Calhoun County offers planners the charm of country living and the cultural and recreational amenities of an urban area.
Located in southern Michigan, midway between Detroit and Chicago, the county is home to three cities: Battle Creek, Marshall and Albion. The area offers 1,500 hotel rooms and hosts several events each year. (Our favorite is the annual Battle Creek Cereal Festival, which boasts the World’s Longest Breakfast Table courtesy of Battle Creek’s three cereal companies, Kellogg’s, Post and Ralston.)
“Calhoun County offers an amazing array of meeting options to match all your needs,” says Linda Freybler, CEO of the Calhoun County Visitors Bureau. “Hotels, conference space, restaurants and entertainment venues are all located within minutes of each other.”
In historic Marshall, groups can stroll the town’s picturesque streets lined with antique shops, restaurants and museums.
For those looking for a venue rich in history, Schuler’s Restaurant and Pub offers seven meeting rooms and can host meetings for two to 200 people. The 105-year-old restaurant is still family-owned and offers groups the choice of a strolling reception, passed apps, plated meals or buffet. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the building, and a full range of audio-visual equipment is offered.
“Our staff handles all of the event details, from custom room setup to menu planning,” says Shondel Neal, Schuler’s vice president and sales director. “Wine pairings/tastings and tours of the restaurant are also available with advance planning.”
Another distinctive venue is the Bohm Theatre in Albion. After being “asleep” for the past six years, according to its executive director, Lee-Perry Belleau, the Bohm is scheduling workshops and conferences for 2015, following a $3.7 million restoration that brought the movie theater back to its early 20thcentury glory. Able to seat 398 in the auditorium and 50 at tables and chairs onstage, Belleau says that planners will find a state-of-the-art projection system, a working stage with lighting and sound and new comfortable seating nestled in a 1920s ambiance.
A Surefire Bet for a Successful Event
For those planning a larger event, FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek can host approximately 2,000 people in a theater setting in its event center, or 1,000 people banquet-style. The venue offers nine function rooms totaling 20,642 square feet and amenities such as an on-site banquet kitchen with custom menus available, an on-site event designer and professional audio-visual technical support services.
FireKeepers also offers several on-site restaurants, luxury hotel rooms and suites, and, of course, its casino, with thousands of slot machines, a poker room, a high-limit lounge and more.
“Our staff is always prepared to jump in and make things happen at any time,” says Tara Forrester, FireKeepers’ catering sales manager. “We were supplying off-site catering for a movie set last year. They had scheduled lunches for their entire crew. The day before production was scheduled to begin at 6 a.m., we received a text at 10 p.m. asking if they could add breakfast as well. We rallied together to create a menu and prep the food by the 4 a.m. call time the next morning.”
Getting Down to Business
The Holiday Inn Battle Creek prides itself on its guest service. Able to accommodate up to 300 people, Holiday Inn Battle Creek has an executive boardroom that can seat up to 15 people and a 3,500-square-foot ballroom that can be split in half. Perfect for planners on a budget, it has hosted events that cost as little as $150.
“We cater to the budgets of our guests but never skimp on quality,” says Wendy Rominger, corporate sales manager. “Quality is our nameplate, and our dedication to the details is the key to success in any event.”
The McCamly Plaza Hotel in Battle Creek is also known for going out of its way to please guests. “One time a group wanted to build a life-size room all made out of cereal and leave it on display for a month as a piece of artwork,” says Patty Stiglich, McCamly Plaza’s senior sales manager. “We were able to accommodate the request.”
The full-service hotel features 16 rooms of various sizes, including a penthouse meeting space on its 16th floor boasting a bird’s-eye view of Cereal City that’s perfect for social and corporate events. The property can assist groups of up to 1,100, and for those planning a larger gathering, McCamly is conveniently attached to the 30,000-square-foot Kellogg Arena.
If you’re planning a tech-savvy function, The Kendall Center Conference Facility at Western Michigan University offers a two-way interactive video conference studio. It also features classrooms for breakout sessions, two networked computer labs ideal for training and audio-visual support personnel.
Calhoun County offers several venues that make great guest outings, like the Binder Park Zoo (open seasonally), located on 433 acres outside of Battle Creek. The zoo’s attractions include one of the country’s largest giraffe herds. It offers a range of educational programming and lively special events, especially in the fall (check out its annual beer tasting festival, Bonteboktoberfest).
The Gilmore Car Museum is spread out over 90 acres in Hickory Corners. Explore the 1930s Shell gas station or the collection of more than 400 historic vehicles and 365 vintage motorcycles, including a 1930 Rolls-Royce that was a personal gift from Walt Disney to the museum’s founder. The Gilmore hosts events in its Carriage House, a historic barn that can accommodate groups of up to 60, and in its Automotive Heritage Center, which offers both a gallery that can accommodate up to 160 for a seated event and a multimedia theater with seating for 60. Corporate events also have the option of taking over George and Sally’s Blue Moon Diner, which dates from 1941 and can seat 32.