“Crowdsourcing" is a term of art these days. It refers to the practice of tossing out a request for information to as large a group as possible, in the belief that the best answers will percolate to the top. At MIM+E, we’ve been crowdsourcing since well before it had a name. Our annual Best of Michigan vote—now in its 10th year—asks the public to share the people, places and companies it believes are at the top of the meetings and events industry. Each year, the crowd gets bigger, and our awards get that much more exciting. And now we get to share them with you. We’ve added a couple of new categories to keep pace with industry trends and Michigan development (welcome, Best Rooftop Venue and Best Sports Venue). It’s an outstanding list of winners. Congratulations to them all!
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa
A gifted planner can turn even a dull box of a ballroom into a dazzling immersive experience. But a venue that offers varied, stimulating spaces and stellar amenities makes the planning process—and the event—that much more exciting.
The Henry Ford is a tough venue to beat when it comes to the above, which is probably why it’s our Best Meeting/Event Venue (in Detroit Metro, No Hotel) for the ninth time in 11 years. Need a gorgeous ballroom? Book Lovett Hall. Want to take your guests back in time? Take over Greenfield Village and let them tool around in Model Ts. From its historically authentic food to its staff members with a fervent dedication to their jobs, it’s easy to see why The Henry Ford is a nationally renowned destination.
Outstanding venues can be found across the state, of course, and those of you booking outside metro Detroit prefer Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, our Best Meeting/Event Venue (Outside of Detroit Metro, No Hotel). And no wonder: The 158- acre campus is stunning year-round, inside and out. Few venues can offer both exquisite art-rich settings for special events and natural escapes for breaks during corporate meetings. Meijer Gardens can.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Of all our categories, Best College/ University Venue tends to garner the most total votes. We’re passionate about our collegiate allegiances, and our readers have once again said, Go Green! With the Breslin Student Events Center, Wharton Center, Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, MSU Union and Huntington Club at Spartan Stadium, Michigan State University wins top honors as your preferred place for taking guests back to school.
Sometimes, of course, you don’t need to gather 1,000 of your closest friends. When cozy is part of your event vision, you turn to Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, a restored 42-acre working farm that is our Best Intimate Venue. “Rustic elegance” is a shopworn phrase by now, but with its barn dating from 1837 and farmhouse dining room, Cornman Farms is the sort of place it was coined for.
Barns are clearly hot, because in a year of a dizzying number of new venues coming online, the Cathedral Barn at Historic Barns Park is our Best New Venue. The former operational farm shares 56 acres of land with the Botanic Gardens, all set in one of our state’s most naturally beautiful regions. If you’re a corporate planner looking to escape the boardroom, Cathedral Barn hosts corporate meetings as well as special events.
When you want your attendees to look up and see nothing but sky, it’s time to take to the rooftops. A rooftop venue can offer unbeatable views and enough space to create several experiences in one place. And if you’re in Detroit, it can mean getting a bird’s-eye view of a Tigers game, which is probably why our readers’ pick for Best Rooftop Venue is the sports-fan haven Hockeytown Cafe.
Indeed, Michigan has a vibrant sports culture. We stick with the Lions despite everything, we savor the Michigan vs. Michigan State rivalry and we eagerly await the unveiling of the new hockey arena. Of course, sports venues host a lot more than games. The Tigers are always fun to watch, but there are plenty of good reasons to visit Comerica Park—like the fact that it can host events for groups ranging from 50 people to several thousand, in spaces ranging from the MotorCity Casino Hotel Tiger Club to the Beer Hall. It’s this year’s Best Sports Venue.
Sound and Vision
If you’ve ever attended an event in a space you know to be unremarkable, only to be dazzled by its transformation, you know the power of a planner’s vision. From table linens you can’t wait to touch to flowers stunningly arranged to lighting that instantly changes your mood, the elements that create an experience are best left to the pros.
THREE MEN and a TENOR
Audio-visual used to be about microphones and drop screens. Today, it can mean everything from holograms to virtual reality. Southfield-based Bluewater, your choice for Best Audio-Visual Provider, has been in business since 1985, when it started renting televisions out of a Southfield garage. The company has stayed in its home city, but now its meeting and event technology shows up at gatherings like the Nike Women’s Marathon and Progressive Insurance’s International Motorcycle Show.
If you want the latest, most eye-popping décor, Emerald City Designs is your company. Our readers’ choice for Best Décor Provider, helmed by David McKnight, continuously seeks out the trends richest in color, texture and detail. The company’s staff is tireless, with the result being events that are true sensory experiences.
Viviano Flower Shop
Entertainment can make or break an event; few things will kill a vibe faster than a selfabsorbed DJ or an unfunny comic. The right entertainer can take an event to a higher level, where guests feel connected and the event becomes more than a sum of its parts. There’s a boon in creative entertainment options in Michigan, making the competition for Best Entertainment Provider a tough one. You chose THREE MEN and a TENOR, a Lansing-based comedic vocal group specializing in American pop standards that has been honing its act for nearly a quarter-decade.
The name Viviano is well known in metro Detroit, and for good reason: the Viviano family has owned and operated the largest flower shop in the area for nearly 80 years. Today Viviano Flower Shop, your choice for Best Florist, has five locations and more than 130 employees, and it’s run by the third generation of Vivianos to enter the flower business (read our profile of Paul Viviano on page 72).
We all want to savor the memories of our important events. But memory is a faulty thing, and sometimes cool stuff happens when we’re not looking. That’s why we hire photographers, and depend on them to see the meaningful moments we’ll want to return to over and over. Our readers’ choice for Best Photographer is Sarah Brown Photography, in the photo-opportunity-rich Traverse City.
The Inn at St. John's
Meet, Stay and Play
Meetings can be long and events (especially the good ones) can run late. That’s when it’s really nice to just take off your heels and pad down the hall to your hotel room. The best allinclusive venues have to fire on all cylinders. They need comfy, appealing rooms, tasty food and fun stuff to do. And, for our audience, they need excellent meeting and event space and a knowledgeable staff. That’s a tall order.
The landmark Inn at St. John’s, our Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (Fewer than 200 Guest Rooms), fills that order year after year. The one-of-a-kind venue boasts Romanesque architecture, with marble floors and soaring ceilings. It includes a 118-room hotel, a 27-hole golf course and the popular 5ive restaurant. In other words, once you’ve checked into the Inn at St. John’s, you have no good reason to leave.
When your group needs a lot of room to itself, our readers chose Grand Traverse Resort and Spa as Best Hotel with Meeting/ Event Space (More than 200 Guest Rooms). It’s not hard to see why: Keeping a few hundred people occupied on the 900-acre Grand Traverse property is a pretty manageable task. From golfing to hitting the private beach to soaking in the spa, guests have plenty of ways to unwind. The 600 guest rooms and condos and 86,500 square feet of flexible meeting space make Grand Traverse an excellent choice for large groups.
There are probably many reasons our readers chose MGM Grand Detroit as Best Casino. On the list would be the casino’s two Wolfgang Puck restaurants; its luxurious hotel rooms; and its Immerse Spa, which, based on the national recognition it routinely garners, could argue its case for being the best spa in the state. MGM’s on-site lounges and nightclub offer lively entertainment options and, of course, there’s the casino itself. Bringing a group to MGM? Consider offering blackjack lessons to your guests before they hit the gaming floor.
Zingerman's Catering and Events
Food and Beverage
Michigan’s natural bounty is nearly unmatched around the country. But growing a wide range of fruits and vegetables and knowing what to do with them are not the same thing. Historically, we haven’t been a state known for our cuisine or our libations. But that has changed, big time.
Zingerman’s helped put Michigan on the national culinary map well before eating local was a trend. The company is known for getting the most gourmet, highest quality ingredients available, and sourcing food from local farms (including its own) when it can. You chose the company’s catering division as Best Caterer, making Zingerman’s Catering and Events the only winner in the food-and-beverage category that doesn’t hail from the Traverse City area. Demand for its services pull it to events all over the Midwest, and it offers menus for virtually every dietary preference and need.
Short’s Brewing Co. finally surrendered this year. The Bellaire brewery had proudly shipped only to Michigan. But its brews are outstanding (probably why Michigan distribution jumped 25 percent in 2015, and why readers chose Short’s as this year’s Best Craft Brewery/Brewpub) and the clamoring from across state lines eventually became too raucous to ignore. Short’s now distributes in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. The rest of the nation no doubt awaits its turn.
Short's Brewing Co.
When you want a distinctive, delicious dining experience for your guests in a visually appealing restaurant setting, you turn to Red Ginger, this year’s Best Restaurant with Private Dining Space. The Asian-fusion restaurant in downtown Traverse City is the project of Pam and Dan Marsh (Dan is the restaurant’s executive chef) and offers cocktails with names like the Red Dragon martini, sushi and dishes inspired by nearly the entire Asian continent, and beautifully appointed private dining spaces.
Dessert, it seems, is the new black. Event planners that want to end the night with a bang are turning to sugar wizards to create gourmet desserts, artfully presented. And our readers know that, in this realm as in so many, experience counts. Kilwins Chocolates, Fudge & Ice Cream, our readers’ choice for Best Sweets Provider, has been in operation for nearly 70 years. Its locations have spread across the country, but each stop into a Kilwins still somehow feels like a step back to a more charming time, with the shops’ emphasis on the classics.
Hop on the homepage for Chateau Chantal—our reader’s pick for Best Winery— and just try to not be seized by a desire to go there, as soon as possible. The sprawling property on the Old Mission Peninsula has unbeatable views. The French-style bed-andbreakfast and vineyards make for an exceptional escape; guests can take tours and cooking classes, or just watch a sunset while sipping a nice glass of riesling.
Golf and Ski
There’s border-to-border natural beauty to enjoy in our state, and we tend to like to have some sort of metal implement in our hands when taking it in. Golfing and skiing are favorite Michigan pastimes, and our resorts know how to make everyone from newbies to pros feel at home.
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa has greens so good it hosted the Michigan Open for nearly three decades. This year’s Best Golf Resort runs its own golf academy and routinely scoops up national recognition for the excellence of its courses (which include The Bear, Michigan’s first Jack Nicklaus’ signature course). And because no one can play golf 24 hours a day, Grand Traverse offers packages that combine the sport with visits to its spa and stays in its hotel.
Boyne Resorts is a frequent winner of the award for Best Ski Resort, and this year is no different. The trifecta of northern Michigan properties (Boyne Highlands Resort, Boyne Mountain Resort and Inn at Bay Harbor), offers every iteration of skiing between them, and finds plenty of creative things to do while on skis, from its Brew-Ski Festival to ski racing. Then there’s tubing, snowshoeing, fat tire snow biking, ice skating and horseback riding— and those are just the resorts’ outdoor, cold-weather activities. Meeting planners will be happy with the 37,500 square feet of meeting space; the only challenge will be keeping attendees inside.
Ask any successful company in just about any industry for the secret to its success, and the answer almost certainly will be customer service. The importance of service is a truism for good reason—we quickly develop loyalty to the companies and organizations that treat us well.
Convention and visitors bureaus persuade planners and the public that their region is a desirable destination. Traverse City Tourism is your choice for Best Convention & Visitors Bureau, a recognition it wins year after year. It might be easy to assume that the bureau has a no-brainer job—after all, Traverse City is breathtakingly beautiful and abounds in activities of all stripes. But it also takes time and effort to get there, and historically wasn’t nearly as well known outside of the state as within it. That has changed significantly, thanks to the bureau.
Now that TC is a top location of choice for destination events in Michigan, Events North, owned by past Hall of Fame inductee Allison Beers, is a go-to company for locals and visitors alike. The company manages some of the top event venues in the area, and prides itself on its transparency and refusal to jack rates on goods and services from suppliers in order to get a cut. With a customer focus like that, it’s no wonder Events North was voted Best Event Planning Company.
Meetings are not always anticipated by attendees with excitement. That’s too bad, because effective meetings can leave attendees intellectually enriched, professionally motivated and personally connected. That’s the difference a top-notch meeting planner can make. Association Management Resources (AMR), our readers’ pick for Best Meeting Planning Company, has been in the field for 25 years. With locations in Ann Arbor and Okemos and 17 employees, AMR has healthy meeting-planning muscles to flex.
Ask a planner for his or her worst eventdisaster story, and you’ll likely hear about chairs that didn’t show up or linens in the wrong color. It’s no wonder that planners are passionate about rental companies that prioritize service and are available to troubleshoot on a dime. David McKnight makes no bones about being a perfectionist who is zealously dedicated to his clients, and it’s that commitment that makes Emerald City Designs this year’s Best Rental Company.
Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
Planners depend on their venue for a lot— sometimes, for everything, from lodging to catering, meeting space and recreation. A venue that distinguishes itself with excellent service is golden. Step inside the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and even the ambience feels solicitous. The staff prides itself on working with planners to creatively adapt spaces and create exceptional experiences. The hotel is this year’s winner for Best Service (Meeting/ Event Venue).
Experience is a key differentiator for many of this year’s honorees. Our winner for Best Transportation can certainly claim that mantle. Metro Cars has been providing luxury transportation throughout southeast Michigan and Grand Rapids for more than 25 years. When you need to move your guests around quickly, securely and timely, Metro Cars is the go-to.