Who doesn’t love a fun holiday party? Well…one sure-fire way to have a REALLY FUN holiday party is to pick a theme that has FUN built right in. And that is exactly what our client did for their big celebration held at WestWorld, returning to our exclusive venue for the second year in a row.
Always a group that loves a good time, the Holiday Party Committee chose “Mardi Gras” as their 2016 holiday party theme. Their requirements from the get-go: great music, authentic cuisine, and lots for guests to do. Seven months of planning resulted in a spectacular event that met all those requirements, and guests were treated to night they won’t soon forget!
Entering the party via 40’ long pathways lined with 20’ tall custom-painted New Orleans backdrops, guests were welcomed by a five-piece jazz band and party performers tossing beads from the “roof” of a 14’ tall building façade. Servers passed hors d’oeuvre including Corn & Okra Gumbo “Cappuccino” with lemon foam served in demitasse mugs and Shrimp Boil “Lollipops” with spicy remoulade dip. Bartenders poured premium cocktails, great wines, and Louisiana-brewed Abita® beers. Guests entertained themselves with pub games including shuffleboard (regulation 22’ long of course!), air hockey, foosball, and giant Jenga®. They visited four photo booths – one traditional enclosed booth and one green-screen set-up with masks, props and signs, and two social media-connected digital booths that let them add fun graphics and digital props to their photos on-the-spot.
Then came time for the CEO and the headliner band to take the stage. Every year the committee likes to have a “big reveal” for the CEO, typically moving the group from the reception space to the separate main event space. This year, though, the entire event was in one space. Our challenge: create a “reveal” that works while everyone is already in the room. The solution was both creative and spectacular! The jazz band turned into a marching band and led guests in a procession across the dance floor to the stage. Stilt-walkers, Mardi Gras dancers and street performers helped corral and direct guests, then danced in front of the stage as the band finished playing When The Saints Go Marching In.
The main stage was hidden behind drape, and after the jazz band moved off the dance floor, a digital countdown was projected onto the drape. As the countdown ended, the headliner band kicked in with Van Halen’s Jump from behind the drape, now lit up with crazy moving lights and patterns. As the song reached the first crescendo, the CEO and band were revealed on the stage with a “Kabuki Drop” – the three sides of drape fell simultaneously and machines “vacuumed” the drape out of sight. The crowd went WILD with screams and applause!
After the CEO concluded his remarks (which included giving away thousands of dollars in prizes), he invited everyone to have a great time, celebrate all night, and meet him back at the stage at 10pm for another round of prize giveaways. With that, the intricately planned lighting kicked into high gear, and the rest of the event space opened with food stations lighted by moon balloons featuring custom decals. In two corners of the room, video arcades featuring arcade classics and pinball lit up, while two more pub game areas came online for guests’ amusement. Bead tossers resumed calling out to guests as they passed by the “building”, and the street performers entertained guests and even helped get them on the dance floor.
In another corner of the room, the “Voodoo Lounge” finally opened. Curious guests made their way into the 1200ft2 space enclosed by dark burgundy velvet drape. Sexy black and gold tufted furnishings, skull & snake candelabra, red glow accent tables, and three crystal chandeliers created an environment and mood completely different from the rest of the party. Two silent witch doctors and a roving palm reader enticed and entertained guests as they escaped the sensory overload of the main party for a relaxing break in the lounge. A bartender and cocktail server dressed in black ensured that every visitor to the lounge had the drinks of their choice in hand at all times.
Chefs at two 16’ triangle stations offered New Orleans-inspired delicacies including Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken, Picante Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Dirty Rice, and of course Jambalaya. Buffet stations featured Creole Caesar Salad, Beef Tenderloin Sliders, and Vegan Rice-Stuffed Bell Peppers. But dessert really hit all the French Quarter buttons! Two round stations featured Sugar-Dusted Beignets, little tins of Bread Pudding with Chicory-Chocolate Sauce, and the requisite petite King’s Cakes decorated with purple & green sugar and teeny-tiny baby doll garnish. Servers passed Bananas Foster Trifle Shooters and Chocolate & Vanilla Mini Ice Cream Cones. Finally around 9:45pm, out came the mini Pizza Bites, a favorite (and requirement) of the CEO’s at their big company parties.
The band played two hours NON-STOP, then welcomed the CEO and his wife (the head of their company’s generous foundation) back to the stage for the last round of prize giveaways – the really high-dollar stuff! The crowd went wild with the announcement of each name, and when all was said and done, the CEO thanked everyone for all of their hard work in 2016 and told them to look forward to their “best year yet in 2017!” The band closed out their set and then switched to piped music blasting throughout the venue. The party ended at 11pm, and guests made their way out to their cars or the Uber® line to take advantage of the promo code sponsored by the company for a complimentary ride home.
Never a group to dwell on the past, the Committee and our team already are talking about possible themes for next year’s celebration at WestWorld. One thing is for sure……it’s going to be FUN!!!