Event professionals from throughout the world gathered in Chicago last night to honor nominees and winners of the Gala Awards, presented by Special Events magazine at The Special Event show. The award, handed out since 1986, is the most prestigious in special events.

BEST FAIR/FESTIVAL
Seafair, Seattle
Seafair, Seattle's hometown tradition since 1950, is an eight-week festival that brings the community together with more than 75 events that touch more than 2 million people. Signature events include the Torchlight Parade with more than 1,000 walkers, Fleet Week, a marathon with 27,000 runners, and the Pirates Landing, where more than 10,000 locals descend on Alki Beach to watch the famed Seafair pirates land and take over the city for the summer.

BEST INVITATION
Hannah Handmade, Evanston, Ill.
A multimedia invitation saluting the pop culture, glamour and kitsch of the 1940s invited more than 1,100 guests to an "As Time Goes By" summer party on an estate. The centerpiece of the invitation—a vintage-style radio/CD player--arrived complete with a custom CD featuring a '40s-style radio announcer providing party details along with a rendition of "As Time Goes By."

BEST DINING TABLE DESIGN
Something New Events, Canfield, Ohio
To seat all the wedding guests at one romantic table, the event team designed and built a romantic king's table—4 feet wide by 28 feet long—for 25 guests in the style of the couple's home, which echoes turn-of-the-century East Coast estates. The table was dressed with custom linens, chairs with custom covers, unique china patterns for each course, and four silver candelabra brimming with roses, orchids and dusty miller.

BEST OFF-PREMISE CATERED EVENT
Someone's in the Kitchen, Tarzana, Calif
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The groom's family loves a good party while the bride's family is made up of nondrinking vegetarians. The caterer suited both sides with a double-duty menu featuring both vegan and non-vegan selections. Entrees ranged from roasted Atlantic cod and braised beef to pan-roasted carrots with barley risotto; the dessert buffet included cheesecake lollipops and caramel toffee cream puffs along with chocolate dipped strawberries and English trifle with fresh berries.

BEST CATERED EVENT PRODUCED BY A HOTEL BANQUET DEPARTMENT
Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec

The 700 guests at the annual Daffodil Ball enjoyed an "Alice in Wonderland" theme event that included a menu of "Bee-yoo-tiful Soup"—rabbit consommé served from silver teapots and accompanied by puff pastry "pocket watches"—and Humpty Dumpty eggs—some 2,100 eggshells with three different fillings including foie gras crème brulee. Other highlights included a towering "hat" cake, petits fours "sandwiches" and liquid-nitrogen maple "popsicles."

BEST FUNDRAISING EVENT
Vok Dams Group, Wuppertal, Germany

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Berlin's Jewish Museum, the event team developed large, asymmetrical projection screens that not only echoed the famous profile of the museum—a stylized Star of David—but also suggested an X--the Roman numeral for 10. Additional projection screens showed pictures and stories of the museum's historical highlights, making the stage a display of both the past and future development of the museum.

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION
Alison Silcoff Events, Montreal
Some 700 guests helped the Canadian Cancer Society net $1.67 million at the 2012 Daffodil Ball. A surrealistic "Alice in Wonderland" theme included a children's orchestra and choir, virtuoso electric violinists, "Alice" characters performing sleight-of-hand tricks for diners, and a musician playing on crystal glasses.

BEST WEDDING: BUDGET UNDER $1,000 PER GUEST
Events of Distinction, San Francisco
For a fashion-conscious couple, the event team staged a wedding overlooking San Francisco Bay that gave sly nods to fashion and clothing themes. The invitation resembled a fashion "look book," food stations were constructed from vintage sewing machines, and escort cards were made from thread spools.

BEST WEDDING: BUDGET $1,000 AND ABOVE PER GUEST
Something New Events, Canfield, Ohio
For a couple who wanted only their closest friends at their wedding reception, 25 guests dined at an elegant, 28-foot-long custom table set with custom linen. The Joe Augustine trio played a specially chosen piece of music to go with each of the eight courses, which were presented on a different china pattern with coordinating flatware.

BEST MULTIPLE-DAY INCENTIVE EVENT
Jobe and Associates, Dublin, Ohio
An 18-month marketing campaign built excitement for this two-wave incentive at a posh retreat at the foothills of the El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico. Activities included tours and shopping in Old San Juan, hiking in the rain forest, riding ATVs through the foothills, paddle boarding and lively evening events with special entertainment.

BEST MULTIPLE-DAY EVENT PROGRAM
Showtime Events, New Delhi
A first-of-its-kind for India, the nine-day "BMW Xperience" involved a specially built 10-acre obstacle course to showcase the X3's off-road capabilities to prospective customers, along with a launch event that took place in a 60-foot-deep excavated site. More than 1,000 VIPs, potential buyers, BMW owners and 10 Facebook contest winners joined in the main launch event.

BEST EVENT STAGED IN MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
Vok Dams Group, Wuppertal, Germany
The event team brought the Nespresso coffee-drinking experience to consumers in major German cities with an outdoor lounge that traveled to city centers in Cologne, Hamburg and Munich over the course of three days. To perk up interest of 500 trade representatives, launch parties were held in industrial venues in trendy neighborhoods in the same cities, all featuring Pop Art decor riffing on the iconic Nespresso cup.

BEST FLORAL DESIGN
Emerald City Designs, Farmington Hills, Mich.
The wedding couple greeted guests from a 6-foot sweetheart table adorned in an ombré design of the wedding's palette of pink, blush, ivory and smoky gray created from roses, hydrangeas and cymbidium orchids. Above the table, the couple's initials, created in floral, floated in ornate wooden frames, while white organza curtains framed the moss backdrop.

BEST TENT INSTALLATION
A1 Party Rental, Covina, Calif.
The annual A Midsummer Night's Dream Party at the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles took on a bold new look thanks to an 80-by-120-foot clearspan and a 60-by-120-foot pole tent that housed a "fertile forest" party. Due to the wide range of constraints on the installation, the crew used pulleys anchored near the roof of the mansion to hoist the beams high enough for a single scissor lift to pull them upright.

BEST USE OF LIGHTING
Warner Bros Studios Special Events, Burbank, Calif., and Bart Kresa Design, Los Angeles
What began as a lively "Ginza" street scene attended by 1,500 members of the international broadcasting community underwent a dramatic transition when it was "blown up" via extensive pyro, lighting and digital video mapping. In its place arose a sensuous, colorful interpretation of a tribal environment creating a vision of a post-apocalyptic world; intelligent lighting guided attendees to four stage areas featuring performances based on fire and electricity.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN TECHNICAL SUPPORT
POP Kollaborative, Calgary, Alberta, and Mediaco, Calgary, Alberta
The event team helped Shell Canada celebrate its 100th anniversary with a presentation keying on "time." The show included a 24-foot-tall aluminum marionette who narrated the company's history and a custom 105-foot curved screen displaying imagery of Shell milestones over the past 100 years.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN LOGISTICS
Extraordinary Events, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
This holiday party in a 44,000-square-foot stadium wowed its more than 5,000 guests with a "God Bless America" theme featuring 40- to 60-foot vignettes including the Statue of Liberty, New Orleans, San Francisco and Las Vegas. To keep the theme a secret from eager media, the mammoth sets were built in Los Angeles and then driven in unmarked trucks to the event site in Phoenix.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN EVENT RENTAL SUPPORT
Karl's Event Services, Oak Creek, Wis.
To mark the famed Frieze Art Fair's first foray in the U.S., the rental team designed a massive clearspan structure from both existing and custom components. The project involved six 50-by-60-meter (164-by-197-foot) standard clearspan structures that were attached by triangle-shaped wedges to create a snake-like design; the structure was installed over a rented stage made up of 18,000 Bil-Jax flooring pieces.

BEST NEW, INNOVATIVE EVENT PRODUCT/TECHNOLOGY
VDA Productions, Somerville, Mass.
The "charging valet," offered to more than 14,000 attendees at EMC World 2012, provided a secure drop-off station for attendees to charge their electronic devices. Using a USB adapter, the station was equipped to offer cubbies capable of charging a wide range of devices, and security cameras and a sophisticated registration system ensured that devices were returned to their rightful owners.

BEST EVENT ENTERTAINMENT: BUDGET UNDER $100,000
Vok Dams Group, Wuppertal, Germany
For the Auto China show in Beijing, the event team took care to develop entertainment that would be familiar enough to attract the local audience while being distinctive enough to make the Vokswagen brand stand out. A rich mix of live drummers, dancers and performers interacted with oversize LED projections of city imagery to drive home the message that Volkswagen is commited to China's heritage and its dynamic future.

BEST EVENT ENTERTAINMENT: BUDGET ABOVE $100,000
Warner Bros Studios Special Events, Burbank, Calif.
From the latest in projection mapping to a primal celebration with tribal warriors and voodoo tarot card readers, this presentation for 1,500 international TV buyers featured more than 100 professional performers and four main stages offering constant visual stimulation. Highlights included a guitar face-off with the company's CEO and lead guitarist Alex Grossi from Quiet Riot, aerialists, a fire-walking station, and an 18-foot voodoo doll, on which guests could pin messages before the doll was remotely donated and burned.

MOST OUTSTANDING SPECTACLE
Extraordinary Events, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
This holiday party in a 44,000-square-foot stadium wowed its more than 5,000 guests with a "God Bless America" theme featuring 40- to 60-foot vignettes including the Statue of Liberty, New Orleans, San Francisco and Las Vegas. After performances by headliners Dierks Bentley, Trace Atkins and Kid Rock, the stadium's roof retracted to reveal a fireworks extravaganza.

BEST EVENT FOR PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL: BUDGET UNDER $1,000 PER GUEST
Walton Event Design, Charlotte, N.C.
A mother treated her bride-to-be daughter with an engagement party for 150 with vintage carnival games such as the milk-bottle toss and knockdown dolls, all custom-built for the event. Classic carnival food got an elegant spin, such as mini burgers of beef tenderloin with blue cheese aioli and leek frizzle, and ice cream sandwiches of bourbon cherry ice cream and macaroons.

BEST EVENT FOR PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL: BUDGET $1,000 AND ABOVE PER GUEST
Cosmopolitan Events, Costa Mesa, Calif.
A wife helped her husband turn 40 in style—18th century style—with a "Let Him Eat Cake" party at an elegant Beverly Hills mansion for 350 guests in period dress. When news that the honoree had just sold his company for $1.2 billion leaked the day before the party, threatening to taint the event as an example of the excesses of the rich during a recession, the event team reacted quickly—taking down the event's website, tightening up security, and hiring actors to warn guests—in exaggerated French accents—that posting photos to social media would result in a trip to "za guillotine."

BEST EVENT MARKETING CAMPAIGN
Vok Dams Group, Wuppertal, Germany
To raise awareness of the benefits of beverage cans, the event team keyed on the theme of "creativity" to prompt its target group—young people—to dream up new uses for cans, from creating music via a Facebook app to using cans to build things, including a foosball table. A kiosk traveled around the country, offering places for people to relax, enjoy a canned drink, and discuss recycling's impact on the environment.

BEST THEATRICAL ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCTION
Vok Dams Group, Wuppertal, Germany
For the Auto China show in Beijing, the event team took care to develop entertainment that would be familiar enough to attract the local audience while being distinctive enough to make the Vokswagen brand stand out. A rich mix of live drummers, dancers and performers interacted with oversize LED projections of city imagery to drive home the message that Volkswagen is committed to China's heritage and dynamic future.

BEST DECOR: BUDGET UNDER $50,000
5th Element Events, Markham, Ontario
A palette of yellows, greens and metallics brought out the beauty of the rustic interior of Toronto's 150-year-old Fermenting Cellar for an industry networking event. To tie the disparate decor elements together, the design team used copper-colored metals as unifying details in chair legs, rivets, etc.

BEST DECOR: BUDGET $50,000 TO $99,999
Decor and More, Oakville, Ontario, and Alison Silcoff Events, Montreal
The whimsical world of "Alice in Wonderland" came to life at the Daffodil Ball, with a cocktail reception styled like the Mad Hatter's tea party and entry into the ballroom via two giant keyholes fashioned from boxwood hedges. The dining room featured 12 different madcap tabletops set beneath huge chandeliers made from oversize playing cards.

BEST DECOR: BUDGET $100,000 TO $250,000
Fourth Wall Events, New York
The highlight of a weeklong incentive program to Miami was a "South Beach Sizzles" party, which transformed a hotel ballroom into a glittering ice castle. Square tables seating 12 each featured a 75-pound ice block centerpiece, which was wrapped with a crystal band and encased a single red rose.

BEST DECOR: BUDGET ABOVE $250,000
Something New Events, Canfield, Ohio
The design team worked hard to develop a sports theme rendered in an elegant way for this "Sports Mania" bar mitzvah. Decor elements included 11-by-20-foot banners of the honoree playing sports, a custom dance floor with a water motif (saluting his love of wakeboarding), basketball chandeliers, and a dessert "locker room" with treats served on custom printed Frisbees, which guests could take as souvenirs.

BEST EVENT FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: BUDGET UNDER $100,000
Joke Events, Bremen, Germany
To help build public support for uniform national guidelines for health measures to prevent premature birth, the event team keyed on a simple truth: A parent's voice is a primary connection between a parent and a newborn. On World Prematurity Day, "singing mobs" of small groups of singers serenaded people in public spaces with a capella lullabies and explained the issues of prematurity, giving a voice to premature infants.

BEST EVENT FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: BUDGET $100,000 TO $249,999
The Wakeman Agency, White Plains, N.Y.
A company saluted its recent acquisition by another firm and its corporate learning program—which focuses on music instruction to encourage team building—by staging a battle of bands. Six novice bands—all made up of employees—performed for a panel of music enthusiasts; attendees could get temporary tattoos and buy commemorative T-shirts, with the proceeds going to charity

BEST EVENT FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: BUDGET $250,000 TO $500,000
Russell Harris Event Group, North Hollywood, Calif.
The event team used the theme "More Stories" for Disney Media Distribution's annual upfront for more than 800 major international buyers. The mix of reception, presentations and networking moved at a brisk pace, and led to commitments for more than $2.3 billion in sales for the studio—the best results to date. <p/>

BEST EVENT FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: BUDGET ABOVE $500,000
MGM Resorts Events, Las Vegas
More than 1,500 VIPs entered the red-hot "Rosso" New Year's Eve party--a surrealistic fairy tale set in crimson. Event elements included an "enchanted forest" of floor-to-ceiling red LED trees, a "rose queen" dressed in a red gown with a 30-foot train serving as the red carpet, "chandeliers" that dropped from the ceiling to serve as centerpieces, and four high-energy production numbers.

GALA AWARDS FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

Two event veterans received the Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement: Bill Pry of Chicago-based BBJ Linen and Leslee Bell of Decor and More, Oakville, Ontario.

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