• The Sky's the Limit for Keisha Makonese

     
    POSTED April 9, 2020
     

Denver native Keisha Makonese’s passion for planning events dates way back. Her latest gig as director of sales and corporate events at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum began nine years ago. In this role, Makonese helps oversee an average of 150 private events at Wings Over the Rockies each year, from making meetings for 20 people to annual dinners for 2,000 fun and interactive experiences.

“I love seeing all of these events transform,” she says. “My role is to network, bring in new groups and destination management companies (DMCs), develop and bring in unique clients and manage the whole event scheme.”

Wings Over the Rockies is housed in an old airplane hangar built in 1938, located on what used to be Lowry Air Force Base in east Denver. With 55 different aircraft on-site and roughly 40,000 square feet of event space, the sky is truly the limit in terms of making a clients’ vision come to life. “Wings is unique as one of the largest venues in Denver and definitely the coolest,” Makonese says.

Clients vary from military and corporate to most notably the American Idol Denver auditions with Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. However, Wings Over the Rockies is more than just a venue, it is a nonprofit that relies on education, youth, community outreach and volunteers, too.

“I’m meeting all kinds of people from around the world. I like coming to work, and not many people can say that,” she notes. Before Wings Over the Rockies, Makonese held a similar position at The Wildlife Experience, an art gallery and natural history museum that hosted galas and other various functions, and coordinated weddings and corporate events for Denver Botanic Gardens. She says, “I went from flowers to animals to aerospace.”

For Andrea Mokros, Minneapolis-based public relations executive and independent event consultant, the last decade has been a whirlwind. From serving as special assistant to President Obama and director of strategic planning for then-first lady Michelle Obama, to welcoming newcomers to the Bold North as the vice president of communications and events for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, Mokros shares the key takeaways that inspire her work today. 

 

Tony Michaels is no stranger to navigating choppy waters. The CEO and executive director of The Parade Company, which puts on traditions like America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Ford Fireworks, took the helm of the Detroit nonprofit during tough times, at the height of the financial crisis. “2008, 2009, are you kidding me?” says Michaels.

 

Originally from Ontario, Heather Odendaal got her start in event planning early, serving as her high school’s head of social events. She ended up on the West Coast, courtesy of her studies at the University of British Columbia, and launched her career in Whistler, working for the resort in marketing and events. Today, she’s CEO of Bluebird Strategy, a boutique event planning firm, and CEO and founder of WNORTH, a global community of women who have their sights set on the C-suite.