Inside the Chamber column: Party Planning 101 — How to plan the party of the year |

Inside the Chamber column: Party Planning 101 — How to plan the party of the year

Mayor Marc Adler and Marianne Virgili at the 2003 Night in Italy Gala.
Staff Photo |

We decided a long time ago that chamber annual meetings didn’t have to mean endless presentations, stuffy speakers and “chamber chicken.” We think annual meetings ought to be celebrations. Because of that we call our event the Annual Gala.

Slated this year for Feb. 27 at the Hotel Colorado, the theme is “Back to the Future.”

Rule No. 1 in party planning is “pick a theme” and follow it from the invitations down to the décor, the food and the entertainment.

Since we’re going back to the future, I’m remembering the 2003 gala. It started with a conversation, “If we could do anything, what would it be? I know, let’s all take a trip to Italy.”

At this year’s Annual Gala, we’re encouraging costumes from the ’50s and the ’80s eras of the film “Back to the Future,” so expect rolled up jeans, leather jackets and poodle skirts from the ’50s, and neon, big hair, leg warmers and shoulder pads from the ’80s.

Obviously we couldn’t do that, but we could create La Dolce Vita with invitations on embellished Italian stationary, Italian food, wine, costumes and decorations. We even gave away a trip to Italy.

Rule No. 2 is to invite the right people. In 2003 we invited every Italian business person and resident we could think of — even folks who had retired and moved away. Guests came from everywhere and dressed the part. There were Roman emperors, Lucy Riccardos in grape-stomping peasant dresses and Italian goddesses. (That’s me trying to look like a goddess with Mayor Marc Adler at the event.)

Rule No. 3: Give it that special something — or what I call “the chamber treatment.”

We held a prom at the Community Center in 2002, shortly after it opened. The Community Center was a chamber project — we had worked on it for 14 years, so it was something to celebrate.

That year we gathered high school senior pictures from the community and conducted “guess who” contests in the newspaper. We served the dinner cafeteria style with lunch ladies as servers. A Frank Sinatra impersonator sang during cocktail hour and we danced to the oldies in prom dresses and old tuxedos.

Rule No. 4: Add an over-the-top surprise. When we did the Downton Abbey theme a few years ago we were filmed by the Travel Channel. When the Rockies had their inaugural season we hosted “Field of Dreams” and talked Rockies owner Jerry McMorris into flying in to present the Volunteer of the Year award to a die-hard baseball fan.

At a Red Carpet gala “Marlon Brando” drove a motorcycle right into the Hotel Colorado. Elvis has been in the building — as have the Blues Brothers and Marilyn Monroe (who sang “Happy Birthday” to Hank Bosco for the Hot Springs’ 125th anniversary).

I don’t want to spoil the surprises for this year, but (Great Scott!) there are some good ones. We’re encouraging costumes from the ’50s and the ’80s eras of the film, so expect rolled up jeans, leather jackets and poodle skirts from the ’50s, and neon, big hair, leg warmers and shoulder pads from the ’80s.

Rule No. 5: Make guests of honor feel special. One of my favorite parts of the gala is short awards ceremony.

Here in Glenwood Springs, the Citizen of the Year and Athena presentations are like presenting the Oscars. We produce a professional video and make sure to invite surprise guests and family of the winner. It’s moving to see what volunteer leaders have done for our community and to have their families be part of it — there usually isn’t a dry eye in the house.

Rule No. 6: Overdeliver. This year’s gala includes awards; cocktails; appetizers that they served in the ’50s and ’80s; a gourmet movie-themed meal; casino-style gaming; dancing to Denver’s The Nacho Men; and a fantastic New Age silent auction. (Bring your cell phones because bidding will be online and in real time. You’ll get a text when you’re outbid and be able to up the ante at the event or from home.)

The fun starts at 5:30 p.m. with awards and is followed by general hoopla all night long. For details visit or call us at 970-945-6589 and we’ll get you signed up.

Our gala isn’t an annual meeting — it’s a production — because celebrating business and celebrating community is important.

You are invited to come along for the ride. “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”

Marianne Virgili is the president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association who with her team entertains 300 people a year at the chamber gala.

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