As tradition commands, the outgoing HSMAI president sets the tone for the group's annual holidays bash. Perhaps, then, it's no surprise that Trish Owen selected a theme that hits close to home. Her home that is -- Trish's mother was born in Havana.
If you don't already know first hand, Cubans have a certain zest for life, a flare for the dramatic, and an appreciation for elegance. For all who attended (and even for those looking on from Elements) the evening was all that, and more. The invitations requested party attire of plantation whites. Most obliged. And with the décor set to match, the soiree took on a glow of it's own, even before the night really got rolling.
The outdoor patio setting at the Sanctuary is perhaps one of the most tranquil spots in town. Call it a view. Call it architectural feng shui. It works. And most seemed to enjoy the pre-dinner gathering spot, in spite of the December night. Perhaps cigars and mojitos had something to do with it. But at least some of the energy was attributed to the frenzy at the treasure chest - which held all the numbered keys for raffle prizes. And key prizes, they were. Donated items included everything from spa packages, to golf, food and fun. But the grand prize was worth all the keys, and more. Thanks to tireless effort from the event committee, the most anticipated prize of the night included airfare and accommodations for the one spot that probably holds more Cubans than Cuba itself. Miami, Florida.
Between the cocktail reception and the treasure trove of prizes, the night could have stopped there, and been given a good review. However, the fun was just beginning. Trish and crew had a few surprises in store, only one of which was the menu. Cuban delicacies were featured - some familiar, some unexpected, all delicious. Distinctive dishes included saffron rice and black beans, chorizo with garbanzo beans and, of course, plantains (a.k.a. little, tiny bananas).
If every good party features good music, then every great party had better go a step beyond. And this one did. In keeping with a theme fraught with flair and elegance, Flamenco entertainment fit the bill. In all her hot and saucy splendor, dancer Lily Fernandez took the ambiance up a notch, yet again.
Few emcees of the evening could have maintained the room's energy at that point -- But, living up the reputation that deservedly precedes her, past HSMAI president, and current President & CEO of the Scottsdale CVB, Rachel Sacco, kept the room abuzz. Following Sacco's introduction, the 2002 Board was brought on stage, and given all the credit they deserved for steering the course during one of the industry's toughest years. Sacco then led the installation and swearing in of a capable and enthusiastic board for 2003 (see box on page two).
The night, of course, would not have been complete without the presentation of the 2002 awards. As everyone knows, these awards are especially appreciated, because they are given from those in the industry that know outstanding service when they see it.
The 2002 HSMAI Awards were given in the following categories, to the following, deserving recipients:
Host Property of the Year
Radisson Resort & Spa Scottsdale
Member of the Year
Karen May, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa
Sponsor of the Year
Brede Exposition Services
General Manager of the Year
Greg Miller, Royal Palms Hotel & Casitas
Board Member of the Year
Cheryl Street, CHSP, CHME, Club Sunterra/Sunterra Resorts
Committees of the Year
Chinese Auction Committee
Golf Tournament Committee
President's Achievement Award
David Rosenbaum, CHME, Tempe Mission Palms Hotel
And with that, the evening concluded. Well, almost. There were the prizes. The hotly-anticipated raffle prizes. The twist here, however, was a bit different. Those that held a key that opened the treasure chest, earlier in the evening, knew they had won something, but not what they had won. Anxious key holders listened, as numbers were called. Artwork, restaurants, getaways, golf packages, the list went on. And then there was just one key left. Who do you think gets to go to Miami? As luck would have it, the Cuban -- as long as she's really nice to her friend, the winner.