Perched along the picturesque shore of the St. Clair River and the base of Lake Huron, Port Huron has more to offer than ever before.
Known as the Maritime Capital of the Great Lakes, the scenic setting may be closer than you think. “A lot of people think we’re way up north, but we’re an hour from Detroit and an hour from Flint. It’s a great location from all interstate highways,” says Marci Fogal, Blue Water Area CVB president. “We have a new waterfront convention center that can hold meetings up to 2,400 people and it’s all about you. You get 100 percent of our attention.”
Gino Giacumbo, general manager for the new Blue Water Convention Center, agrees: “We’re a small city with big amenities.”
Spectacular views provide the icing on the cake. “The beauty of attending an event here is the water and the boardwalk. You can almost touch the freighters [passing on the St. Clair River] they’re so close. We’re an international destination with the Blue Water Bridge that leads to Sarnia, Ontario. At night, the bridge is lit up with blue lights. It’s breathtaking,” adds Fogal.
In Port Huron, it’s all about the water. “It’s very relaxing and calming,” she says. “One of the rooms in the convention center features floor-to-ceiling windows that face the lake. It makes a meeting look absolutely amazing.”
Another perk is the observation deck. “When you break between meetings, you get to go outside on the deck,” notes Giacumbo.
“It’s a great networking atmosphere,” Fogal adds.
An Abundance of Activities
“When you’re done with your meeting, there’s so much to do, from the true coffee shop to the new movie house, the spas for a pamper day and the art studios for hands-on group activities or team-building events,” says Fogal. “We have trails, outdoor activities, you can rent a bike. Kayaking is very big here and we have the oldest working lighthouse in Michigan that you can still tour.”
Those attending meetings or events can even arrange a group fishing trip. “We enjoy putting together spouse packages for conferences,” says Fogal. “We really take pride in our service and everything is right there for them, from golf to restaurants and museums.”
Part of the beauty of Port Huron is the fact that it captures the perfect blend of past and present. “The movie house was converted from an old department store,” says Giacumbo. “It’s the quaintness and uniqueness of turning something old into something new and tying it together.”
There’s also the added convenience of the adjacent DoubleTree by Hilton where the Abbey room opens to an outdoor patio overlooking the water, making it the perfect venue for weddings. Larger groups can arrange for transportation to other accommodations within 2 miles.
The quaint location appeals to those near and far. Jamie Guyor, event manager for the McLaren Port Huron Foundation who works on local fundraising events for the hospital, says they were able to move their main event, Festival of Trees, to the new convention center last year and she was thrilled with the decision.
“It really was an amazing choice to hold it in the convention center in Port Huron on the water. The building has a background that brings the outdoor atmosphere in. It’s just magical,” she says.
In preparation, it took days to transform the space for the multiday event attended by more than 5,000 people. “It’s a blank canvas. It can be a convention, a wedding; we turn it into a winter wonderland with more than 50 decorated Christmas trees and twinkling lights. There are multiple events at the same time in multiple rooms,” says Guyor.
“We’re so fortunate to have so many opportunities to show off our community. It’s nice to have that to add to an event,” she adds. “There’s something special about Port Huron. There’s a loyal sense of community and tradition.”
Others from around the state feel the same way, such as Stephanie Wohlfert, former career enrichment manager for the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) in East Lansing. “We rotate around the state to make it convenient for all the members and to show our support for CVB (convention and visitors bureau) members,” says Wohlfert, who heard about the new convention center and went to check it out.
“We made a site visit and we were blown away by the facility,” she says. “It was almost like the convention center was designed for our event, and there’s a lot to do in the city.”
Realizing all the area had to offer made it a win-win for their annual ORGPRO event this past July that had 250 guests in attendance.
“It’s definitely a flexible meeting space and we liked the fact that there’s carpet in the exhibit hall. We could have meetings and a marketplace and six breakouts ranging in size from 15 to 60 people. With the DoubleTree Hotel attached, it’s essentially all under one roof.”
The Huron Lady II was another highlight offering a sightseeing cruise and discussion about emergency response plans.
Wohlfert appreciates the atmosphere of the convention center and the hotel with views of the water nestled right below the bridge to Canada where you can utilize the outdoor area and take advantage of the scenery
Still, she says, “You can have a great location all day long, but unless you have the staff to back it up, your event won’t be successful. The staff was phenomenal on the convention center side and the CVB side. They made us feel like we were the only ones there.”