Congratulations to the winners!

Best Meeting/Event Planning Company
Emerald City Designs 

Looking for a one-stop shop for all your event needs? Look no further. “Emerald City Designs, The Special Event Group, is an all-in-one convenient event group where our clients can find all of their event planning, floral, rental, design and stationery needs for all types of events,” says owner and founder David C. McKnight. “We do not have to work with separate vendors for each of these services as we offer everything here in-house. Our skilled and experienced planners take pride in developing your event from start to finish. Our event planning options pave the way for you to enjoy the process and your event day. Our day-of coordinating package is the perfect fit if you are looking for extra support on the event day to organize, manage and execute the plans that you have already arranged.”

Runners-up: Special D Events, Top That! Event

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Best Resort/Lodge
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa 

With four seasons of adventure and 86,500 square feet of event space, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa beckons you to leave behind the rigors of everyday life and experience the extraordinary outdoors. “Our 900-acre property is one of the Midwest’s finest year-round resorts featuring over 500 guest rooms, 54 holes of championship golf, a full-service spa, upscale dining and shopping, and incredible meeting and event space,” says Caroline Rizzo, public relations manager. “We believe you can come to Grand  Traverse Resort and Spa and find everything you are looking for. From beautiful conference facilities to fine dining, entertainment, relaxation and fun, the resort is surrounded by northern Michigan’s true beauty and we are excited to share it with you.

Runners-up: Crystal Mountain Resort; Grand Hotel Mackinac Island 

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Best Convention + Visitors Bureau (More Than 50,000 in Population)  
Detroit Metro CVB 

It’s all about the team. The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau has a talented and knowledgeable staff, including many members that have been with the CVB for decades. Their wisdom and expertise create opportunities to mentor new team members, help guide meeting planners through successful events and create positive experiences for visitors. Newer team members bring a fresh perspective and innovative ideas. 

Bureau leadership has also been a key to success, by building a strong foundation and creating a family-friendly atmosphere. Larry Alexander, DMCVB president and CEO explains, “Years of hospitality and customer service expertise, coupled with new ideas and fresh perspectives, helps the DMCVB staff work together to drive metro Detroit into the future to increase tourism and meetings. In cooperation with our hospitality partners, we are confident that Detroit will continue to transform as a vibrant destination.”

Runners-up: Experience Grand Rapids; Traverse City Tourism 

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Best Caterer (On- or Off-site) 
Zingerman's Catering and Events 

Great food is expected, but great service is a game-changer. Zingerman’s Catering and Events makes every occasion a memorable experience for its guests. “Everyone says that good customer service is important, but we’ve been training our staff specifically in great service since 1982. Great service is one of our bottom lines, along with great food and great finance,” says Terra Brock, event manager. “We’ve written books about it, taught seminars on it, and been nominated for a James Beard Award for our service; we live and breathe it every day to every guest!”

Runners-up: Andiamo Catering & Events; Forte Belanger 

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Best Meeting/Event Venue (No Accommodations) 
The Henry Ford 

Covering 250 acres, The Henry Ford encourages guests to discover America—its culture, inventions, people and can-do spirit—offering hundreds of hands-on ways to explore it. If you are looking for a unique venue or attendee activity in the Detroit Metro area, you have several options on this vast campus: The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory Tour and Benson Ford Research Center.

Whether you envision elegant or playful, inspirational or educational, The Henry Ford’s amazing venues offer extraordinary experiences.

Joanne Peterka, head of event sales, says, “Galas, picnics, awards banquets, corporate celebrations, or the unveiling of the next big thing—our unique venues have it all, innovation, history, entertainment, world-class service and award-winning cuisine.”

Runners-up: Detroit Athletic Club; Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park 

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Best Convention + Visitors Bureau (Less than 50,000 Population) 
Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau 

Mackinac Island is a magical place, with its natural beauty and unique transportation by horse, foot and bicycle. Without automobiles, it’s like stepping back in time. Often called “The Jewel of the Great Lakes,” it’s waiting to be explored and the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau is ready to help you plan where to stay and what to do when you arrive.

“There are many reasons that Mackinac Island is considered one of The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2020, according to Travel & Leisure,” explains Tim Hygh, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. “Some of the island’s most historic properties have undergone updates, including Grand Hotel, Mission Point and Pine Cottage B&B. We have an exciting new property called Above Mackinac Condos located on Main Street. Also, Mackinac State Parks celebrates 125 years with special events planned all season long!”

Runners-up: Petoskey Area CVB; Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and CVB 

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Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (200 or More Guest Rooms) 
Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton, beams with historic charm and modern comforts. Located in downtown Grand Rapids’ Hotel District along the Grand River, this 29-story glass tower has been a mainstay in the Michigan hospitality industry for nearly a century. With 664 guest rooms and 47,000 square feet of event space, it’s a meeting planner’s dream. Conference attend- ees and guests also enjoy skywalk access to Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place Convention Center.

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel is well-known for its attention to detail and supreme level of customer service. “I love working with clients in a combined effort to achieve the goals of the event and provide a level of service that is unprecedented in other cities” says Kelly Van Dyke, director of food and beverage events. “We love our clients and enjoy completing a conference knowing we have made a new friend and confidant.”

Runners-up: Grand Hotel; The Dearborn Inn

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Best A/V Provider
Bluewater

A good A/V company can tell a story and bring an event to life, and that’s precisely what Bluewater does for its customers. “We work collaboratively with our client partners, often as an extension of their own team. This means we’re continuously looking for efficiencies, new ideas, and we treat each project as if it’s something we’re hiring out” says Scott Schoeneberger, man- aging partner. “We arm our clients with everything required to support sen- sory storytelling across physical and digital canvasses. This means a single source instead of multiple, easier communications throughout the duration of a program, and a broader set of capabilities—often very innovative.”

Brenna Sandstrom, a partner at Proper Planning, says, “I think it’s excellent to partner with a company like Bluewater. They took our advice, they heard our feedback and they brought that to life. We’ve been so impressed with  the level of Bluewater’s service, all the way from point-of-sale to execution. Bluewater has done a really good job; it’s been a great partnership.”

Runners-up: AVL Creative; KLA Laboratories 

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Best Convention Center
TCF Center

Safety, security, sustainability and service—Detroit’s TCF Center, formerly Cobo Center, hits on all cylinders. As a LEED Gold Certified facility, TCF Center is committed to implementing new and innovative green initiatives throughout the facility. It has programs designed to educate employees, vendors, customers, partners and visitors on the importance of the sustainability of the environment.

Safety and security are top-of-mind for every meeting planner. “TCF Center security is constantly working with local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies to provide safe and peaceful opportunities for events and visitors in the venue,” says general manager Claude Molinari. “From the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Patrol protecting our Canadian border, to the Detroit Police Department and every agency in between that contributes to surveillance and response, our venue’s event security is prepared to cover just about any conceivable eventuality.”

Runners-up: DeVos Place; Inn at St. John's 

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Best Entertainment (Performer or Talent Agency) 
Mike Staff Productions 

Mike Staff Productions is there to answer your call for your entertainment needs, including DJ services, photography, videography and lighting. Using cutting-edge technology, this experienced team is driven by an authentic desire to make people happy.

“The key word here is service,” says owner Mike Staff. “Nothing is more important to us than listening to our client’s wishes and delivering a remarkable experience. We offer ‘the team approach’ to our clients, in which they can get three crucial services at one company. This saves time, money and planning frustrations, while delivering an exceptional, integrated service experience.”

Runners-up: Star Trax Events; The Elysium Experience 

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Best Transportation Company 
Metro Cars 

Metro Cars puts the largest fleet of luxury vehicles in Michigan at your fingertips. The company takes pride in offering a variety of quality vehicles chauffeured by courteous professionals, who are dedicated to your every need. It provides many options for traveling to and from the airport, attending special events or driving across the state.

“Metro Cars is a transportation indus- try leader, focused on providing a safe, high-end solution in an otherwise uncer- tain market” says Paula Mikola, senior vice president, sales and marketing. “Did we mention our 30 years of experience? Our mobile app and web booking? How about our companies in Grand Rapids, Reno, Las Vegas and Sacramento? Stop taking chances with other companies and start taking Metro Cars!”

Runners-up: Indian Trails; Blue Lakes Charters 

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Best Casino
MGM Grand Detroit 

As one of the top entertainment destinations in the city, MGM Grand Detroit has something for every attendee. “MGM Grand is the highest-rated resort in the state of Michigan. MGM Grand has maintained the AAA Four Diamond Award and the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Four Star Award for its hotel, spa, and steakhouse, since its opening in the fall of 2007,” says Lisa Williams, executive director of sales. “Our urban resort offers unique amenities like Immerse Spa, Wolfgang Puck Steakhouse, TAP Sports Pub, Top Golf Swing Suite, and our newest feature, the BetMGM Sports Lounge. The location in the central business and entertainment district of downtown Detroit places MGM Grand Detroit in the center of the city’s most desirable attractions and activities.”

Runners-up: MotorCity Casino Hotel; Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel 

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Best Hotel with Meeting Event Space (Less than 200 Guest Rooms) 
The Inn at St. John's 

The Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth is one of the largest meeting and conference spaces in southeast Michigan, with 48,000 square feet, includ- ing four ballrooms, an executive boardroom and 17 additional meeting spaces. You might think that a facility of this size would be indifferent and predictable. In truth, The Inn at St. John’s is a truly unique historic property meticulously renovated to offer a combination of distinctive craftsmanship and modern amenities.

Whether guests are there for a conference, wedding, golf outing or an amazing dining experience at 5ive Steakhouse, they are treated to a truly uncommon level of customer attention. “At The Inn at St. John’s, service is our driving force and it touches everything we do,” says general manager Paul Wegert. “We take great pride in having earned the AAA Four Diamond distinc- tion and we strive to make every guest who walks through our doors know how important they are to us. We want to welcome them as if they were entering our home.”

Runners-up: Park Place Hotel; Detroit Foundation Hotel 

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Best Event Rental Company
Display Group 

Flexibility, collaboration, dedication and elite client service—these are some of the words that clients use to describe Display Group. As a multifaceted vendor in the meetings industry, it is ready to meet your needs and exceed your expectations.

“At Display Group, what really sets us apart from other organizations is our four core services: design, furniture and décor rentals, audio-visual and custom fabrication. For our clients and partners, this means that we can offer a turnkey solution to give them a seamless experience before and during production,” says Stephanie McClung, marketing coordinator. “For our team and employees, we’ve spent 30 years building an incredible team of event professionals, designers, artists and technicians with different perspectives and ideas. Two years ago, we formed a partnership with Fairway Productions and formed AVL Creative, bringing in audio, video and lighting professionals.”

Runners-up: Emerald City Designs; Art Craft Display 

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Best Team-Building Activity 
Topgolf Auburn Hills 

No matter the occasion or who you share it with, Topgolf’s philoso- phy is that every great time starts with play, is fueled by food and drinks, is moved by music and all made possible through community. Topgolf Auburn Hills has been a welcome addition to the event scene in the Detroit Metro Area.

You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy a meeting or event at this venue. In fact, many are not. “Topgolf is a fun, entertaining venue where people of all ages can enjoy themselves socially while participating in a fun activity,” says Bob Raymond, director of sales. “We go above and beyond to service our guests; 51 percent of our guests are actually nongolfers, which supports the legitimacy of our mission.”

Runners-up: Great Lakes Escape Room; Punch Bowl Social 

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Best Brewery/Distillery/Winery
Atwater Brewery

Looking to plan an event at a hip venue with great beer? If so, you’re in luck—Atwater Brewery offers three locations all with unique event venues. Atwater Brewery and Tap House in Detroit offers a private room, dubbed the Game Room, available to host gatherings of up to 60 guests. The Brewery Room can also be reserved for larger parties of 150, and combined, you can buy out the venue for 200 guests.

“We are the brewery of Detroit and our beer is part of the culture of the city. Hardworking beer for hardworking people. We exemplify our slogan in our logo, ‘Born in Detroit and Raised Everywhere,’ by raising a pint of beer after a hard day’s work,” explains owner Mark Rieth. “Our brewing heritage dates back to the 1850s. We started with German-style lagers and now offer boutique ales that are fruit-forward and delicious.”

Atwater in the Park, Grosse Pointe Park, is in the former nondenominational Grace United Church, built in 1936. A private space, the Munich Room, is available to host groups of up to 40 guests. The Main Dining Hall seats 100 people and can be reserved for large events and the Biergarten Patio will accommodate 125. Atwater Grand Rapids, located in the heart of downtown, can host a variety of events as well.

Runners-up: Founders Brewing Company; Bell's Brewery 

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Best Speaker/Presenter (Individual or Agency) 
Mimi Brown 

Riveting. Magnetic. Hilarious. These are some of the adjectives used to describe leadership and influence expert and speaker Mimi Brown. “I am always so humbled when I see these words written on my speaker evaluations, because this is the vibe that I work hard to create during every one of my programs. Then I double check and make sure they are writing about me,” laughs Mimi. “I am not your typical motivational speaker. Cheesy gimmicks stop here. But I am known for bringing it! Bringing the energy, enthusiasm, and entertainment.”

The CEO of Amp Up Success, Brown likes to  get to know the groups she will be entertaining. “I interview attendees ahead of my talk to understand their challenges, concerns and frustrations, and I use this to personalize my message. I ask myself: How can I leave a lasting impression that will inspire them to act long after the final conference lip balm has been used? The goal is to know the audience so well that my words echo in their hearts and minds long after the event notepad is forgotten in their top desk drawer.”

Runners-up: Dave Serino, Twosix Digital; Ryan Buck, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa 

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Best Florist 
Viviano Flower Shop 

“Every Viviano floral creation is carefully crafted according to the highest standards, so you can enjoy the most artful designs and happiest memories at your event,” says Elizabeth Viviano, the shop’s marketing and product development assistant.

“Viviano Flower Shop is family-owned and operated since 1937,” she says. “Providing clients with beautiful fresh flowers, complemented by friendly accommodating service, has been a way of life for our family for more than 80 years. We treasure the heritage entrusted to us by our late founders and we want to share our love of flowers with every client. Every event is unique and special, and our team is dedicated to serving our clients well, from selecting farms that grow the best flowers to carefully crafted arrangements by our trained and skilled artisans.”

Runners-up: Emerald City Designs; Blumz by JRDesign

Take note of these seven pros who are making their mark in the meetings and events industry. 

Mary Kerr, CTA, President & CEO 
Destination Ann Arbor
Lifetime Achievement 

 

Michigan is renowned for its wildlife, scenic views and array of water-loving creatures. But the state also plays host to non-native animals, plants and fish in the zoos, aquariums and gardens that can be found across the state. There’s no better way to lend an exotic vibe or to create an atmosphere of calm during your event than by hosting it at one of these venues. The following is just a sampling of the many parks, zoos, aquariums and gardens throughout the state, and the features that can create memorable experiences for your guests.