Illinois Meetings + Events' Readers' Choice Best Of 2010

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Rebecca Felix
Illinois Meetings + Events
Issue: 
Spring 2011

A bustling metro unlike any other, Chicago boasts unparalleled architecture, activities and dining while also emitting glitzy and chic vibes that are at once fresh and unique.

Within the Windy City and areas beyond are stellar service providers, stunning venues and first-rate companies, all of which make meetings and events in Illinois the best in the Midwest.

Here are the top-of-the-line contenders as chosen by you, our readers, in the Best of Readers’ Choice Awards.

>>Golf Club
THE WINNER IS:
Eaglewood Resort & Spa

The 37,000 square feet of function space, 295 beautiful guestrooms, and numerous options for upscale dining are only the supporting cast to Eaglewood Resort’s star amenity: the lush championship golf course just 35 minutes from downtown Chicago. Flanked by 100-year old oak trees and three glittering lakes, the 6,017-yard course opened in 1928 and underwent an update in 2006 to restore all bunkers, which has increased challenges while maintaining the course’s natural beauty.

// Eaglewood Resort, Itasca, 630.773.1400

RUNNERS UP: Pheasant, Run Resort, Butterfield

>>A/V Provider
THE WINNER IS:
The AV Department Inc.

The AV Department Inc. specializes in providing technical support for small-to-medium-sized events. From onsite lighting, sound, projection and video and recording equipment to a staff of trained personnel, A/V services for meetings and events are completely taken care of by this second-time winner (2009). Furthermore, established sales, installation, and rental divisions offer top-notch guidance and service that match the company’s on-site abilities.

// The AV Department Inc., Lemont, 630.243.0500

RUNNERS UP: The Meetinghouse Companies Inc., Destination Audio Visual

>>Destination Management Company
THE WINNER IS:
Chicago Travel Consultants

Chicago Travel Consultants provides premier destination services that offer attention to every detail. CTC assists meeting and event planners with securing venues and price breaks, as well as dinners, tours and teambuilding activities. They also provide contact with Chicago service providers including lighting, transportation, and catering professionals. Showcasing Chicago’s to-the-minute experiences, CTC’s staff manages around 250 programs annually, which range from 20 to 100,000 attendees.

// Chicago Travel Consultants, Chicago, 773.880.5878

RUNNERS UP: On the Scene, In the Loop-Chicago

>>Boats/Cruises/Charters
THE WINNER IS:
The Red Witch

Within the fleet of Lakeshore Sail Charters is the Red Witch, a crimson-hulled traditional sailboat that measures 77 feet long. This gorgeous ship, also winner of this esteemed award in 2009, holds up to 49 passengers and was designed by arguably one of the world’s greatest naval architects, John G. Alden. Catered meetings, parties, teambuilding activities, and Lake Michigan tours are all offered aboard this bewitching schooner.

// Red Witch, Chicago, 312.404.5800, redwitch.com

RUNNERS UP: Odyssey, Wendella

>>Rental Service Provider
THE WINNER IS:
Classic Party Rentals

Mainstay Classic Party Rentals is recognized as a standard bearer of quality event décor, from furniture and centerpieces to linens, stemware and more. This company knows events, and has the ability and the inventory to supply virtually any rental need. Between the event consultation, premium service, and 40 years experience, it’s no surprise that Classic Party Rentals is this category’s winner for the past three years.

// Classic Party Rentals, McCook, 708.485.8010

RUNNERS UP: BBJ Linen, Hall’s Rentals

>>Historic Venue
THE WINNER IS:
Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center opened in 1827 as the city’s first central public library and was established as the Chicago Cultural Center in 1991. Countless free events offering music, dance, theater, art and family themes are presented in this gorgeous venue to encourage appreciation of the arts. Designed to impress, the building contains luxurious materials such as mother of pearl, polished brass and imported marbles and boasts the world’s largest stained-glass Tiffany dome.

// Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, 312.744.2947

RUNNERS UP: Navy Pier, The Field Museum

>>Photography/Videography
THE WINNER IS:
GoPho

The photography pro behind GoPho is Ben Gonzales, a Southern Illinois University Cinema and Photography alum. With a great eye for capturing moments and scenes of beauty, Gonzales’ work has been featured in The Onion as well as advertisements for Pepsi, Jose Cuervo, and more. GoPho offers personal, commercial, travel and event photography services and is based out of Gonzales’ home studio in Chicago.

// GoPho, Chicago, 847.372.1871

RUNNERS UP: Edward Fox Photography, ProMax Productions Inc.

>>Transportation
THE WINNER IS:
Windy City Limousine

Three-time winner Windy City Limousine offers 24/7 service and boasts a large and luxurious fleet, meaning you can go anywhere, anytime in a breeze. The official limo of several Chicago celebrities, Windy City is a favorite of meeting and event planners as well. Impeccable vehicles and polished service in Chicago is this company’s forte, but they’ll even arrange rides in other U.S. locations, if needed, through exclusive partnerships.

// Windy City Limousine, Franklin Park, 847.916.9300

RUNNERS UP: A-1 Airport Limousine Service, Your Private Limousine Inc.

>>Catering Company
THE WINNER IS:
Levy Events Catering

As one branch of the national Levy Restaurants group (the team behind Chicago-area Café Spiaggia, Fulton’s on the River, Bistro 110 and more), Levy Events Catering delivers the same dependable, polished service and food that their restaurants are known for providing. Acclaimed chefs and event planners create customized menus, which leaves no mystery as to why the list of venues Levy caters to is so long. Among them, Lincoln Park Zoo, McCormick Place and Wrigley Field.

// Levy Events Catering, Chicago and Highland Park, 312.335.5062,

RUNNERS UP: Tasty Catering, Cork Catering & Special Events Banquet/Reception

>>Venue
THE WINNER IS:
Galleria Marchetti

Galleria Marchetti takes the best Banquet/Reception Venue award for the third year in a row. The facility offers a grand setting for private parties and events with outdoor courtyards, a regal tented pavilion, fine dining options and five multi-function rooms, all just five minutes from downtown Chicago yet worlds away from the city’s hustle. You can be guaranteed that the event planning team here creates experiences as charming as the lavish surroundings.

// Galleria Marchetti, Chicago, 312.563.0495

RUNNERS UP: River East Art Center, Navy Pier Grand Ballroom

>>Teambuilding Facility
THE WINNER IS:
Windy City Fieldhouse

Windy City Fieldhouse has provided teambuilding activities for more than 2,000 corporate clients in its tenure. Established in 1998, this multisport and entertainment facility has 55,000 square feet with options for off-site activities as well. Teamwork is important to Windy City not only for the activities they provide, but also in the customer service they extend.

// Windy City Fieldhouse, Chicago, 773.486.7300

RUNNERS UP: Corporate Event Interactive, Catalyst Ranch

>>Event Décor
THE WINNER IS:
The Meetinghouse Companies Inc.

This is Meetinghouse’s third win for Best Event Décor. This consistently exceptional firm sits just outside Chicago in Elmhurst, and houses a 32,000-square-foot design center brimming with elegant sets, fabrics, props and backdrops. In-house design divisions cater to specialty event needs including holiday décor and business theater activities, while the technology and lighting department set off the design with innovative technique.

// The Meetinghouse Companies Inc., Elmhurst, 630.941.0600

RUNNERS UP: Ronsley Special Events, Kehoe Designs

>>Venue Outside Chicagoland
WINNER IS:
Pheasant Run Resort

Just an hour west of Chicago lies 250 acres of championship golf courses, nearly 500 lavish guestrooms and suites, vast meeting space and conference facilities, theaters, a spa and comedy club, bowling, restaurants…should we keep going? With its dizzying list of activities and amenities, its no wonder Pheasant Run Resort won a best venue category this year. This sprawling resort offers more than 100,000 square feet of event space, including 45 meeting rooms, two expo centers, four ballrooms and an amphitheater that can hold 320, all found on the stay-play-meet-and-eat campus.

// Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles, 630.584.6300

RUNNERS UP: Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel, Starved Rock Lodge

>>Florist
THE WINNER IS:
The Meetinghouse Companies Inc.

The Meetinghouse Companies Inc. also wins for the fourth year in the florist category. Complimenting the collections of tasteful décor are the artful displays from the onsite floral department. The floral team arranges on-trend arrangements that are one-of-a-kind and enhance the overall event design and ambiance. From flowers to finishing touches, The Meetinghouse Companies Inc. is the standard for top-notch event design in a one-stop shop.

// The Meetinghouse Companies Inc., Elmhurst, 630.941.0600

RUNNERS UP: Kehoe Designs, Blumen Floral & Event Design

>>Conference Center
THE WINNER IS:
Q Center

Although Q Center is the Midwest’s largest conference center, meetings both big and small receive expert attention here thanks to a diligent staff comprised of professional events and media service teams, a conference manager and teambuilding professionals. Q Center hosts more than 150,000 square feet of IACC-certified meeting and function space, cutting-edge technology, catering services and 1,042 distraction-free guestrooms and suites, all lushly surrounded by 95 acres of St. Charles woodlands.

// Q Center, St. Charles, 630.377.3100

RUNNERS UP: Northern Illinois University-Naperville, Pheasant Run Resort

>>Entertainment
THE WINNER IS:
Just for Fun Entertainment and Events Inc.

Just for Fun Entertainment & Events Inc. is all about creating self-proclaimed silly, creative and zany events, yet serious about keeping the details and service polished and professional. This company specializes in several areas (business entertainment, DJs and karaoke, entertainers, holiday parties), and matches spot-on entertainment with function. From corporate icebreakers to costume parties, Just for Fun knows how to build and keep up a good time, so planners can have one, too.

// Just for Fun Entertainment and Events Inc., Evanston, 708.473.6947

RUNNERS UP: Clowning Around and Celebration Authority, Standing Room Only Orchestra

>>Hotel with Meeting & Event Space (more than 400 rooms)
THE WINNER IS:
Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile

The winner of this category three years in a row is the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. The name may be a mouthful, but the abundance doesn’t end there: some of the staggering amenities include more than 60,000 square feet of meeting space, 1,173 posh guestrooms and a Grand Ballroom that can host 2,200. This hotel has it all inside and outside its doors, as it stands within walking distance of the downtown’s finest dining, shops and attractions.

// Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, Chicago, 312.836.0100

RUNNERS UP: InterContinental Chicago O’Hare, Pheasant Run Resort

>>CVB
THE WINNER IS:
Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau

Chicago’s assets are many, and the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau has a handle on promoting them all. The category’s winner three years in a row, the CCTB works to ensure visits go smoothly and the city’s economic vitality thrives. From knowledge on Chicago’s dining scene to marketing local businesses, the staff on the CCTB gives specialized service that benefits visitors and the city alike.

// Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, Chicago, 312.567.8500

RUNNERS UP: St. Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau, Naperville Convention & Visitors Bureau

>>Hotel with Meeting & Event Space (less than 400 rooms)
THE WINNER IS:
Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort

The IACC-certified meeting center and Audubon-certified Willow Crest Golf Club are not the only accolades of the Oak Brook Hills Marriot Resort. The facility (also last year’s winner) houses 42,500 square feet of meeting space including a grand ballroom that can accommodate 1,500 guests. The 348 guestrooms and 38 suites underwent an elegant overhaul in 2009, creating a luxury experience unparalleled in the area.

// Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort, Oak Brook, 630.850.5555

RUNNERS UP: Hilton Orrington Evanston, Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel

>>Attraction
THE WINNER IS:
Navy Pier

Navy Pier collects its third win (2007, 2008) for Best Attraction. Historically, Navy Pier has been a shipping facility, military training site and college campus-no matter the activity or function, this legendary site has it covered. Fifty acres of shops, restaurants, rides and event space overlook Lake Michigan and offer an endless array of amenities that are appealing for recreation and business alike.

// Navy Pier, Chicago, 312.595.7437

RUNNERS UP: Taste of Chicago, Scarecrow Festival

ALSO CHECK OUT:

>>Illinois Meetings + Events' 2010 Editor's Picks

>>Illinois Meetings + Events' 2010 Hall of Fame

>>Past Illinois Meetings + Events Best Of Winners

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