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Home Production Best of Awards Illinois M+E Best of 2019 Winners

Illinois M+E Best of 2019 Winners

By Melissa Sersland

Best AudioVisual Provider

Top A/V tips from AV Chicago:

1. Always consult with your A/V provider prior to signing your venue contract.
2. Include your A/V provider in any preconference meetings with the venue and clients when applicable.
3. Ask questions! Your A/V team is there to help!

ILM+E: What was one of the coolest projects you’ve worked on in the past year?
AV Chicago: Projection mapping video across nine screens using a Green Hippo media server, which led to receiving the NACE ILEA Chicago Excellence – N.I.C.E. Award in 2019 for Best Use of Production for a Corporate Event or Fundraiser/ Nonprofit Event.

Runners-up: PSAV; FROST

Best Catering Company (On- or Off-Site)
Blue Plate Catering

ILM+E: What was one of your favorite menus that you have prepared recently?
Blue Plate: Blue Plate recently partnered with the Field Museum, Mantra by Indian Garden and Yanni Design Studio to host a destination dinner—Spicy Soirée—with décor and cuisine that transported guests to Southeast Asia. The evening featured expertly curated hors d’oeuvres by Mantra, cocktails and a three-course menu by Blue Plate, as well as a chef demo and henna artists.

Runners-up: Food For Thought; Tasty Catering

Best Brewery/Winery/Distillery
City Winery Chicago

ILM+E: What is something clients don’t know about City Winery that sets the space apart?
City Winery: City Winery Chicago is a fully-functioning winery, restaurant, private event space and live concert venue. We serve wine made on-site, and guests have the option to create a custom label bottle of wine for any event. ILM+E: What was one of your favorite events that you hosted in the last year? City Winery: We had the pleasure of hosting a surprise birthday party that truly transformed our main dining room space into a Moroccan-themed lounge.

Runners-up: Revolution Brewing; CH Distillery

Best Convention & Visitors Bureau (in Chicagoland)
Meet Chicago Northwest

ILM+E: What sets your organization apart?
Meet Chicago Northwest: Our third-party clients always comment on how complimentary our sales department is to that of their organizations—making sourcing and servicing their business seamless.

ILM+E: Are there any upcoming developments that planners should know about?
Meet Chicago Northwest: The Village of Schaumburg has announced the development of an entertainment and mixed-use district adjacent to the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel. Our first attraction development, Topgolf, is under construction.

Runners-up: Choose Chicago; Rosemont Convention Bureau

Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center

Best Conference or Resort Venue
Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center

The Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center has completed a four-year renovation. The final phases included a full room renovation with a new color scheme to the window treatments, furniture and carpeting; new bathroom fixtures and custom wood barn bathroom doors; and new carpet and LED lighting in the corridors.

$29 million renovation now completed
42,500 square feet of IACC conference center meeting space
386 guest rooms and suites
36 meeting spaces

Runners-up: Lincolnshire Marriott Resort; Catalyst Ranch

Best Convention & Visitors Bureau (Outside Chicagoland)
Greater Galena Marketing Inc.

Proudest accomplishments over the past year:
» We secured the 2019 Circle Wisconsin annual event, which is the first time it has ever been hosted out of Wisconsin.
» We’ve surpassed 100,000 followers on Facebook.
» We survived the polar vortex and welcomed more visitors in January 2019 than we’ve ever welcomed in any January from prior years.

ILM+E: What sets your organization apart?
Greater Galena Marketing Inc.: We’re a tiny but mighty team! We do most design and promotional content prep/layout inhouse, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This allows us to completely control our promotions and own our authenticity

Runners-up: Visit Champaign County; Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Best Destination Management Company
360 Destination Group

Proud accomplishments over the past year:
» We increased sales by 55 percent year over year in 2018, while welcoming five new faces to our team and touching a total of 28,000 attendees across 32 Chicagoland hotels. It was a record-breaking year!
» Our General Manager Michelle Castady Orlando, DMCP, was recently named DMC Professional of the Year by the Association of Destination Management Executives International.

Runners-up: CTC Destination Management; ACCESS Destination Services – Chicago

Best Entertainment (Performer or Talent Agency)
BeatMix Music

ILM+E: What’s new for 2019?
BeatMix Music: We are expanding our offices to include a full, state-of-the-art sound stage and rehearsal/dance studio with recording and filming capabilities. We’re looking forward to creating more of our own unique offerings, and BeatMix Rehearsal Studios will be available to the public for hourly or project-based rentals by June 2019.

ILM+E: What advice do you have for planners?
BeatMix Music: The more information planners can provide when seeking entertainment, the better.

Runners-up: Fig Media Inc.; Magnificent Events

Kehoe Designs​

Best Event Décor/ Florist
Kehoe Designs

In the past year, Kehoe Designs launched a new division, BlackOak Technical Productions. BlackOak Technical Productions grew out of Kehoe Designs’ lighting department and is led by Kehoe Designs founder Tom Kehoe and Managing Director Adam McCarthy.

ILM+E: What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?
Kehoe Designs: The challenge of coming up with something new, staying current and exciting and continually exceeding client expectations.

Runners-up: HMR Designs; Revel Decor

Best Historic or Cultural Venue
Chicago Cultural Center

A look at the Chicago Cultural Center’s history:​

1897: The Chicago Cultural Center is completed as the city’s first central public library.
1920: The Chicago Public Library begins to outgrow its building with the addition of its circulation and reference departments, library for the blind, children’s library and music library.
1964: The City of Chicago plans to tear down the building; preservationists and politicians fight to save the building.
1972: The Chicago Public Library building is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1991: The Chicago Public Library moves to Harold Washington Library Center and the building becomes the Chicago Cultural Center.

Runners-up: Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago; The Field Museum

Best Holiday Party Venue
The Geraghty

The Geraghty, a venue owned and operated by Kehoe Designs, features 25,000 square feet of open space with 22-foot ceilings.

ILM+E: What sets The Geraghty apart from other Chicago venues?
The Geraghty: How proactive and nimble the space is. Despite our large footprint, we often transform the space to accommodate 100-1,500 guests. The Geraghty was built to be completely customizable to inspire innovation and to allow event design – ers to create captivating experiences with flawless execution. Runners-up: Topgolf; The Drake, a Hilton Hotel

Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (Less than 350 Guest Rooms) 
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

Originally an elite men’s social and sports club that opened in 1893, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel reopened on Michigan Avenue four years ago following a three-year renovation. So far in 2019, the hotel was voted by readers of the Chicago Tribune to have the best views in the city from its rooftop restaurant and bar, Cindy’s. The hotel’s team members have also been nominated for HSMAI’s Rookie of the Year and Sales Team of the Year awards.

Runners-up: The Gwen, A Luxury Collection Hotel; Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago

Best New Venue
Theater on the Lake

Theater on the Lake reopened in 2017 following a renovation, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and a 3-acre Lakefront Green space adjacent to the building. The space can accommodate 500 for a seated dinner and more than 1,200 people reception-style including its terrace, surrounding green space and patio space. Theater on the Lake has been named a Best New Event Space by Crain’s Chicago Business, and the Lakefront Restaurant has been named one of the best places for a business lunch by Crain’s.

Runners-up: The Dalcy; Tao Chicago (tie); Rockwell on the River (tie)

Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (More than 350 Guest Rooms)
Palmer House Hilton

ILM+E: What makes the hotel unique?
Palmer House Hilton: Believing the hotel’s Grand and State ballrooms would host royalty, presidents and celebrities, the Palmer family instructed the architects to build a green room one floor below with a separate staircase going directly up to the back of the Grand Ballroom. This was used, for instance, 20 years ago during the launch of George Magazine when John F. Kennedy Jr. was slated to speak to a crowd of 1,500 people.

Runners-up: LondonHouse Chicago; The Drake, a Hilton Hotel

Best Meeting/Event Venue (No Hotel)
Morgan Manufacturing

Morgan Manufacturing offers 20,000 square feet of meeting space split between three spaces with six skylights and a 23-foot built-in bar.

ILM+E: What sets the venue apart?
Morgan Manufacturing: Our clients are often surprised to learn the variety of furniture options that are included with the rental of the space, as well as the customizable LED lighting feature throughout the facility.

ILM+E: What is new for 2019?
Morgan Manufacturing: We’ll continue to expand our audio-visual production capabilities and distinctive furniture offerings.

Runners-up: Spiaggia; 19 East

Best Nightlife Event Space
ROOF on theWit

2018 was ROOF on theWit’s most successful year in private events. The venue has also recently received the following recognitions:
» #1 Hotel in America for 2017 and 2018 for Guest Satisfaction & Loyalty for Hilton
» #1 Nightclub in Chicago 2018 from Nightclub & Bar Media
» Named one of the top three rooftop bars in the world from Travel + Leisure

Runners-up: Revel Fulton Market; LH Rooftop

Chicago Botanic Garden​

Best Outdoor or Rooftop Venue
Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden was named a finalist in 2018 for a Catersource ACE Award and received a Leadership Award for the organization’s work with the Windy City Harvest Program by the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council. This summer, planners can enjoy a farm-to-table dinner experience in the Fruit & Vegetable Garden. Groups can also mingle with a garden horticulturist during cocktail hour as part of the garden’s Bees and Beyond program to learn more about the importance of pollinators.

Runners-up: Ignite Glass Studios; Ravinia (tie); Millennium Park (tie)

Best Photography/Videography
Rick Aguilar Studios

ILM+E: What were some of the highlights of the past year?
Rick Aguilar Studios: One of our highlights last year for the studio was being chosen by Illinois Meetings + Events magazine readers for 2018’s Best Photography/ Videography award. We also photographed a spectacular 50th anniversary party for an international manufacturing company that brought in from all over the world the CEOs of their Fortune 500 corporate partners.

Runners-up: Edward Fox Photography & Video; Fred Fox Studios (tie); Jennifer Girard Photography (tie)

Best Private Dining Space in a Restaurant

Carnivale can host 10-1,000 people in its seven event spaces. The restaurant utilizes its rooftop garden to grow vegetables and herbs for the restaurant’s menu. The garden is personally cared for by Carnivale’s chefs.

pounds of tomatoes yielded in a single season
52 gallons of hot sauce made in-house each year
30 recycled planting boxes
13 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, 6 varieties of chili peppers,
10 herbs and 6 kinds of edible flowers grown

Runners-up: Spiaggia; City Winery Chicago

Best Renovation
The Metropolitan

The $10 million renovation of The Metropolitan, one of the original tenants of the Willis Tower in 1974, was completed Nov. 3, 2018.

ILM+E: What were some of the highlights of The Metropolitan’s renovation?
The Metropolitan: The reinvention is evocative of Frank Lloyd Wright design with nods to the steel frame of the Willis Tower and the natural hues of Lake Michigan. The club takes up both the 66th and 67th floors of the Willis Tower, which are both available for members and guests to use as private event spaces.

Runners-up: St. Jane Chicago; Rockit Bar & Grill

BBJ Linen

Best Rental Service Provider
BBJ Linen

BBJ Linen celebrated a major milestone in 2018, honoring its 35th year in business. The company recently went through a corporate rebrand with a new website and new logo. In the past two years, BBJ Linen has launched 200 new fabrics with a variety of different patterns, prints and solids.

Runners-up: Hall’s Rental Service; Windy City Linen

Best Transportation Provider
Windy City Limousine

ILM+E: What did your team accomplish in the last year that you were particularly proud of?
Windy City: 1. In 2018 and 2019, we were selected as the transportation provider for 26 major sponsors for the Super Bowl. 2. This year, Windy City was proud to win the Excellence in Service category for the 2019 Samsara Top Fleet Awards. We also earned the LCT 2019 Bus Operator of the Year Award.

Runners-up: Aries Charter Transportation Inc.; Signature Transportation Group

Best Team-Building
Topgolf Naperville

ILM+E: What is something your team has accomplished that you are particularly proud of?
Topgolf: We are very proud of our commitment to our local community and giving back. In 2018, Topgolf Naperville associates volunteered 557 hours toward some of our local nonprofits including: Loaves and Fishes, Ronald McDonald House, Feed My Starving Children, DuPage PADs, Make-a-Wish and Adopt Animal Shelter.

Runners-up: Corporate Event Interactive; WhirlyBall

Best Venue Outside Chicagoland
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa recently completed a renovation of the Forum Convention Center, the resort’s largest conference space. The renovation aligns with the resort’s 25th birthday celebration. The Forum Convention Center has over 13,000 square feet of meeting space, a private entrance and an outdoor patio. The resort has also updated its boardrooms and Grand Suite.

square feet of meeting space
1,300 acres on the property
609 guest rooms

Runners-up: The Abbey Resort; Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Best Venue on the Water
Odyssey Lake Michigan Entertainment Cruises

While getting out on Lake Michigan is a well-loved Chicago summer pastime, many do not realize the Odyssey cruises year-round, says Dan Russell, regional vice president of Entertainment Cruises. “The sparkling winter landscape affords stunning views of Chicago’s skyline that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the city,†Russell says.

Last year, the Odyssey extended its upscale, temperature-controlled dining experience to the Chicago River with a glass-enclosed vessel that offers 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding architecture.

Runners-up: Chicago’s First Lady Cruises; Anita Dee Yacht Charters