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.

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 



After 36 years as director of the CVB, Peter Fitzsimons is retiring. By Shelley Levitt

In 1985, Peter Fitzsimons, a former hotel general manager, became the executive director of the newly formed Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau. He never left. In June, the 73-year-old Detroit native announced that he’d be stepping down from the role at the end of the year. 

MIM+E: When did you begin your career in hospitality?


League City CVB manager Stephanie Polk shares her career journey.

Originally from Kentwood, Louisiana, Stephanie Polk, TDM, CTE, first made her mark on the travel and tourism industry as director of marketing for the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau. There, she helped to elevate the city as a destination for recreation travelers and business groups. Wowed by her accomplishments, in 2020, League City brought her on board to lead its marketing efforts. She shares with us highlights and advice from her experience in the industry.