Winners, nominees and attendees enjoyed a night of Hollywood glamour at this year's The Special Event Gala Awards ceremony, held in Los Angeles on Jan. 12. The Special Events Magazine Advisory Board pored over a record number of entries to select the trophy recipients for outstanding work in 35 categories. Read on to discover this year's special-event standouts. — The Editors

Note: Our 2007 Gala Awards competition, which is open for events taking place between Sept. 1, 2006, and Aug. 31, 2007, 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

JHE PRODUCTION GROUP, CONCORD, N.C.

The Food Lion Speed Street festival in Charlotte, N.C., featured three days of live musical acts, interactive exhibits, food vendors and celebrities. Among the big names entertaining the 400,000 attendants were musicians M.C. Hammer, Twisted Sister, Gin Blossoms and REO Speedwagon. The racing-theme event also boasted NASCAR champions such as Richard Petty and Dale Jarrett, among others.

BEST INVITATION

JOBE AND ASSOCIATES, DUBLIN, OHIO

An incentive trip themed to “Surf City USA” — Huntington Beach, Calif. — was the inspiration for this three-dimensional invitation. One hundred invitees received a hand-carved, 3-foot replica of a 1960s wooden surfboard engraved and autographed by artist Juan Rodriguez. The board was encased in a custom 36-inch tube, foam insert and custom-designed DHL label continuing the theme and “Top Dog” branding.

BEST DINING TABLE DESIGN

HIGH RISE EVENTS, LAS VEGAS

For the “April Showers Bring May Flowers” bridal shower, pink sateen and chocolate lattice linen covered two oval dining tables, and pink tulle raincoat wraps accented the chairs. Additional touches included Battenburg umbrella centerpieces dripping with crystal necklaces that resembled raindrops. Tulip stemware, garden-embroidered handbags, rosebud truffles and umbrella cookies completed the feminine-yet-sophisticated theme for 35 guests.

BEST OFF-PREMISE CATERED EVENT

SOMEONE'S IN THE KITCHEN, TARZANA, CALIF.

Someone's in the Kitchen re-created the tents of Abraham in the ancient city of Hebron for a bar mitzvah with 250 guests. The gourmet menu followed the most strict kosher laws while still meeting today's standards of creativity and innovation. Highlights included miniature pancakes of charcoal-roasted eggplant, “Moroccan cigars” filled with meat, fruited lamb shanks and deconstructed halvah parfait.

BEST CATERED EVENT PRODUCED BY A HOTEL BANQUET DEPARTMENT

HARITH PRODUCTIONS LTD., WILLOW GROVE, PA./RITZ-CARLTON NAPLES, NAPLES, FLA.

Sixty guests participated in an epicurean journey of edible art featuring the unique natural resources of the Everglades. The “Everglades Elegance” dinner included coconut-crusted jumbo shrimp in a fresh coconut shell, black bass escabeche with green mango and hearts of Florida palm, and warm chocolate and Florida orange decadence cake with a Key lime dome and tropical fruit salsa.

BEST FUNDRAISING EVENT

HALA EVENTS & COMMUNICATIONS, TORONTO

“The Enchanted Evening” benefited the SickKids Foundation and provided entertainment for 800 guests, among them 400 children. The event included whimsical decor, a parade led by a marching band to help move guests from the theater venue to the dinner and activity stations, and a feast with separate menus for children and adults. The benefit netted $400,000 for one of the top pediatric hospitals in the world.

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION

ALISON SILCOFF EVENTS, MONTREAL

The opera “Un Ballo in Maschera” — or “A Masked Ball” — provided the thematic Venice carnival background for 650 guests attending the Daffodil Ball in support of the Canadian Cancer Society. Decor and entertainment featured a massive Pulchinella daffodil mask, dramatic scarlet velvet walls, crystal chandeliers, a scarlet dance floor, gold-framed video screens and 55,000 daffodils. Strolling jesters, magicians and gifts from Chanel added to the entertaining evening.

BEST WEDDING: BUDGET UNDER $500 PER GUEST

EVENTS OF DISTINCTION, SAN FRANCISCO

The bride and groom celebrated their marriage in Tuscan style with a wedding reception at the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley, Calif., the first time such an event was held at this venue. The event, themed “That's Amore,” celebrated the couple's Italian heritage with touches such as Frank Sinatra tunes performed by the band, Piedmonte-style agnolotti with brown butter and sage served family-style, and invitations with a Florentine flourish as a decorative emblem.

BEST WEDDING: BUDGET $500 AND ABOVE PER GUEST

DESIGNS BY SEAN, DANIA, FLA./WEDDINGS UNIQUE, WINTER PARK, FLA.

This “Fairy Tales Do Come True” wedding began in the evening and culminated with a Brazilian parade finale at 5 a.m. The romantic ambience set with the colors pink, violet, white, blue and silver was punched up with a continuous six-hour show during the reception featuring 118 Brazilian costumed performers. Large picture frames around the room displayed changing images of flowers throughout the night.

BEST MULTIPLE-DAY INCENTIVE EVENT

HARITH PRODUCTIONS LTD., WILLOW GROVE, PA./DESIGNS BY SEAN, DANIA, FLA.

An incentive travel reward program taking place at Bennett Station in Alaska and the Yukon Territory highlighted the natural splendor of its surroundings. On the train ride to the location, staff dressed as train conductors delivered a scroll invitation and a picture book depicting the area. Cabins were overhauled to provide the amenities of a five-star hotel, and one meal took place lakeside with snow-capped mountains in the distance.

BEST MULTIPLE-DAY EVENT PROGRAM FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION

CIRC CORPORATE EXPERIENCE GMBH & CO., WIESBADEN, GERMANY/EON ENERGIE, MUNICH, GERMANY

“Surpassing Boundaries with Energy” was the fitting theme for a program held for a German energy company. Instead of supplying the typical luxury offered by many programs, this rule-breaking incentive event included such activities as swimming in the Black Sea instead of a relaxed breakfast and supplying participants with an old car to drive themselves from the airport instead of shuttle service. Typical lectures and workshops were replaced with discussion-based activities on surpassing boundaries with leaders such as war journalist Ulrich Tilgner.

BEST EVENT STAGED IN MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

LOS ANGELES PARTY DESIGNS, LOS ANGELES

Los Angeles Party Designs produced identical final-night programs in 13 cities across the U.S., Canada and Bermuda at the request of a “Big Four” accounting firm. Using six kits, the event company offered a wine-tasting reception with wines from three different continents, dinner, a customized tasting game and an amusing dinner show over the course of five weekends.

BEST FLORAL DESIGN

DESIGNS BY SEAN, DANIA, FLA.

In an attempt to distinguish this romantically minded bride's wedding from her sister's wedding just six months earlier, Designs by Sean decided on a whimsical, pink-accented floral scheme. Behind a horseshoe-shaped bar stood a life-size blooming tree with pink cherry, blue hydrangea and green amaranthus blossoms. One hundred and fifty cherry tree branches hung from the ceiling. While each chair featured a rose and ivy corsage, table designs included hyacinths, stargazer lilies, tulips and roses accented with white butterflies, bead sprays, candles and silver trays.

BEST TENT INSTALLATION: TENT BUDGET UNDER $75,000

HARLEQUIN MARQUEES & EVENT SERVICES, DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

For a mobile-phone launch set in the desert, Harlequin Marquees made a magical setting with traditional Arabian majlis-style tents. The event team worked in high temperatures for 10 days, making a hard surface out of the soft desert sand to anchor the tents securely. The main dining marquee featured a dramatic white starcloth ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows to give guests a view of the desert at night.

BEST TENT INSTALLATION: TENT BUDGET $75,000 AND ABOVE

DE BOER VININGS, AUSTELL, GA.

De Boer provided nearly 14,000 square feet of tented space to showcase vehicles at The Drive Las Vegas. Three tents made of polyvinyl chloride, aluminum and steel comprised the space for the event. A new structure dubbed the Chateau offered shade from the desert heat with a 20-foot open side and some 200 smoked-glass windows. Another tent, the Euro Jumbo, featured a 30-foot-high peak.

BEST USE OF LIGHTING

TOTAL EVENT RESOURCES, SCHAUMBURG, ILL.

The opening general session for the International Truck and Engine Corp. Parts and Service Expo in San Antonio featured a sound and light show choreographed to a popular rock song, projected on an Atomic Pillow Wall. Total Event Resources used a 20-by-66-foot screen for maximum impact and its screen-in-screen capabilities. Since the lighting portion of the show needed to be designed on-site, the event team worked all night to prepare for the 8 a.m. showing.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN TECHNICAL SUPPORT

LD SYSTEMS, HOUSTON

LD Systems devised integrated sound, lighting and closed-circuit information for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Over the course of 20 days of performances in a 75,000-seat stadium, the event team had to overcome harsh acoustics, a different musical act each night with different audio and visual requests, and 360-degree seating — meaning that an unobstructed view had to be maintained. Also, the historic Astrodome in Houston was transformed into an intimate club.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN LOGISTICS

EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS, SHERMAN OAKS, CALIF.

Boundaries of every sort had to be overcome to allow 300 business executives to help renovate a school in Leona Vicario, Mexico. Construction proved complicated, necessitating the raising of power lines in the neighborhood for trucks and the use of 11 security guards to prevent kidnappings. Contractors began the work 90 days before the event to fix plumbing, electrical, landscape and mortar elements. Event attendees completed the job, which required 36 truckloads of cement, 122 gallons of paint and 700 yards of grass sod.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN EVENT RENTAL SUPPORT

ASI PRODUCTION SERVICES, ORLANDO, FLA.

For the 2006 Georgia Power Leadership Forum in Macon, Ga., ASI Production Services created a “no stage” by raising the audience on platforms that spanned the room, which were installed with nine seating levels. In nine days, the uncarpeted convention space was transformed into two areas: a general session space with the “no stage,” seating for 300 and scenic elements, and a party room with velour decor, a conventional stage and a motorized, 40-foot, deep-red Austrian drape.

BEST NEW, INNOVATIVE EVENT/PRODUCT TECHNOLOGY

EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS, SHERMAN OAKS, CALIF.

Every element of an executive conference was captured in watercolor, in real time, by artist Carol Winstead Wood. These paintings were duplicated and printed as a high-quality, hard-bound book, which was distributed to all conference attendees at the airport as they left. At the end of every day of the conference, the finished art was sent to a local printer for duplication; the book cover was constructed in advance with handmade papers and drilled to allow for on-site assembly.

BEST ENTERTAINMENT CONCEPT AND EXECUTION: ENTERTAINMENT BUDGET UNDER $25,000

TOTAL EVENT RESOURCES, SCHAUMBURG, ILL.

Composed of the company's top executives, Abbot Laboratories' band set custom lyrics to the Beatles' “Revolution” describing the goals and challenges taking place within the company's human resources department. The performers — with the tongue-in-cheek name “The Beat-less” — recorded the unique song in a studio and shared it during breaks at the Abbot Worldwide HR Conference.

BEST ENTERTAINMENT CONCEPT AND EXECUTION: ENTERTAINMENT BUDGET $25,000 TO $100,000

WILKINSON RHODES, SAN ANTONIO

Several vignettes supporting the theme of a debutante's party, “An Evening of Asian Splendors,” were performed on a rotating time schedule on multiple staging platforms throughout the client's San Antonio estate. Dancers with red butterfly headdresses greeted the guests, who were then treated to a “geisha” living-fountain performance that involved water coming out of the geisha's fingertips. Interactive entertainment intended to capture the interest of younger guests included Chinese calligraphers, contemporary dance by Moo Moo — a dancer from iPod commercials — Chinese ballerinas and a Rolling Stones cover band.

BEST ENTERTAINMENT CONCEPT AND EXECUTION: ENTERTAINMENT BUDGET ABOVE $100,000

SENSIX COMMUNICATIONS AND EVENTS, MONTREAL

For the launch of Team VacciNation by a national pharmaceutical sales force, Sensix Communications created an educational show tracing the history of vaccines over 200 years to show employees that they were part of this history. Key historical figures came to life for guests as they walked off the screen and onto the stage, a feat pulled off with careful planning and rehearsals. Green-screen technology was used to present past figures in historically accurate settings.

MOST OUTSTANDING SPECTACLE

JHE PRODUCTION GROUP, CONCORD, N.C.

For the NASCAR Nextel Pit Crew Challenge, individuals and teams competed in a fast-paced environment in front of 5,000 fans. Challenges for JHE's event team included facilitating a change in venue — from the Charlotte {N.C.} Coliseum to the new Charlotte Bobcats Arena. Two hundred fifty pieces of modular flooring were necessary to keep the pit crews from slipping during competition.

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL: BUDGET UNDER $500 PER GUEST

MITCHELL'S CATERING & EVENTS, RALEIGH, N.C.

Two hundred and six guests were invited to a bat mitzvah in Raleigh, N.C., by an invitation hand-delivered by “Prince Charming.” The event team created a royal winter wonderland in a country club ballroom, despite the fact that no hanging or affixed decor was allowed, with tabletop elements such as candlelight, mounds of snow, white floral and silver-and-white-striped tent turrets.

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL: BUDGET $500 AND ABOVE PER GUEST

SOMEONE'S IN THE KITCHEN, TARZANA, CALIF.

Keying on the theme “Indulge,” Someone's in the Kitchen helped the hostess — a respected TV personality — treat her friends to an evening with a slightly naughty side. The event team spent a week transforming a tennis court into a nightclub, which featured a live mermaid at the sushi bar, a human “porcupine” sporting skewered sweets at the caramel fountain, and the team of “whipped cream boy and bonbon girl,” who popped a bonbon into guests' mouths and followed it with a whipped cream chaser. Singer/songwriter Fiona Apple made a surprise appearance.

BEST EVENT MARKETING CAMPAIGN

XA: THE EXPERIENTIAL AGENCY, NEW YORK

XA brought Real Simple magazine's pages to life with a five-week “Holiday Solutions” mall tour targeting female shoppers. The event team set up custom “living rooms” in high-traffic malls featuring “entertaining,” “style,” “beauty” and “gift giving” environments offering an experience, idea or amenity to guests. The “entertaining” section, for example, offered easy recipes and tips on how to clean up after party guests go home, including giving attendees the chance to test a vacuum cleaner from advertiser Dyson. More than 100,000 consumers visited the events, and TV coverage created another 330,000 broadcast impressions.

BEST THEATRICAL ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCTION

VOK DAMS GROUP, WUPPERTAL, GERMANY

Vok Dams Group helped cosmetics giant Lancome elevate the role of both makeup and makeup artists by inaugurating the “makeup artist of the year” award. The event team dropped the traditional staging for awards programs, opting instead to create a huge “art space” at Berlin's E-Werk venue. The program showcased young makeup artists at work and showed the nexus between makeup and fashion, symbolizing the upscale Lancome brand with filigree projections and the company's signature “rose” image.

BEST THEME DECOR: TOTAL DECOR BUDGET UNDER $20,000

HIGH RISE EVENTS, LAS VEGAS

Bringing the theme “April Showers Bring May Flowers” alive for a bridal shower at an upscale hotel, High Rise Events seated guests at tables topped with pink umbrellas drizzling crystal bead “raindrops.” Background music included the tunes “Singing in the Rain” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” Two oval tables swathed in pink linen dressed with sheer chocolate-brown lattice overlays provided the backdrop for an abundant array of spring flowers including roses, peonies and irises. The blooms sat atop a moss garden runner under pink Battenburg lace umbrellas accented with chocolate-brown satin bows and nosegays of pink roses.

BEST THEME DECOR: TOTAL DECOR BUDGET $20,000 TO $50,000

TOTAL EVENT RESOURCES, SCHAUMBURG, ILL./TIMOT MCGONAGLE, NASHVILLE, TENN.

A 28-bay truck service center was transformed into a VIP party site thanks to a “industrial luxe” decor scheme. A wall of eight tractor-trailers in the colors of the company's logo created a striking visual while reining in the space. Images of trucks and logos showed up in sly ways — as ice sculptures, in gobos and imprinted on candies that embellished the dessert course. Each dinner table was pin-spotted and topped with a centerpiece made of raised wheel and bolt covers.

BEST THEME DECOR: TOTAL DECOR BUDGET ABOVE $50,000

EVENTWORKS, LOS ANGELES

To help its hotel client celebrate the launch of its chic new brand, EventWorks re-created New York's Spice Market restaurant with its seamless blend of Moroccan, Middle Eastern and ultra-hip elements. The outside of the event tent was washed in color, breakout patterns and custom gobos of the client's logo. Once they stepped inside, guests found the tent's sidewalls and ceiling draped in luxurious, chocolate-brown fabric, and fabric chandeliers overhead.

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: BUDGET UNDER $100,000

HARITH PRODUCTIONS LTD., WILLOW GROVE, PA./DESIGNS BY SEAN, DANIA, FLA.

The event team demonstrated that its client was willing to go the distance for its recognition event by taking award-winners all the way to remote Lake Bennett in Canada's Yukon Territory. Guests were transported via vintage train to a site 2,800 feet above sea level, putting them “on top of the world.” The event team created centerpieces using native flora and painted chair covers with totem pole designs. The menu featured local specialties including Alaskan king crab legs, wild Copper River salmon and reindeer sausage.

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: OVERALL BUDGET $100,000 TO $249,999

TOTAL EVENT RESOURCES, SCHAUMBURG, ILL.

Total Event Resources helped its client introduce its new brand identity with a team-building event that took 500 attendees from around the world on a tour of Chicago. Using a format based on the hit TV show “The Amazing Race,” participants collected custom branded items at each stop, including logo'd coins each time they completed a challenge and puzzle pieces that when combined created an image of the new logo and the Chicago skyline.

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: OVERALL BUDGET $250,000 TO $500,000

EVENTWORKS, LOS ANGELES

EventWorks took 1,700 guests of its hotelier client to “Dream Park” — an experiential event featuring a rich array of spectacle and sound. Guests entered the ballroom through an illuminated tunnel to find the unexpected, such as food stations dubbed “Dunk,” “Sear,” “Freeze” and “Flame.” Metallic cages housing go-go dancers were hoisted on scissor lifts, followed by techno/performance-art band Mutaytor.

BEST EVENT PRODUCED FOR A CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION: OVERALL BUDGET ABOVE $500,000

MGM MIRAGE EVENTS, LAS VEGAS/MGM GRAND PRODUCTIONS, LAS VEGAS

MGM Mirage Events and MGM Grand Productions teamed up to create “L'Affaire,” a New Year's Eve party staged on three levels of the MGM Grand Hotel, the French theme honoring the property's newly opened Joel Robuchon restaurant. Decor for the pre-function spaces mixed stately floral with sultry models, including one beauty perched on a velvet swing within a wrought-iron cage. Guests then entered a ballroom featuring 14-foot-tall, pod-like structures and dramatic floral chandeliers.