition of the “After-Hours Ball” for younger guests helped raise a record $1.98 million dollars (Canadian) for the cause.

Best Event Produced for a Nonprofit Organization

ALISON SILCOFF EVENTS, MONTREAL

The Canadian Cancer Society's 12th annual Daffodil Ball lived up to its name, incorporating 50,000 fresh daffodils and 15,000 silk versions into a decor scheme that included a dramatic daffodil carpet at the venue entrance. The 660 guests dined on a four-course dinner that included a dessert trio of maple- mocha- and vanilla-flavored creme brûlée, each served in an eggshell. A performance by swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, an auction of items such as a trip to Thailand, and the addition of the “After-Hours Ball” for younger guests helped raise a record $1.98 million dollars (Canadian) for the cause.

Best Wedding: Budget Under $500 Per Guest

CREATIVE OCCASIONS WITH A PERSONAL TOUCH, LA JOLLA, CALIF.

Creative Occasions staged a wedding reception at a private school for a couple who had met while they were students there — the first private social function allowed on school grounds. Following the ceremony at a nearby church, a bagpiper led the 400 guests in a procession onto the campus, where floral pomander balls and lanterns suspended from 20-foot-tall trees created a grand entrance. Guests entered the reception venue — a 10,000-square-foot tent erected on the school quad — along a 40-foot-long path strewn with rose petals; inside, a green-and-rose-pink color scheme and horseshoe icons symbolizing luck set the scene.

Best Wedding: Budget $500 and Above Per Guest

FIORI FRESCO SPECIAL EVENTS, LA HABRA HEIGHTS, CALIF./BARBARA WALLACE WEDDINGS, CORONA DEL MAR, CALIF.

A traditional daylong Indian wedding between a Sikh and Hindu couple received two distinct looks for the morning ceremony and evening reception. The ceremony, held at the client's newly constructed residence, featured a stunning color scheme of vivid pink, orange and red — seen in the table umbrellas, linen and floral arrangements — inspired by the bride's wedding attire. The evening reception at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel [Calif.] had a shimmering “Midnight Forest” theme that used a powder-blue palette and more than 1,000 phalaenopsis orchids, as well as a musical performance by a Bollywood star.

Best Multiple-Day Incentive Event

EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS, SHERMAN OAKS, CALIF./DESIGNS BY SEAN, DANIA, FLA.

A bank's incentive event in Hawaii delved into Hawaiian history for a “Pure Aloha” experience. The “Hang Ten” welcome event celebrated the state's surfer lifestyle with a festive bash on the beach. The “Asian Aloha” awards gala blended Asian and Hawaiian elements, such as 16-foot-tall Japanese kimonos painted with Hawaiian flora that served as room decor. The final night's “Totally '80s” party flashed back to the decade of excess with vivid neon table linen and lighting, wall collages of '80s icons including Madonna and an appearance by basketball legend Magic Johnson.

Best Multiple-Day Event Program for a Corporation or Association

TOTAL EVENT RESOURCES, INVERNESS, ILL.

Total Event Resources developed a “Crunch Time” theme to rev up attendees at the International Truck and Engine Corp.'s Parts and Service Expo in Las Vegas. The three-day event, inspired by reality TV shows “American Chopper” and “Monster Garage,” featured emcees modeled after the father-son team on “American Chopper,” performances by a garage rock band and an appearance by comedian Howie Mandel. During the closing session, a custom-built company truck fitted with a jet engine was driven into the show floor, where 1,800 attendees watched a video of the “I-Team” truck burn a competitor's truck to the ground.

Best Event Staged in Multiple Locations

AMCI, MARINA DEL REY, CALIF.

A 12-city, 11-state roadshow with a “Put it in Play” theme let more than 10,000 young consumers discover the Toyota brand through a series of high-energy, entertaining events. The ACMI team redesigned common schoolyard games into activities such as “Vehicular Dodgeball” and “Capture the Checkered Flag” that were played behind the wheel of Toyota vehicles to showcase their speed, handling and agility. Non-driving activities such as Car-e-oke — where participants sang karaoke while sitting in a Toyota Celica — and retro cafeteria-style foodservice added to the cool, youthful vibe.

Best Floral Design

SOMEONE'S IN THE KITCHEN, TARZANA, CALIF./MICHAEL WALLS FLORALS & EVENTS, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.

Someone's in the Kitchen and Michael Walls Florals & Events accommodated a bridal couple's desire for thousands of roses on their wedding day by using the blossoms in both traditional centerpieces and as unique decor accents. The doorway to the reception venue — the couple's on-the-market house — was surrounded with a floral arch, while the moss-covered sign-in table was paved with rose heads. Inside the clear-span dining tent, 12 wrought-iron chandeliers covered in roses hung above guests' heads, while curtain tiebacks made from rose clusters pinned the burgundy velvet drapes at the tent's entrance.

Best Tent Installation: Tent Budget Under $75,000

SELECT EVENT RENTALS, PENNSAUKEN, N.J.

For a “Fairytale Garden” wedding reception held at the residence of the bride's parents, Select Event Rentals erected seven tents covering 6,500 square feet in the home's gardens to create spaces for dining and dancing. The company attached a 48-by-60-foot clear-span tent, a 30-by-40-foot frame tent and a 10-by-30-foot frame tent to the rear of the house, then installed a 33-by-48-foot carpeted subfloor. On another wing of the house, three tents were guttered together to create a cocktail lounge, and a 14-by-14-foot caterer's tent was installed outside the home's kitchen.

Best Tent Installation: Tent Budget $75,000 and Above

CLASSIC PARTY RENTALS, BURLINGAME, CALIF./STANLEE R. GATTI DESIGNS, SAN FRANCISCO

For the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Modern Ball fund-raiser, Classic Party Rentals installed a 80-by-85-foot clear-span tent and a 5,000-square-foot clear-top frame tent on opposite ends of the museum to expand the venue to accommodate the event's 1,250 guests. Stanlee R. Gatti Designs custom-designed an artistic tent liner featuring 2,000 yards of boldly colored striped fabric that Classic silk-screened, sewed and installed in the clear-span Patron's Tent, while the San Francisco skyline visible through the clear-top frame tent created a dramatic “mural.”

Best Use of Lighting

MEGAVISION ARTS, SANTA MONICA, CALIF.

At a party to celebrate the 100th episode of the popular television show “CSI: Las Vegas,” Megavision Arts projected brightly colored “vintage Vegas” images — such as kitschy matchbook covers, cartoon images of '50s burlesque dancers, neon signs of classic casinos and vintage poker chips — onto the walls of the airplane hangar venue. Nine scenic projectors were used to cast bold images onto the hangar's walls, which measured 350 feet long by 30 feet high; three of the projectors scrolled, revealing new images every few minutes and adding movement to the scene.

Best Achievement in Technical Support

ASI PRODUCTION SERVICES, ORLANDO, FLA.

For the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards in Miami, ASI Production Services installed el-ements including 1,500 feet of drape, 5,000 feet of white carpet, and 52-foot-long ramps with a 5-foot incline that were used as runways for a “car fashion show.” A 460-by-30-foot tent that supported a 22-degree curve provided an area for photographers to take pictures of entertainers as they entered the American Airlines Arena; inside, 800 feet of black velvet drape created rooms for the talent, while 750 feet of 40-foot-tall black commando cloth sectioned off arena seating in the auditorium.

Best Achievement in Logistics

WALTONA MANION & ASSOCIATES, VAN NUYS, CALIF./IT'S NO PROBLEM, BURBANK, CALIF.

The two-day grand opening celebration of the $250 million Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa showcased the new property to 2,500 guests each night. A staff of more than 1,000 was on hand for each evening's festivities, which were held in a 55,275-square-foot clear-span tent custom-built for the celebration. Comedian Jay Leno hosted the first night's celebration, which featured a performance by Carlos Santana and a red, gold and orange decor scheme in the tent; on the second night, the tent was transformed into a sleek white and blue lounge for Destiny's Child to entertain the guests.

Best Achievement in Event Rental Support

DUCKY-BOB'S PARTY & TENT RENTALS, CARROLLTON, TEXAS

Ducky-Bob's installed 24 tents in a Dallas public park to create a Texas-sized venue for an elaborate 800-guest wedding. The seven-day installation included a 40-by-50-foot tent that served as the foyer and a 32-by-114-foot reception tent, a 100-by-180-foot main tent, and four 30-by-40-foot kitchen tents for the caterers. The company also installed tent flooring, which had to be built and then covered with turf to accommodate the city's Easter parade held in the park a few days before the wedding.

Best New, Innovative Event Product/Technology

JIM HENSON CREATURE SHOP, LOS ANGELES

Jim Henson Creature Shop used its Henson Digital Performance System to animate a computer-generated character at an event designed to showcase the latest graphics card from computer company nVidia. The HSPS technology — a proprietary hardware and software system — allowed nVidia company icon Nalu the Mermaid to appear onscreen as a live, three-dimensional character giving a real-time performance. Nalu was brought to life by two puppeteers operating multi-input control devices that generated the mermaid's actions, allowing her to deliver a live keynote speech, then interact with attendees one-on-one.

Best Event Entertainment Concept and Execution: Budget Under $25,000

EVENTION SHOW PRODUCTIONS, TAMPA, FLA.

For a corporate dinner with a “Coming Home” theme, Evention Show Productions created a custom performance of “The Wizard of Oz” hosted by a green-costumed actor representing “The Great Oz.” Following each dinner course, a 30-second video set the scene for the next act of the show. Lyrics to famous songs such as “Greased Lightning” from the musical “Grease” were rewritten to incorporate both the “Oz” characters and references to the company's industry; during the final performance of “Ease on Down the Road,” guests joined the cast in a conga line that led into a dance party.

Best Event Entertainment Concept and Execution: Budget $25,000 to $100,000

SENSIX COMMUNICATIONS AND EVENTS, MONTREAL/LES PRODUCTIONS BELLUSCIOUS, MONTREAL

Entertainment at the welcome dinner for the FINA World Aquatics Championships showcased Montreal while immersing guests in the “Feel the Wave of Emotion” theme. To honor the city's reputation as a cabaret capital, a fashion show featured dancers performing cabaret routines while modeling the clothing of a Montreal-based designer. For the event's “Bathing Beauties” finale, dancers wearing 1920s-style bathing suits and holding umbrellas came onstage through a water screen to perform a choreographed dance; images of raining umbrellas and flying dancers projected onto the water screen created a whimsical backdrop for the routine.

Best Event Entertainment Concept and Execution: Budget Above $100,000

TOTAL EVENT RESOURCES, INVERNESS, ILL.

Total Event Resources developed a “Crunch Time” theme to rev up attendees at the International Truck and Engine Corp.'s Parts and Service Expo in Las Vegas. The three-day event, inspired by reality TV shows “American Chopper” and “Monster Garage,” featured emcees modeled after the father-son team on “American Chopper,” performances by a garage rock band and an appearance by comedian Howie Mandel. During the closing session, a custom-built company truck fitted with a jet engine was driven onto the show floor, where 1,800 attendees watched a video of the “I-Team” truck burn a competitor's truck to the ground.

Most Outstanding Spectacle

JHE PRODUCTION GROUP, CONCORD, N.C.

The NASCAR Nextel Pit Crew Challenge introduced more than 5,000 racing fans in attendance and a television audience of millions to the behind-the-scenes action of NASCAR pit crews. Following the construction of a 1:24 scale model of the venue and three months of test runs in a 40,000-square-foot facility, JHE moved the action inside the Charlotte [N.C.] Coliseum on event day. There, 24 of the top NASCAR pit crew teams — each with seven members — raced against each other in competitions that focused on the skills of individual crew members as well as overall team effort.

Best Event Produced For a Private Individual: Budget Under $500 Per Guest

A JOY WALLACE CATERING PRODUCTION & DESIGN TEAM, MIAMI

A first communion celebration for a 13-year-old girl at the historic Villa Vizcaya in Miami created an inviting setting for a client who wanted the venue to feel like home. Food stations highlighted the girl's Italian and Colombian heritage with dishes such as grilled beef tenderloin with chimichurri sauce and a pasta station serving pink vodka, pomodoro and white clam sauces with a variety of toppings. A flamenco guitarist entertained guests during the reception, while a drink station topped with white parasols and pink roses added girlish charm to the decor.

Best Event Produced For a Private Individual: Budget $500 and Above Per Guest

CHARLES BANFIELD PRODUCTIONS, LOS ANGELES

A 500-guest 60th birthday party with a “Clearly Michele” theme featured design elements that highlighted the guest of honor's interests and achievements. The seven-hour, three-part party featured a garden cocktail reception with tables dressed in all-white and clear crystal that celebrated the guest of honor's famed jewelry collection and a dinner of her favorite dishes catered by Gai Klass for Wolfgang Puck. A cocktail space designed to resemble the Queen of Hearts' palace highlighted the birthday girl's long-running role as the Queen in a children's theater performance of “Alice in Wonderland.”

Best Event Marketing Campaign

WALTONA MANION & ASSOCIATES, VAN NUYS, CALIF.

Waltona Manion & Associates worked with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians to launch the tribe's $250 million, 44-acre Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa. The marketing campaign included a week-long media junket that produced more than 400 television news stories in addition to mentions in national print publications. A two-day grand opening celebration showcased the new property to 2,500 VIP guests each evening. A staff of more than 1,000 was on hand for the festivities, which were held in a 55,275-square-foot clear-span tent custom-built for the event.

Best Theatrical Entertainment Production

E=MC2 EVENT MANAGEMENT, CALGARY, ALBERTA

For Calgary Cares 2005, an AIDS awareness fund-raising gala, E=MC2 produced an entertaining fashion and dance production based on the theme “Pillow Talk.” A “Dream Maker” character hosted the show, which featured bedroom-themed numbers such as “Slumber Party,” “Nightmares” and “Fantasy World” designed to transport viewers to a place where they could explore their dreams. More than 800 guests watched the production — which featured 100 dancers and 75 behind-the-scenes volunteers — on soft lounge furniture such as beds, oversize ottomans and couches surrounding the stage.

Best Theme Decor: Total Decor Budget Under $20,000

MEGAVISION ARTS, SANTA MONICA, CALIF.

At a party to celebrate the 100th episode of the popular television show “CSI: Las Vegas,” Megavision Arts decorated the walls of the airplane hangar venue with projections of brightly colored “vintage Vegas” images such as kitschy matchbook covers, cartoon images of '50s burlesque dancers, neon signs of classic casinos and vintage poker chips. Nine scenic projectors were used to cast bold images onto the hangar's walls, which measured 350 feet long by 30 feet high; three of the projectors scrolled, revealing new images every few minutes and adding movement to the scene.

Best Theme Decor: Total Decor Budget $20,000 to $50,000

BRAVO PRODUCTIONS, LONG BEACH, CALIF.

For a “Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales” themed event with 650 Chinese-speaking guests, Bravo Productions designed decor that wove together elements from five classic children's tales. Props included 8-foot-tall books, 10-foot-tall castle façades and a backdrop depicting characters from “Alice in Wonderland”; decor pieces such as oversize butterflies and mushrooms were relevant both to fairy tales and Asian culture. A fanciful garden display of clever flower interpretations, such as “Dandy Lions” and “Tiger Lilies,” featured animal heads made from natural materials including dried flowers and grass.

Best Theme Decor: Total Decor Budget Above $50,000

EVENTLABS, HAMBURG, GERMANY

Eventlabs oversaw the design concept for a unique hotel, studio and nightclub/restaurant in Copenhagen created for the three-week launch event of the new Volkswagen Fox. A group of young artists, designers and architects converted a rundown Copenhagen hotel into Hotel Fox; each of the 61 hotel rooms featured a unique, modern design. The hotel's decor, as well as that of the restaurant and studio that were also part of Project Fox, was designed to appeal to the young professionals who make up the car's target market.

Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association: Overall Budget Under $100,000

MAGIC MOMENTS CATERING & SPECIAL EVENTS, NORCROSS, GA.

Magic Moments produced a formal “N the Black” themed celebration for the 25th anniversary of an accounting firm held at a natural history museum. The “N the Red” cocktail reception area fêted the early days of the company with all-red lighting and decor. Black-and-white decor with silver accents branded the dining room, while centerpieces features green candles that showed guests the color of money. A prop of a bank vault door served as the entrance to the dessert buffet, which included a tiered cake topped with a fondant moneybag overflowing with silver coins.

Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association: Overall Budget $100,000 to $249,999

EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS, SHERMAN OAKS, CALIF.

For a mortgage company awards dinner, Extraordinary Events designed a program that celebrated the recipients and their accomplishments in larger-than-life style. A custom mural featuring 20-foot-tall, floor-to-ceiling photographs of the award winners circled the perimeter of the venue, reinforcing the company's message that its people are its greatest asset. “Man on the street” videos asking passersby their opinions about the company, photo sessions of winners in front of the mural and custom song parodies about the company's culture helped brand the event for attendees.

Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association: Overall Budget $250,000 to $500,000

TIMOT MCGONAGLE, NASHVILLE, TENN.

The ISES Esprit Awards featured dramatic black-and-white decor that complemented the event's “Blanc et Noir — the New Hollywood Black & White” theme. Pucci-print linen and striped napkins added drama to tables, as did centerpieces of white carnations studded with black carnation accents. Silver leather banquettes and an 18-foot-long white serpentine sofa gave Hollywood style to an after-dinner lounge. String Theory played its haunting versions of tunes ranging from Bach to Pink Floyd during the cocktail reception; for the awards ceremony and dinner, performers sang songs that honored the award nominees and the Los Angeles location.

Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association: Overall Budget Above $500,000

EVENTLABS, HAMBURG, GERMANY

Eventlabs oversaw the design concept for a unique hotel, studio and nightclub/restaurant in Copenhagen created to accommodate 740 journalists over a three-week period for the launch event of the new Volkswagen Fox. A group of young artists, designers and architects converted a dilapidated Copenhagen hotel into Hotel Fox; each of the 61 hotel rooms featured a unique, modern design. The hotel's decor, as well as that of the Volkswagen-branded restaurant and studio that were also part of Project Fox, was designed to appeal to the young professionals who make up the car's target market.