The Pennsylvania Meetings + Events Best of 2018 readers’ choice awards presented some amazing companies and services for people to choose from. There were some close battles, but in the end, favorites emerged. We are happy to bring you the winners—those who you made the top choices—so examine the list and see who was voted No. 1.
The Inn at Leola Village is a woman-owned, locally operated Historic Hotel of America blending rustic charm, luxury appointments and Forbes Travel Guides Four Star-verified quality service levels. Not surprisingly, it wins Best Inn with Meeting/Event Space. The inn offers six private meeting venues for up to 300 guests for a standing reception, 240 banquetstyle and 225 classroom-style. Additionally, it has an outdoor Italian wedding garden, ideal for on-site ceremonies, as well as several private patios for group gatherings. “In today’s hospitality industry, it’s a pleasure to find an upscale hotel or inn that is completely focused on the customer’s total experience, while embracing our Amish heritage and bountiful local foods,” says Randy Howat, vice president of The Inn at Leola Village. “A successful event, whether it’s a pharma meeting, executive retreat, refined wedding or social gathering starts with listening to and orchestrating the desires and wishes of the guest.”
ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks wins Best Historic or Cultural Venue. Located on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel plant, the venue boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and each space showcases stunning views of the iconic blast furnaces. “It’s the perfect location to host an event, with two movie theaters inside, its Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas with largerthan-life screens for presentations, large meeting spaces with stages, lighting grids and an amazing sound system, and great outdoor spaces for team-building and alfresco dining,” says Emily Cummins, public relations coordinator. “The ArtsQuest Center and SteelStacks Campus feature multiple levels of meeting rooms, cinemas and creative outdoor spaces.”
Visit Hershey & Harrisburg is the winner for Best CVB in Town/Area (Less than 300,000 in Population). “The core strengths for this region continue to be its central location to major population centers along the East Coast with highly competitive pricing as a third-tier city,” says Audrey Bialas, director of sales. “But what makes this area really special for meeting planners is the ‘built-in buzz’ that comes from our well-established reputation for being a fun and friendly travel destination. Planners benefit greatly from a location that sparks initial excitement for attendees and then delivers on those expectations once they arrive. The Hershey and Harrisburg region is exactly that type of place.” The Visit Hershey & Harrisburg sales division conducts B2B sales within the meetings and conventions, military and family reunions, students and religious travel, and domestic and international tours travel trade market segments. “The real secret to planning a great meeting in the Hershey and Harrisburg region is to embrace the fact that a meeting or event can be fun and productive,” Bialas says. “The amusement park, team-building activities, golf courses, spas, museums, outdoor activities, dozens of wineries and craft breweries, and the ever-present ‘chocolate factor’ in Hershey gives our clients endless options for theming, after hours events and easy add-on activities for attendees who bring a spouse or the entire family.”
The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau is the top choice for Best CVB in Town/ Area (More than 300,000 in Population). The Pennsylvania Convention Center is an awardwinning, LEED-certified facility that features 1 million square feet of saleable space, including the largest ballroom on the East Coast and seven exhibit halls totaling 679,000 square feet of exhibit space. Its space is incredibly flexible and can accommodate groups of all sizes. “We are the primary sales and marketing agency for the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It’s our job to secure meetings, conventions, sporting events and other high profile events for Philadelphia,” says Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO, PHLCVB. “Our success in securing events relies heavily on the strong partnerships we have throughout the city, including our partners at the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia International Airport and Visit Philadelphia.” Additionally, one of the key differentiators as a CVB is the strength of the three business development divisions: PHL Life Sciences, PHL Sports, and PHL Diversity. Each of these divisions specializes in assisting meeting and event organizers to tap into the wealth of resources and assets it has as a city. “As America’s first World Heritage City, Philadelphia is a diverse, global destination known for our rich history, prestigious arts institutions and highly acclaimed culinary scene that all serve as the perfect backdrop for major meetings and conventions,” Graham says.
Chaddsford Winery, one of the oldest and largest wineries in the state, wins Best Vineyard with Event Space. “We strive to showcase the natural beauty of the Brandywine Valley, as well as the history of the 250-year-old dairy barn in which the Winery is situated,” says Lauren Pasquini, director of sales and marketing. “Certainly, providing guests with exceptional service and integrating wine education into the program is also part of the experience.” Regionally, the winery is recognized for its seasonal events and wine festivals, such as Baconfest in the spring; food truck festivals in the summer; and the wildly popular Adult Trick or Treat in the fall. “We can typically accommodate 100 people indoors for a cocktail-style reception, and we can host larger groups utilizing our outdoor space,” Pasquini says. “The unique charm of the historical space is an ideal location to host private or corporate functions.”
As the only Poconos golf course to offer a mountain-style track that plays over rolling terrain and boasts wide, tree-lined fairways, Skytop Lodge is your choice for Best Golf Resort with Event Space. Its small greens challenge players of all levels and the 6,656-yard course incorporates water on four holes and boasts plenty of strategically placed bunkers. Away from the course, Skytop Lodge features 17 meeting rooms including the Skytop Executive Center, the Evergreen Ballroom and many distinct executive suites. All include high-speed internet, the latest in audio-visual equipment, and countless other amenities.
A member of Historic Hotels of America, Hotel Bethlehem takes home the award for Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (Less than 200 Guest Rooms). Dennis Costello, general manager, notes the hotel was originally built in 1922 and offers 15,000 square feet of meeting space. “It’s very historical, very charming and a very unique property,” he says. “We have two recently renovated ballrooms, and one of our restaurants—1741—we offer for buyouts, and that looks over the historic district. The views are spectacular.” The hotel also offers team-building in conjunction with its neighbor, a 1750s blacksmith shop, and meeting guests can take part in nearby canoeing and rafting. “We also have a fantastic culinary team,” Costello says.
Conversely, the choice for Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (More than 200 Guest Rooms) goes to Hershey Lodge. With 665 rooms and more than 100,000 square feet of function space, the hotel is a top choice for families and guests of all ages travelling to Chocolate Town USA. It boasts the Great American Hall, the largest and most advanced meeting space in the region, and has a team of certified meeting professionals on-site.
Set in an 1800s farmhouse, The Frogtown Inn and 6 Acres Restaurant wins for Best Restaurant with Private Dining Space. The fine dining restaurant features a saloon with a wood burning fireplace and plenty of comfy space for any special occasion.
Sands Bethlehem is your pick for Best Casino. In addition to more than 200 gaming tables, 3,000 slot machines and 30 tables for poker, the venue offers incredible entertainment and lots of fun experiences for the whole family. It also offers more than 12,000 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting space and a 14,000-square-foot trade show space. With all this fun, Sands Bethlehem is an ideal destination for corporate meetings, ranging from executive retreats to industry conferences.
Your choice for Best Resort with Meeting/ Event Space is Bear Creek Mountain Resort & Conference Center in Macungie. The resort features three different and elegant, updated ballrooms for any special event. “We have it all here—a hotel, ballrooms, two restaurants, a spa, outdoor and indoor pools, mountain biking and breathtaking mountain views,” says Theresa Labour, sales manager. “We also have three ceremony sites for weddings and 26,000 square feet for meetings and events.”
Pingpong is hot so it’s no surprise that SPiN Philadelphia, A Ping Pong Social Club takes home the award for Best Team-Building. “SPiN offers something a little different from your typical event,” says Nicole R. Morgenstern, director of sales. “Pingpong is a great icebreaker, conversation starter and social activator. It adds a layer of comfort and engagement beyond traditional events.” The venue of choice for corporate events, SPiN attracts a range of guests from Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions and the start-up community. “SPiN is all about having fun, not taking life too seriously, making connections and embracing contradictions,” Morgenstern says. “With 16 professional STIGA Olympic pingpong tables, VIP private pingpong lounge space, full-service catering and bar service, on-site event sales planners or as we like to say, pingpong provocateurs, are there to handle every detail in your event planning.”
The Franklin Institute is your pick for Best Meeting/Event Venue (No Hotel). “We’re a museum first, but we have these amazing spaces,” says Lois Switken, director of sales for the Philadelphia-based science museum. “We have a beautiful rotunda that is elegant and classic and our galleries are amazing. We have a Giant Heart [exhibit], so you can walk through that, and it’s a really nice marriage of elegance and fun.” The museum can hold events for large groups of 2,000-5,000 guests. In Franklin Hall, sit-down events of 300-400 are available, and each science gallery is available for rent. “Our clients have a choice for a certain gallery or combination of galleries, which I think makes us unique,” Switken says. “We also have this amazing conference center that we use for lots of daytime conferences and meetings, and it’s this quiet, serene center with beautiful windows that overlook our rain garden.”
Yards Brewing Co. wins Best Brewery with Event Space. In addition to serving up more than 20 Yards ales and a full beer menu, the venue can host a private meeting or special event in one of two separate rooms. Zach Artz, events manager for the brewery, says it can accommodate small gatherings of 25-55 guests or large events up to 200, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink.
Party Rental Ltd.
Three Rivers Entertainment & Production is your choice for Best Entertainment Provider/ Performer. “We are unique in the sense that we provide world-class live music, lighting production, large screen video production and large-scale audio production under one roof,” says Nick Dialoiso, president and CEO. “We have a live music division that produces dance band and full orchestras for galas, corporate events and couture weddings. We have a lighting and rigging division that works with major movie producers, corporate clients and galas.” Three Rivers also makes custom set designs and has an extremely talented design team that works closely with its clients to help them design the layout and look of their event. “We find out exactly what our clients want, expect and need to successfully achieve their goals for the event or meeting,” Dialoiso says. “This is done by asking pertinent questions and then listening closely.”
In business for 45 years, Party Rental Ltd. takes home the award for Best Event Décor Provider. “We service countless events of all sizes, styles and complexities, and we use that experience to better serve each of our upcoming events,” says Danielle DeMilia, marketing manager for the company, which offers its services in Philadelphia. “We’re always searching for new ways to incorporate technology to take our service to the next level.” The depth and breadth of the company’s inventory also sets it apart as it offers something for every budget, design, and guest count. Currently, the company carries more than 2,200 unique types of products from tables and chairs, to specialty chinaware, linens, ovens, and beyond. “Every year we add over 100 product styles to our inventory to keep our collection fresh and give our clients unique pieces to incorporate into their events,” DeMilia says. “We’re most proud of our team and their dedication to partnering with our clients on their most incredible events. Each member of our team shares the same passion to help our clients’ visions come to life, and that drive for service is the cornerstone of what we do.”
Albrecht Events, LLC in Lansdale wins the award for Best Meeting/Event Planning Company. A women-owned and operated company with more than 40 combined years of event planning experience, the company’s team is comprised of all women who embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. “We bring a well rounded, multifaceted perspective to our work and every client’s project, which makes Albrecht Events special,” says Ashley Albrecht, president of the company. “We also take an environmentally conscious approach to our event design and consider the greater impact of our planning and event design.” Albrecht Events offers a wide range of services, from airport transportation for conventions; to corporate team-building; to large-scale, multiday parties; and everything in between. “There’s not much we don’t offer,” Albrecht says.
Philadelphia’s 12th St Catering takes home the award for Best Caterer. “One aspect of our business that really sets us apart is our 30,000-square-foot décor warehouse, where we are ready to create a stunning display for any occasion, complementary with our fullservice events,” says Genna Viozzi, director of special events and sales. “We are never ready to settle for the same look event after event, and we constantly update our inventory to make sure it stays fresh and bright.” Its diverse kitchen also continues to set the company apart, as the multiethnic perspective is reflected in its creative and inspired menus—Thai, Columbian, Middle-Eastern, and beyond. “We offer our clients over 35 years of experience and an eye for perfection,” Viozzi says. “After all those meals, meetings, and parties, we know how to plan a foolproof event so you can sit back and relax.”
J&J Luxury Transportation is your pick for Best Transportation. The company’s fleet includes long-door sedans, passenger and executive vans, stretch SUV hummers and hybrids, luxury stretch limos, limo coaches, and small and large passenger buses.
Synergetic was voted as Best A/V Provider. “We answer the phone, personally. We work effectively, efficiently and quietly, and we connect our project managers with the direct client instead of having a sales rep bog down the process,” says Jason Weldon, president and CEO of the Bensalem-based company. “We can provide the audio, lighting, video, and staging for the event without having multiple vendors involved.” The company’s portfolio include gear as small as a Macbook Pro, all the way up to a complete D&B Audiotechnik J-Series line array PA system.
When it was time to choose the Best Photographer/Videographer, Susan Beard Design is the favorite this year. “The most important piece of capturing every event is really learning who your client is,” says Susan Beard, owner of the Philadelphia-based company. “Whether it’s a huge company or an important individual, every event and/or meeting has an overall vision and brand. It’s important that we ask the good questions. To learn what makes this individual, the meeting, the company tick.” All artists at the company are trained as fine art photographers to give them a unique perspective on each and every event. From past presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to Philadelphia’s incredibly influential Ralph and Suzanne Roberts, the company has been flown all around the country because of its reputation.
The Farmer’s Daughter Flowers is the victor for Best Florist. “We believe in recognizing the simplicity and beauty of flowers,” says Lauren Work Phillips, owner of the company. “Our designs allow flowers to be as they are. Fresh and pure, while being naturally whimsical. We are inspired by the way foliage, herbs, branches and fruit complement their identity. We may place lavender in a bouquet for luck, or rosemary in a boutonniere for love.” In addition to being a full-service flower shop, the company is also a botanically inspired gift shop, event florist, and flower farm. “We truly are ‘flower people,’” Phillips says. “We source from our fields and locally at every chance. We appreciate, respect and care for every bloom that passes through our hands as well as try to put a little bit of ourselves into our flower arrangements and infuse everything we allow to leave our doors with our studio style.”
Beth Lawrence LLC is your choice for Best Independent Planner. Working events large and small, from VIP brunches and venue grand openings to helping with event logistics and attendee experience for national conferences. “My business is unique and different because I not only specialize in full-scale event planning and logistics, but I also bring marketing and public relations expertise to the table as well,” says Beth Lawrence, president and CEO of the company. “These skill sets together combine to allow me to stand out in the realm of experiential marketing. Especially in this increasingly digital world, having that special touch at your brand activations and events, creating what I like to call ‘The 5 Senses of your Brand,’ really creates not only a memory for your guests, but a brand affinity as well.”