• 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.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better champion of Amarillo than Hope Stokes, director of brand management for the Amarillo Convention & Visitor Council. Born and raised in the Texas Panhandle city, she graduated from nearby West Texas A&M University and her first job in the tourism industry was as an intern at the council. Stokes shared with us her love of her hometown.

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Ken Hayward has spent nearly his entire career serving at one hotel. But when you start your career at one of the most iconic and historic hotels in Michigan— even the nation—it’s hard to see yourself anywhere else. Hayward, executive vice president and managing director of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, was recently named Hotelier of the Year by Historic Hotels of America. This honor comes decades after Hayward was given an unexpected opportunity.

 

A lifelon New Yorker, Emily Schmalholz was a TV producer at VH1 before moving into the events industry and landing at Westchester’s The Capitol Theatre. As director of special events at the historic space and its bar, Garcia’s, she says creating events and working in television have lots in common. “The ultimate goal for both is to tell a great story and create memorable moments.” Schmalholz, a self-described “event therapist,” had more to say about her work.

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