By Jenny Berg Posted August 4, 2009, 3:31 PM EDT
CHICAGO Last Thursday, the American Bar Association's annual meeting began a six-day stint in Chicago. Billed as the “premier educational forum for legal professionals," the gathering involved citywide seminars that hit on such topics as mortgage servicing, the legal ethics of Facebook and, at an event at Soldier Field on Saturday night, the finer points of swing dancing. Hosted by the associations' Section of Intellectual Property Law, and produced by Total Event Resources, the Saturday night dinner drew some 150 international lawyers and was intended to give “people who were attending the conference a flavor of the city they were in," said Sarah Schnell, senior program manager at the production firm.
Schnell said that venue selection was the first order of business when the planning process began last fall. “Our client [the American Bar Association's Darla Brown] really wanted the theme to be 'the Chicago Experience,'” Shnell said. “Soldier Field is one of those iconic venues in the city that's known worldwide.” Once they had secured the venue, Schnell and her team set about desigining a scheme for food and decor, ultimately employing food stations that represented Chicago neighborhoods.
In the third-floor United Club, staggered buffet tables offered different types of ethic cuisine, and Kehoe Designs added thematic props to each station. White, flower-strewn columns adorned the Greektown table, which offered gyros; baseballs filled a tall, clear vase on a table loaded with bowls of relish, mustard, and other hot-dog toppings; and giant lollipops and cotton candy sticks formed the centerpiece of the dessert buffet.
“We wanted to keep with the neighborhoods theme in terms of the decor and the cuisine,“ Schnell said, “but we wanted to give them something else as well—a more musical, visual experience that would capture Chicago." Toward that end, Total Event Resources called in the services of Big City Swing. The troupe of dance instructors brought in a DJ, whose play-list included songs from Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra; they also lead willing lawyers through a few swing dance steps. (“You don't need any experience, and you don't need a partner," instructors announced to lure guests to the dance floor.)
Schnell said that the planning process presented no major challenges. “We had a nice time line,“ she said. “And the budget was just enough to give us what we wanted in terms of food and decor."