Top events from around the world were honored Jan. 8 at The Special Event 2015 in Anaheim, Calif., at the Special Events Gala Awards. The awards--the oldest and most prestigious in events--have been given out annually since 1986. Above, opening act ARIA at the Gala ceremony.

This year's winners:

BEST FAIR/FESTIVAL
Horseshoe Bay Resort, Horseshoe Bay, Texas
"Balloons over Horseshoe Bay Resort"
Resort management developed its hot-air balloon festival as a way to drive occupancy and resort revenue during the traditionally slow Easter weekend. With attractions such as wine tastings, a craft fair, a vintage car show, a concert and, of course, balloon rides, the resort boosted occupancy from the traditional 40 percent to 92 percent one night and increased room revenue by more than $260,000—all for a $35,000 investment.

 

BEST INVITATION
Dragonfly Custom Design, Orlando, Fla.
"Dan's 30th Birthday Block Party: Let's Reconnect!"
The creation of an over-the-top 30th birthday invitation for an imaginative Lego enthusiast and video-game designer featured interactive elements including a “plastic brick derby” kit and Lego mini figures of each guest for use in the “selfie” RSVP. The invitations incorporated bright colors, a font made of real Lego bricks, and themed packaging.

 

BEST DINING TABLE DESIGN
Designing on the Edge, Calgary, Alberta
"Twas the Night"
Set in a bustling pedestrian bridge for a major shopping center, this dinner for VIP media featured glamorous "winter wonderland" tables dressed in silver linens, mirrored and crystal vessels, bare branches, clear candelabras and crisp white botanicals. Between courses, fashion models treated the center of the table as a catwalk, parading directly in front of admiring guests. 

Melissa Darpino of Patina Restaurant Group and Extraordinary Events

BEST OFF-PREMISE CATERED EVENT
Extraordinary Events, Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Patina Restaurant Group, Los Angeles
"YPO-WPO Global Leadership Conference 2014"
To cater a reception for a high-power group of 3,200 corporate leaders from 120 countries, the catering team developed a range of gourmet dishes that met the demands of kosher, vegetarian, halal and other diets. Servers donned color-coded T-shirts that displayed the name of the dish and what diet it was appropriate for; to keep food at its peak, 250 pieces of food came out of the kitchens every minute. Above, Melissa Darpino of Patina Restaurant Group (at podium).

 

Fairmont the Queen ElizabethBEST CATERED EVENT PRODUCED BY A HOTEL BANQUET DEPARTMENT
Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth, Montreal
"Contemporary Art Museum Gala"
Challenged to create a menu that combined imagination with kitsch, the caterer dreamed up menu items, platings and tabletop decor that matched light projections on the venue's walls. Dishes for the 625 guests included grilled shrimp served in pink plastic flamingo glasses set in patches of fake grass, roasted sea bream served in miniature pots accompanied by oven mitts, and cactus pear sherbet paired with a chocolate cowboy hat. Above, the winning team from Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth.

 

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

BEST FUNDRAISING EVENT
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh
"Once Upon a Time"
With only a shoestring budget, the in-house event team netted $757,000—nearly 50 percent above goal—by deft management of funds and event space. The 550 dinner guests dined in six different rooms in Heinz Hall, each themed to a classic fairy tale. Above, Shannon Capellupo of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (at podium). 

 

Alison Silcoff Events
BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION

Alison Silcoff Events, Montreal
"The Daffodil Ball"
The event team maximized revenue for this long-standing benefit for the Canadian Cancer Society with donated prizes worth $128,000, lavish guest gifts from premium sponsors, and strategic management of prominent business leaders spearheading fundraising. The 620 guests dined on crocodile and other exotic dishes at the "On the Wild Side" themed gala. Above, Alison Silcoff (at podium).

 

Party Designs by Carol

BEST WEDDING: BUDGET UNDER $1,000 PER GUEST
Party Designs by Carol, Los Angeles
"Traveling Gypsy Carnival"

A bride's dream of a gypsy-theme wedding came to life with elements including an eclectic assortment of antique wooden chairs in the dinner area, bars created from planks set on wine barrels, multicolored lights strung between vintage umbrellas—including the removal of random bulbs to add authenticity—and a gypsy wagon sourced from a circus rental company. The event team ensured guests drove home safely over the narrow, winding road in the rural setting by placing battery-powered votives along the route. Above, Carol Rosen of Party Designs by Carol accepts her award.

 

Lynn Fletcher Weddings

BEST WEDDING: BUDGET $1,000 AND ABOVE PER GUEST
Lynn Fletcher Weddings, Calgary, Alberta 
"Gilded Glory"

An equestrian facility was transformed into a modern-day vision of the Palace of Versailles thanks to a dedicated event team that coordinated daily deliveries of decor pieces in the run-up to the wedding. All told, the wedding required 16 tents, 500 panels of fabric, gilded mirrors, massive theatrical-quality backdrops, and linens fabricated in France on a continuous loom. Above, Lynn Fletcher (at podium) salutes her team.

 

MotivAction

BEST MULTIPLE-DAY INCENTIVE EVENT
MotivAction, Minneapolis 
"Onyx Circle"
Designed to motivate and salute the 25 top-performing North American dealers for a major manufacturing company, this event was an unforgettable Irish experience. From the historic hotels to activities, cuisine, world-class entertainment and hand-selected gifts, the program included golf at the famous K-Club; a visit to Ballyknocken Cookery School; a "So You Think You Know Your Drink" tour at the Old Jameson Distillery; Dublin’s famous "Food Trail"; and a cultural walking tour of off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods. Above, Joanie Miskowiec Phillips of the MotivAction team accepts the award.

 

BEST MULTIPLE-DAY EVENT PROGRAM FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION
Phenomenon Marketing and Communications, Beijing  
"Huawei C199 Launch and Cycling Tour"
Set in the spectacular Qinghai Lake—China’s largest inland lake—Huawei launched the new C199 smartphone with a mobile truck trailer and an exciting “199 kilometer” bicycle adventure around the lake in three days. More than 200 high-spirited professional and amateur bikers participated, delivering the message of "dare to grow"—the slogan of Huawei’s Mai Mang line of mobile phones.

 

BEST EVENT STAGED IN MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
Good Gracious Events, Los Angeles
"Life is But a Dream"
In honor of a couple's 50-year marriage, a weekend of events doubled as the backdrop for a lavish celebration of life and accomplishment. Over the course of four days, family and friends from around the world experienced a series of back-to-back events in venues that took them from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, to a private island.

 

BEST FLORAL DESIGN
Lynn Fletcher Weddings, Calgary, Alberta, and Brian Lehodey Designs, Calgary, Alberta
"Gilded Glory"
An equestrian facility was transformed into a modern-day vision of the Palace of Versailles thanks to a dedicated event team that coordinated daily deliveries of decor pieces in the run-up to the wedding. The transformation of the event space into a magical French Renaissance setting required three 5-ton refrigerated trucks, tens of thousands of floral blooms, hundreds of hedges, dozens of topiaries, an assortment of crystal strands, hundreds of urns and containers, and the invention of an ingenious centerpiece lift, along with 40 certified florists toiling five days to create the luxurious floral design.

 

BEST TENT INSTALLATION
Arena Americas, Oak Creek, Wis.
"Chrome Tent"
Designed to echo the rough, industrial look of the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Chrome tent—a luxury, three-season clearspan event structure—features exposed aluminum framework, a new, horizontal, tinted glass wall design, and a soundproof interior divider that can be closed to allow two events to take place concurrently. The structure is nearly 14,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 700 guests theater-style or 450 seated.

 

BEST USE OF LIGHTING
Bart Kresa Design, Santa Monica, Calif.
"Bhawan Palace"
For a private party for 300 guests, the lighting team transformed the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, India, with projections 400 feet wide by 120 feet tall. The light show included live choreographed dancing, utilizing both traditional and stereoscopic projections to achieve an augmented theatrical setting, while eye-catching visuals were mapped on multiple surfaces and a projected dome structure.

 

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN TECHNICAL SUPPORT
Global Events, Madrid
"The Cube"
In order to introduce its new digital division, big global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company Accenture held a special public relations event for Spain's top 160 CEOs. To deliver a futuristic setting representing digital solutions, the event team developed a 65-by-65-foot audiovisual "cube," which could be used from the inside as an immersive dome or from the outside as a video screen.

 

MGM Resorts Event Productions

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN LOGISTICS
MGM Resorts Event Productions, Las Vegas
"MGM New Year's Eve"
The event team had a scant 14 hours to turn a ballroom set as a 14,000-seat rock arena into a fully decorated dinner venue for 1,800 high rollers, who rang in the New Year with a performance by the same bad—the legendary Fleetwood Mac. The team removed bleachers and theater seating, reset the room into 180 decorated tables, did a band sound check and a light check, tested the video mapping, and decorated the foyer and lounge areas. Above, the MGM team. 

 

ABC Special Event Rentals by CORT

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN EVENT RENTAL SUPPORT
ABC Special Event Rentals by CORT, Mukilteo, Wash.
"Microsoft Oneweek"
Microsoft's week-long "Oneweek" event included a company-wide meeting, a two-day Hackathon, and a product fair, closing with the annual Imagine Cup Finals. To support the series of events, the rental team built more 70 canopies and structures for a combined 108,048 square feet of additional space for the Microsoft teams to collaborate and celebrate the vision of the newly named CEO, Satya Nadella. Above, the ABC team.

 

BEST NEW, INNOVATIVE EVENT PRODUCT/SERVICE
Event Show Productions, Tampa, Fla. 
"Tell-A-Vision"
Developed in response to the changing expectations of audiences who have grown up in an age of rapidly advancing technology, "Tell-A-Vision" merges performance art and technology to create a moving storybook incorporating video screens with live performers. Because the video screens are wireless, they can move independently around the stage and can feature video, background scenery or props, and can be customized to suit various budgets by adjusting the number of screens per performance.

 

Hello Florida Gala Awards

BEST EVENT ENTERTAINMENT CONCEPT AND EXECUTION: ENTERTAINMENT BUDGET UNDER $25,000
Hello Florida Destination Management, Orlando, Fla. 
"Marriott Association Masters Alice in Wonderland After-Party"
Tasked with creating a party for meeting planners, the event team put a new spin on the familiar Alice in Wonderland theme, creating exciting environments—from the rabbit hole to a chessboard dance floor—within the ballroom. Clever touches included "chess pieces" that danced with guests and the chance for guests to take "selfie" photos with talking flowers. Above, the Hello Florida team.

 

BEST EVENT ENTERTAINMENT CONCEPT AND EXECUTION: ENTERTAINMENT BUDGET $25,000 TO $100,000
Joke Event, Bremen, Germany
"DAN Festival"
A corporate merger brought 750 employees together for the first time in an event designed as a lively, open-air festival instead of a series of dull speeches. Attendees enjoyed music and shows on several stages; an internal social media channel promoted networking.

EventWorks

BEST EVENT ENTERTAINMENT CONCEPT AND EXECUTION: ENTERTAINMENT BUDGET ABOVE $100,000
EventWorks, Los Angeles
"The Sky is the Limit"
To showcase the exciting capabilities of a newly remodeled convention center ballroom, the event team created four "mini events"—ranging from an intimate lounge reception to a full-blown rock 'n' roll arena event—spanning five hours. Entertainment included skateboarders, hip hop dancers, a jazz harpist, media mapping and cirque-style aerialists. Above, Janet Elkins of EventWorks (at podium) salutes her team.

 

MOST OUTSTANDING SPECTACLE
Uniplan, Cologne, Germany
"Oasis of Beauty"
The 16,000 top salespeople from Nu Skin China were honored for their success with a five-day trip to Dubai culminating in the final-night dinner gala, which was staged in a giant open-air area the size of two soccer fields. The multimedia show was held on a custom 100-by-30-by-26-meter (328-by-98-by-85-foot) stage surrounded by an "oasis in the desert"—a 1 million-liter (265,000-gallon) manmade lake.

Wilkinson Rhodes

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL: BUDGET UNDER $1,000 PER GUEST
Wilkinson Rhodes, San Antonio 
"It's About Time"
Eight hundred guests embarked on time-travel, "Jules Verne meets Dr. Who" theme debutante party, with bubbling cocktails, greetings from steampunk characters, and a Gantry bike pouring wine. After visiting a "museum" showcasing modes of travel and time-travel theories, guests could dine at a steampunk table spread with jars filled with beef tenderloin and actual hickory smoke, as well as a sushi station where a mermaid sat atop a submarine filled with sushi boxes. Above, India Rhodes (at podium) and Billinda Wilkinson (far left) accept their award.

Plan-It Parties

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL: BUDGET $1,000 AND ABOVE PER GUEST
Plan-it Parties, North Potomac, Md.
"Frozen"
An ice arena was transformed into a unique ballroom space for this ice hockey-themed bar mitzvah. Special touches included a pre-event hockey game, carpeting the ice rink in three hours, 150 lighting fixtures, 32 rigging motors, and video projection screens that moved during the event to reveal a hidden section of the rink complete with a stage and a rapper for a surprise concert. Above, a colleague accepts on behalf of Plan-It Parties.

Red Velvet Events

BEST EVENT MARKETING CAMPAIGN
Red Velvet Events, Austin, Texas 
"#imenough Campaign"
To launch the new band The Mrs, the event team created a viral movement keying on the song "Enough," which shows women they are more than their reflection in a mirror. At a shopping mall, a "magic mirror" helped women see their true worth, an appearance at the BlogHer conference brought YouTube views, and a sticker campaign across four major cities in two weeks carried the hashtag #imenough. The three-part campaign reached more than 10,000 people in person and almost 20,000 online. Above, Cindy Lo of Red Velvet Events accepts her award.

 

BEST THEATRICAL ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCTION
Uniplan, Cologne, Germany 
"Oasis of Beauty"
The 16,000 top salespeople from Nu Skin China were honored for their success with a five-day trip to Dubai culminating in the final-night dinner gala, which was staged in a giant open-air area the size of two soccer fields. Along with water fountains, flame throwers and other special effects, the show told a story based on Arabian tales such as Aladdin, of believing in dreams and overcoming obstacles.

Sean de Freitas Gala Awards

BEST DECOR: TOTAL DECOR BUDGET UNDER $50,000
Designs by Sean, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  
"Sports Tailgate Bar Mitzvah"
The event team took the typical sports-themed bar mitzvah up a notch with sophisticated treatments such as guest tables lit from beneath with sports-oriented transparencies. Guests marveled at a "liquid" dance floor, a 360-degree custom bar, and an entire wall of drape that parted after cocktails to reveal the main room. Above, Sean de Freitas accepts his award as Lynn Fletcher looks on.

 

BEST DECOR: TOTAL DECOR BUDGET $50,000 TO $99,999
Insglueck, Berlin
"Investment Aktuell 2014"
To convey the client company's message of clarity and simplicity, the event team turned to classic theatrical elements such as pantomime in front of what appeared to be a plain cardboard wall. Gradually, however, the wall began to transform into an interactive stage for the performers to work with.

Isabelle Le Alison Silcoff Events

BEST DECOR: TOTAL DECOR BUDGET $100,000 TO $250,000
Alison Silcoff Events, Montreal, and Decor and More, Oakville, Ontario 
"The Daffodil Ball"
With an "On the Wild Side" theme, the 21st annual Daffodil Ball featured African jungle decor, 12-foot-tall "Dream Hunter" entertainers, and exotic dishes including crocodile and crickets. The 620 guests dressed the part by wearing animal prints and tribal jewelry, and helped the ball net $1.6 million. Above, Isabelle Le of Alison Silcoff Events (at podium) accepts the award.

Thom Pass MGM Resorts Event Productions

BEST DECOR: TOTAL DECOR BUDGET ABOVE $250,000
MGM Resorts Event Productions, Las Vegas
"From Dusk to Midnight"
To stand out in the glittering crowd at the JCK trade show, jewelry manufacturer and retailer Pandora set up a display off the show floor to create an immersive environment that filled three hotel ballrooms. Lighting and decor created an illusion of dusk turning to night as guests followed a winding path to discover the company’s newest lines, with a fashion show at the end. Above, Thom Pass (at podium, left) celebrates a Gala win after seven nominations as Lenny Talarico (right)  shares a smile.

 

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: OVERALL BUDGET UNDER $100,000
Lori Parks Corporate Events, Sunset, S.C.
"Vintage Amazing Race"
For a client's executive leadership team, the term "vintage" took on a new meaning for a team-building event in California's wine country, as eight teams raced across Napa Valley in a 1940s-themed race. Traveling in classic cars, teams competed in eight vintage-themed challenges, including speed croquet, learning the fox trot, playing schoolyard games and stomping grapes the old-fashioned way.

Claudia Kohler and Colja Dams of Vok Dams

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: OVERALL BUDGET $100,000 TO $249,999
Vok Dams, Wuppertal, Germany
"SEAT Press Conference: Auto Salon Geneva 2014"
The event team created an indelible impression of a new car model's chic style by creating an oversize riff on the famous movie image of Marilyn Monroe's skirt blowing up, revealing two cars. A second story in the 15-minute press conference underscored the record-breaking speed of the Leon Cupra model by pairing dancers with footage of a recent race, culminating with the car coming onstage and winning driver Jordi Gené climbing out. Above, Claudia Kohler (left) and Colja Dams of Vok Dams display the new edition of the Gala Award.

 

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: OVERALL BUDGET $250,000 TO $500,000
Russell Harris Event Group, North Hollywood, Calif. 
"Beaches of the World"
A global technology client kicked off its 2014 international sales and marketing conference by welcoming 3,500 guests from around the world to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. Ready for something different after years of staging events at the convention center, the event team took the client poolside for a sophisticated pool party representing beaches of the world—Middle East, South Beach, South Pacific, Latin America, Asia—where the corporate giant has divisions.

 

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: OVERALL BUDGET ABOVE $500,000
E=MC2 Events, Calgary, Alberta
"BC/Vancouver Night"
For BC/Vancouver Night—a tourism promotion event—1,700 guests were taken on an elaborate cross-province, adrenaline-driven adventure of a lifetime. Highlights included a 150-foot aerial line of athletes sailing overhead, mountain bikers performing on 100-foot ramps and ladders, a mix of British Columbia neighborhoods with themed food stations, wine stomping, Bollywood dancing, and a 9-foot-tall animatronic grizzly bear foraging and dancing with guests.

Larry Green of Rentals Unlimited

GALA AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

Larry Green, Rentals Unlimited, Stoughton, Mass.

 

INAUGURAL RICHARD CARBOTTI AWARD

Honoring Volunteerism in Special Events

Accepted by Evan and Jordan Carbotti on behalf of the late Richard Carbotti

The Gala Awards were followed by a high-spirited after-party at the Anaheim Marriott.

The 2016 Gala Awards will open for submissions on June 1.

See more about all the Gala Award nominees here.