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Beer City Booth Wins Big

Experience Grand Rapids' sales team's traveling booth of brews wins first place and Best in Show at the 2023 American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting & Expo in Atlanta, Georgia

By Kathy Gibbons

When the Experience Grand Rapids convention sales team takes its show on the road to trade shows, it brings along an authentic piece of the Beer City USA it represents. Composed of Experience Grand Rapids, DeVos Place Convention Center, and AHC Hospitality staff, the team’s most recent booth win was first place and Best in Show at the 2023 American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting & Expo in Atlanta, Georgia.

Experience Grand Rapids' beer booth
Experience Grand Rapids’ traveling beer booth || Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids has garnered multiple accolades as a beer destination for more than a decade, and Experience Grand Rapids has helped build the brand, which has its own logo. Called the Grand Rapids Taphouse, the booth is set up to not only look like a brewery complete with local tap handles but also offer tastings to those who stop in. Besides team staff who attend, the cofounder and president of Grand Rapids’ Founders Brewing Co. is typically there to serve and discuss craft beer.

Experience Grand Rapids’ Vice President of Sales and Services Mary Manier says she and Director of Events Andie Newcomer have worked together on the project, selecting Indiana-based Wise Owl Productions to design the booth after a request for proposal process.

Currently 10-by-30 feet in size, the booth is adaptable to other sizes and themes. “We bring the same part of the booth to the Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA),” Manier says. “At RCMA, it’s not a taphouse—it’s a coffeehouse, and we serve local coffee.”

The Grand Rapids Taphouse (or other iterations of it) is traveling to five shows this year: RCMA, IMEX America, Connect Marketplace, ASAE, and U.S. Travel’s IPW. Manier says it’s key to overall convention marketing efforts. “It’s not only about what the booth looks like, but also about how we work with our partners and our own team, being energetic and welcoming. As people go by and look at our booth, we say, ‘Hey would you like to try a beer?'” Manier says. “We have had planners come up and say, ‘I never would have thought about Grand Rapids, so tell me a little bit more.

“When you walk in our booth, you could be walking into several different breweries in Grand Rapids, so it’s a true, genuine feeling,” she continues. It’s so authentic, in fact, that some forget it’s not the real thing. Newcomer describes how some 2023 ASAE attendees brought food, sat down at one of the booth’s tables, got a beer, opened their laptops, and stayed. “They leave, we clean it up just like a wait staff,” she says. “And we go, ‘OK, who’s next?'”