Jessica Brooks has lots of updates for her LinkedIn page. Now all she has to do is find the time to make them.

Brooks, vice president of operations for the Crystal Gardens Banquet Center, in Howell, was already overseeing general operations as well as advertising and marketing for five sister banquet centers when, in 2007, she launched a new offpremise catering service for the business. “I actually started that program as part of my master’s program,” says Brooks, who earned a Master of Science degree in general administration from Central Michigan University, also in 2007.

The new service paid off nicely for Crystal Gardens; its new revenue offset slow bookings at the existing venues during the economic downturn. The off-premise portion of the business is now working so well that it is operating on “cruise control,” Brooks says.

Newer still on Brooks’ project list is The Dress Shop, a bridal gown store in Howell. Brooks explains that Crystal Gardens has saturated its market, and a retail shop for brides was one way to expand and diversify the business. It’s also a strategy to market to the more than 1,000 would-be brides who cross Crystal Gardens’ threshold each year, even if they book their special day elsewhere.

Brooks is so dedicated to her career that she scheduled her June 2013 wedding for after the corporate events season wound down and delayed her European honeymoon for work (although Brooks makes clear her boss and Crystal Gardens were very flexible about working with her to make her wedding and honeymoon happen). She refers to the off-site catering service and the bridal shop as her “babies.”

She might change that wording soon, though. Brooks is expecting a real, live baby, slated to join the Brooks household— Jessica, husband Trevor, and dogs Max and Luci (short for Lucifer)—in May.

A conference or convention venue might be described by meeting planners as offering ease and convenience for multiple reasons. It may be because its address is easily accessible from numerous compass points. Or perhaps it’s the destination—with a variety of opportunities for activities and entertainment close-by. And of course, it could be that the venue itself offers a peaceful, easy setting with all the comforts you could want. 

Well, at Treetops Resort, it’s all of the above. 


Michigan’s university and college towns earn more than a passing grade when it comes to the venues and amenities they offer for meetings and conferences. 

Go Spartans! Go Wildcats! Go Broncos! Go Blue! 

Michigan has plenty to cheer about when it comes to campus life. According to Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the Great Lakes State ranks among the top 15 states in the country for the most post-high school institutions. Some 93 colleges and universities call Michigan home, with many of these schools operating multiple campuses. 


Options for unconventional seasonal gatherings abound across the state. 

From cities teeming with bright lights to snowy small towns, Michigan is a winter wonderland. If you’re looking for a way to make your event or post-event outing more festive, consider these unique holiday offerings. 

Peacock Road Family Farm