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  • Best Of Awards- The Best of the Best!

    Best of the Best - Get to know Minnesota’s biggest names in the meetings and events industry, as chosen by you.  

    FROM THE Summer 2013 ISSUE

Our readers are a passionate bunch. They recognize the hard work and talents of people, while also appreciating the beautiful and exquisite places that can be found right here in Minnesota. When they hear about a great person or place, they want to tell the world.

And that’s just what they did.

For the past 11 years, Minnesota Meetings + Events has polled its readers to find out what they consider the best places, people and things within our great state. In 2012, the races in many categories were tight. Yet, only one per category could reign supreme.


In the ever-connected world we live in, tranquility can be hard to come by. Luckily, the golf course remains a place in which the digital world can still be left behind. Many a decision has been made on the three distinct championship courses that make up this year’s Best Golf Venue, Grand View Lodge. Not only has the golf course been recognized by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine as one of the best in the country, but it has also received the accolades of many right here in Minnesota.

The history within the walls of the Van Dusen Mansion speaks for itself. Named as Best Historic Venue for the second year in a row, Van Dusen Mansion has been beautifully and meticulously restored via gorgeous antique furnishings and a private outdoor courtyard. "To complement our facilities, our expert and creative staff is here to make our guests feel welcome and to ensure everyone has a most pleasurable experience through our attentive personalized service," explains Jennifer Anderson, director of sales and marketing at Van Dusen Mansion & Event Center.

For the sixth time, Hilton Minneapolis is awarded the Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (More than 300 Guest Rooms) in our annual poll. Indeed, clients of this venue become friends and are always greeted with only the best of service. Plus, the location cannot be matched, nestled smack in the center of Minneapolis and its long list of attractions. Companies from all across the country visit for meetings within the hotel’s 77,000 square feet of meeting space. And with the largest hotel ballroom in the state, there’s no reason not to book a stay.

The 103-year-old Saint Paul Hotel remains a favorite to our voters, who awarded the historic venue as the Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (Less than 300 Guest Rooms) for the fourth time. Voters continue to recognize the unmatched hospitality offered by hotel employees. "We serve everyone, from the road warrior business traveler to the special occasion stay to the parents visiting their children attending a local university," explains David Miller, general manager of The Saint Paul Hotel. "It is up to us to always make sure they perceive the value of a place such as this."

The McNamara Alumni Center continues to dominate the Best Meeting/Event Space (No Hotel) category, with voters raving about the venue’s 10 event spaces-all on the first floor and many connected through multiple doors and hallways. The design of the space also offers meeting and event planners flexible setup and numerous creative options, a trait that is very appealing, especially for large events such as galas and all-day conferences. According to a 2012 client survey, clients’ overall satisfaction of their event at McNamara was 4.93 out of 5.0, and for good reason.

The Grand View Lodge makes yet another appearance in this year’s vote by also taking home the honor of Best Resort with Meeting/Event Space. Whether it’s Grand View’s breathtaking accommodations, luxury spa or wide array of dining experiences, voters continue to leave impressed at all this resort has to offer. "From the friendly and knowledgeable staff to the amazing accommodations, Grand View exceeds our expectations time and time again," says Chrissy Graddy, studio manager of Graddy Photography, a voter in this year’s poll. Grand View Lodge also takes home the Best Venue Outside of Twin Cities Metro Area. "We shoot many weddings there, and I think that their approach and customer service is some of the best we have seen in the industry," adds Graddy. "In terms of weddings, the locations for the ceremony are amazing. There is a garden area, and there is also the main ceremony area with the lake in the background. Both views are spectacular."

Whether it’s a business meeting, social gathering, family celebration or any other type of special event, the talented staff at CRAVE seems to understand the importance of providing an unforgettable experience to its guests and, ultimately, exceeding every expectation. Named as the Best Restaurant/Bar with Private Dining Space, CRAVE is designed and built with unique private dining areas that can be customized for groups of any size, and outfitted for any event needs including audio-visual capabilities, soundproofing, high-end designer finishes and privacy.

The Winners

Best Golf Venue
Grand View Lodge
Breezy Point Resort, Burl Oaks Golf Club (tie), Rush Creek Golf Club (tie)

Best Historic Venue
Van Dusen Mansion
James J. Hill House, Landmark Center

Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (More than 300 Guest Rooms)
Hilton Minneapolis 
Breezy Point Resort, Marriott City Center

Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (Less than 300 Guest Rooms)
The Saint Paul Hotel
Embassy Suites Minneapolis - North, Graves 601

Best Meeting/Event Space (No Hotel)
McNamara Alumni Center
Nicollet Island Pavilion, Van Dusen Mansion

Best Resort with Meeting/Event Space
Grand View Lodge
Breezy Point Resort, Madden’s on Gull Lake

Best Venue Outside of Twin Cities Metro
Grand View Lodge
Breezy Point Resort, Madden’s on Gull Lake

Best Restaurant/Bar with Private Dining Space
Chino Latino, Seven Steakhouse


Creating chemistry within your team can be a challenge, no matter the venue. However, with help from the experts, it can be successful and worthwhile. Receiving Best Teambuilding Activity/Facilitator/Organizer, Minneapolis-based metroConnections makes yet another appearance in this year’s crop of award winners. From game shows to chili cook-offs to sangria mixers, metroConnections seems to get it right in terms of creating connections when they’re needed the most.

When looking for one-of-a-kind entertainment options, it can be difficult to handle it all on your own. Many meeting and event planners go straight to G.L. Berg Entertainment, Performing Artists + Speakers. Voted as the first-place winner in this year’s Best Entertainment category, G.L. Berg Entertainment routinely contracts more than 2,500 shows each year in more than 49 states and five countries in the corporate, fair, college, theater and K-12 markets.

When the memories fade, the pictures remain. In terms of photography, countless voters recommend the services of Lauren B. Photography. No matter the event, this talented team seems to know just what to capture during the span of an event and what truly is meant to be remembered. And with experience shooting weddings, portraits and events, this company has what it takes to capture your event in the right light.

As both the largest city and the largest convention and visitors association in the area, Meet Minneapolis was named Best Convention + Visitors Bureau (Town/Area More than 25,000 in Population) in this year’s voting. "Our 50 staff members are dedicated to promoting Minneapolis, enhancing the city economically, bringing in more visitors and booking more meetings each year," says Kristen Montag, marketing communications manager at Meet Minneapolis. "The vision is for Minneapolis to be the destination of choice."

And last, but certainly not least, the Best Convention + Visitors Bureau (Town/Area Less than 25,000 in Population) is awarded to Visit Brainerd. The home to countless options for dining and activities, this team has made quite the impression on our readers, who commented on the way it always seems to showcase the city’s wide range of amenities.

The Winners

Best Team-building Activity/Facilitator/Organizer
Burl Oaks Golf Club, Liddle Marketing Company

Best Entertainment (Performer or Talent Agency)
G.L. Berg Entertainment, Performing Artists + Speakers
Bellagala, R-Factor

Best Photography/Videography
Lauren B. Photography
Graddy Photography, Kelly Brown Weddings

Best Convention + Visitors Bureau (Town/Area More than 25,000 in Population)
Meet Minneapolis
Bloomington Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visit Saint Paul

Best Convention + Visitors Bureau (Town/Area Less than 25,000 in Population)
Visit Brainerd
Pequot Lakes/Breezy Point Office of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Explore Alexandria


More than 1.7 million people attended the Minnesota State Fair in 2012, and chances are a number of those voted for The Great Minnesota Get-Together as Best Attraction in this year’s poll. As you read this, plans for the 2013 event are well underway. "We always work to keep the fair fresh with plenty of new attractions, educational elements, engaging exhibits, etc.- those are the pieces of the puzzle we’re hard at work on now," explains Brienna Schuette, marketing and communications manager at the Minnesota State Fair.

"I built the business not to be the biggest shop in town, but to be the most personal," explains Josh Reitan, owner of AV for You, who takes home the Best Audio-Visual/Visual Presentation Provider for 2012. "I hire staff who adhere to the same credo. We all take ownership of our events and are personally vested in their success. Every event we do is a reflection on us, so we strive to ensure our clients and, by association, we always look our best." Voters certainly agreed and recognized this successful company for the third year in a row.

Sometimes the perfect venue can’t be found anywhere else but on the water. Voted as the winner in the Best Boats/Cruises/Charters category, Padelford Riverboats can certainly help to create an event your attendees won’t soon forget. With fleet options that can accommodate groups from 50 to 600 people, Padelford Riverboats’ vessels feature indoor and outdoor seating, along with exciting menu, bar and theme package options. Planning an event? Make sure to check out the company’s Jonathan Padelford, the only authentic sternwheeler on the Upper Mississippi.

Look no further than metroConnections for all of your event décor needs, according to voters who awarded the successful company first place in the Best Event Décor category this year. With a near never-ending inventory of couches, linens, lighting and props, metroConnections has become a one-stop shop for countless meeting and event planners interested in making their event truly stand out.

Often, it’s the floral touches that can take an event from ordinary to extraordinary. This year, readers voted the talented staff at Sadie’s Couture Floral & Event Styling as the winner in the Best Florist category. "We value the importance of providing excellent customer service and we always hold our designers to the highest standards of delivering personal care and attention to detail," explains Melissa Stratton of the full-service couture floral and event styling boutique.

D’Amico Catering’s phone is ringing off the hook these days, and for good reason. As the winner of our Best Catering Company (On- or Off-Site) and an extension of the highly successful D’Amico & Partners restaurant group, this Minneapolis-based caterer has been a player in the Twin Cities’ constantly evolving food scene since 1982.

Whether it’s a dinner for 10 or a reception for thousands, this award-winning caterer is worth a look and taste.

Looking to host a greener event? Look no further than GASTROTRUCK, this year’s first-place winner of Best Up-and-Coming Catering Company (Less than Five Years in Business). "We strive to offer our customers a fun and unique experience that features handcrafted foods using local sustainable ingredients," explains Catherine Eckert, co-owner of GASTROTRUCK. This philosophy seems to be gaining ground, as the business plans to grow greatly in 2013.

Voted as the Best Rental Service Provider, Linen Effects is the bearer of many accolades from industry folks who know just what it takes to put together a successful company. "They have the most amazing selection of décor that is ever-growing and are meticulous about keeping it in good shape," explains Jennifer Anderson, director of sales and marketing at Van Dusen Mansion. "I love working with their entire team. They are all true professionals and very good at what they do."

No one can enjoy an event without first being able to arrive. Countless people rely on the service and reliability of metroConnections, voted as the Best Transportation option in this year’s poll. Dealing with an intense amount of logistics, and people who have somewhere to go, metroConnections remains the company our readers believe can truly get the job done.

The Winners

Best Attraction
Minnesota State Fair
Mall of America, Minnesota Zoo

Best Audio-Visual/Visual Presentation Provider
AV for You
AVEX, metroConnections

Best Boats/Cruises/Charters
Padelford Riverboats 
Al & Alma’s Supper Club and Charter Cruises, Bayview Charter Cruises/ Queen of Excelsior

Best Event Décor
Event Lab, Festivities

Best Florist
Sadie’s Couture Floral & Event Styling
Luna Vinca, Richfield Flowers & Events

Best Catering Company (On- or Off-site)
D’Amico Catering 
Mintáhoe Catering & Events, Morrissey Hospitality Companies Culinary Group

Best Up-and-Coming Catering Company (Less than Five Years in Business)
Common Roots Catering, CRAVE Catering

Best Rental Service Provider
Linen Effects
Midway Party Rental, Ultimate Events

Best Transportation
Minnesota Coaches, Renee’s Royal Valet