"Elektra" opened the 2019-20 Minnesota Opera Season, providing inspiration for the highly anticipated and ultra-chic Minnesota Opera Gala, which transported 290 guests from Ecolab World Headquarters to Athena’s City of Argos. 

An operatic celebration of ancient Greek mythology and imagination, paired with Ecolab’s dramatic sky-level glass dome, was the perfect combination to reimagine Minnesota Opera’s opening night gala. The team, comprised of the MNOP Gala Planning Committee and led by Event Chair Mary Schrock, Co-Chair Wendy Unglaub and myself as event designer, transformed the 80-foot grand rotunda of Ecolab’s garden and sculptural terrace into the Palace of Knossos. With walls lined in marble, deep illuminated hallways, 25-foot pillars and over 11,000 feet of drapery beautifully lending itself to the structure, the event quickly named itself one of the most beautiful galas in the Twin Cities among guests in attendance.

Four styles of tables were carefully designed to fit the structure and ensure a grand dining experience. Guests were seated at lavish mirror-top tables adorned with Carolina meteor-green and foiled vases, holding a curated mixture of hand-picked blooms. Green dianthus, blue tweedia, white snapdragon and vibrant delphinium reflected boldly and beautifully from the mirrored tabletops.

All corresponding tables were set with La Tavola’s Mariah blush linens that featured gold woven-sequin leaves and were paired with blue velvet napkins. Longer tables were adorned with vast rows of single stem white O’Hara roses, shaded by taller gold-stemmed trees, filled with lush greens and grapevine. 

The showstopper of the evening—aside from the gold gladiators—were the Greco-Roman planter statuary heads we found at Hunt & Gather. Dani Erickson of Studio Fleurette created beautiful flower crowns that sat effortlessly on top of the heads. Lush O’Hara roses, green stock and fresh grapes were the way to bring the details full circle.

To complete the look, we selected Casa de Perrin’s Transatlantica Porcelain Dinnerware Collection and paired it with the GOA Brushed Gold and Blue Flatware Collection. Each flatware piece is sculpted by artisans at family-owned Cutipol in the beautiful village of San Martinho de Sande. The vast array of Mediterranean blues gave life to such a place setting in the most subtle of ways, while the gold brought out the grandeur in the setting. The tables were completed with Chameleon’s classic chair. We paired the gold chair with a steel blue velvet cushion cover and paired the silver chairs with the white cowl draped backing to compliment the dramatic draping.

The beverage partners curated decadent libations to fit the overall aesthetic. BĒT Vodka owner Ben Brueshoff crafted fresh cocktails while owners David O’Neill of Minneapolis Cider Company and Nan Bailly of Alexis Bailly Vineyard mixed among the crowd. WCCO’s Frank Vascellaro made a grand return to welcome everyone, as Richard Lett, world-renowned sailor and member of the Royal Victorian Order, helped sell his private sailing excursion during the live auction. Artist Mary Ingebrand-Pohlad commented, “from the handsomely boxed invitation to the breathtaking décor, this year’s gala was truly a night to remember!" 


Take note of these seven pros who are making their mark in the meetings and events industry. 

Jolene Ihle, Founder
Lifetime Achievement 

“I was 10 years old when I received my Muscular Dystrophy Carnival Kit in the mail. The box was filled with cool ideas and colorful materials to  support fundraising efforts. I was completely enthralled with the event planning process. … This experience was my jumpstart into events and I was hooked.”


Here's who has been crowned the winners and runners-up of the Minnesota Meetings + Events Best of 2020 readers' choice awards. Congratulations!  

Best Brewery/Cidery/Distillery/Winery with Event Space 
Surly Brewing Company 


With the goal of creating an environment that offers compelling education, authentic experiences and intentional connections, ILEA (International Live Events Association) Live 2019 brought planners from around the world in early August 2019 to inspire creativity, network with like-minded people, celebrate the industry and get to know Minneapolis.