Event Recap: ILEA Chicago's Holiday Bash

In case you missed the fun, on December 5th ILEA Chicago event profs gathered at the fieldhouse at Maggie Daley Park to kick off the holiday season and celebrate a fantastic and fun-filled year together!

Guests brought toys for The Birthday Party Project, and enjoyed festive cocktails and food provided by Feast & Imbibe. Hall's Rental, BBJ linen, Anthony Gowder Designs and Sound Investment added holiday flair with tables covered with gorgeous linens, flowers, lighting and holiday music to get everyone in the spirit of the season.

After an hour of visiting and networking, we bundled up in our winter gear to carol through the park! The group stopped and sang as park patrons skated around the ribbon, visited the snack stand, and took in the evening. 

Park Grill provided the perfect ending to the evening, as the ILEA members and guests reconvened to warm up and enjoy some more food, drink and camaraderie!

Lisa Ware provided an update on the Birthday Party Project and proudly displayed the holiday tree filled with members contributions.  Jeff Duroucher reminded all that it was December Membership Drive and guests who joined us for the festivities were introduced.

During a busy time of year for everyone, especially for those in the event industry, this event was a fun way to get together, share an experience and relax.  Thank you to everyone who came to the event and many, many thanks to our very generous sponsors who ensured that the event was a success!

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A Message from Lisa Ware, President ILEA Chicago

Joy!  I have sat here enjoying a hot cup of tea for a while thinking about what word best signifies how I feel about the holidays!  Hands down – that word for me is Joy!  It is hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving is this week and December is right around the corner.  It brings me so much joy to go to the Farmer’s Market for Thanksgiving ingredients, make my grocery lists, pick which things I am going to make for Thanksgiving this year and anticipate having so many of my favorite people at my table this year.  I have some extra joy this year because my sister and her family will be coming to Chicago.  Yes, we are all busy around the holidays with events and there is never enough time to get it all done but the overwhelming feeling for me is always Joy! 

If you read my last blog, I briefly mentioned how ILEA Chicago is going to get involved with The Birthday Party Project and this organization brings me such a feeling of joy.  I am hoping that with your help we can bring some joy to some Chicago kids who might not otherwise feel the same joy we do about the holidays.  I recently had a call with Alison Dukes, the new Executive Director of The Birthday Party Project and I was giddy after the call because I know that ILEA Chicago has so much that we can bring to this wonderful organization.  Their entire mission is JOY! You see The Birthday Party Project is an organization that provides birthday parties for kids in homeless shelters who likely have never celebrated a birthday party.  Since I cannot say it better than them – here is a blurb straight from the source – I am hoping that this incites JOY into your heart and inspires you to help. 

              “At The Birthday Party Project, we understand that not every child has a home, but EVERY child has a birthday, and we have the opportunity to add an invaluable positive experience to their circumstance. We allow kids to dream big! Our monthly celebrations are so much more than a party; they are a loud exclamation point that these children matter; that JOY can come out of any circumstance, and a JOYful community can transform our society.”


To date, The Birthday Party Project has thrown over 1,000 parties and celebrated over 5,000 birthdays with over 31,000 kids in attendance!!  We have our first opportunity to support The Birthday Party Project at our holiday party on December 5th at Millennium Park.  We will be collecting gifts at our holiday party for future birthday parties for The Birthday Party Project.  With the number of kiddos they celebrate – there is always a need.  The ideal gift is in the $30 range but anything under $30 is always welcome as they can mix and match things together.  All gifts should be unwrapped.  They are also always in need of party supplies (plastic tablecloths, streamers, large gift bags, tissue paper, paper plates , paper cups, party hats, blowers/noisemakers, birthday banners, napkins, balloons, candles)– we are event people and always have extra things lying around – check your warehouses, storage rooms and bring along any of these items  as well! This collection will start at our holiday party but any gifts or party favors are welcome anytime!  Call me, text me, email me – I will be happy to come pick them up from your warehouse, house or office at any time! ????

In May – ILEA Chicago will be throwing a birthday party for The Birthday Party Project – more on that later but in the mean time – please come join us for a night of JOY and don’t forget to bring a gift or birthday party supplies so we can spread JOY to homeless kids right here in Chicago!  We'll start the evening at the Maggie Daley Park Fieldhouse.  We will then wind through the park, stopping to sing to guests along the way. We will then head to Park Grill for food, drinks, and continued mingling. Special thanks to our sponsors – Maggie Daley Park, Park Grill, Anthony Gowder Designs, Halls Rental, Feast & Imbibe, Colleen Coyne with SLCK Produtions and Drawing Booth! On behalf of everyone on the ILEA Chicago board, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! 

Lisa Ware is Sales Consultant for Food for Thought as well as President of our ILEA Greater Chicago Chapter.  For more information about Lisa, Food for Thought or The Birthday Party Project, please contact Lisa at 847-404-7862 or





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Meet Timot McGonagle, Director, ILEA Greater Chicago

For over 15 years Timot McGonagle produced exquisite events that both embrace and amplify his clients’ ethos and signature style. A former resident of New York City and Nashville, Timot moved to Chicago in 2011 to join the Kehoe Designs team as a Senior Event Producer where his creative talents are exercised through every facet of event design.

Timot has applied his creative and business might in the varied fields of Marketing, Advertising, Retailing, Cosmetics, Fashion Design, Decorative Arts, and Interior Design. He first joined ILEA in 2002, and his first experience was the incredible CPD in Sydney Australia.

Timot began his event career as a volunteer Event Producer helping to raise millions of dollars for Nashville charities. The support of ILEA and other industry organizations allowed Timot to transition from volunteer to full-time Event Producer.  His experience has allowed him to excel in his corporate, association, social, gala and other large-scale events at Kehoe Designs.

Timot is an Esprit and Gala Award Winning Producer/Designer. He was on the steering committee at Eventworld LA producing the Esprit Awards and was a featured speaker at TSE in Los Angeles.  As the PR Chairman of the SEARCH Foundation Board, he has delivered numerous event presentations across the country to various industry organizations.

Timot has just celebrated his sixth year in Chicago and looks forward to combining his regional and national experience to maximize the success of ILEA Chicago.


Q & A's:

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

What made you interested in participating in ILEA Leadership? I just celebrated my 6th anniversary in Chicago with Kehoe.  Although I have been producing and designing events for over 15 years, I now felt that I possessed the knowledge of Chicago and the surrounding region to be an effective and productive board member.

What would you say are the benefits for participating in our ILEA committees? No matter what your level of experience, you will have the opportunity to work with the board members and committee chairs.  We are here to help and to provide the nurturing and guidance to maximize the benefits of your membership.

What's your advice for those unsure where to start in becoming active in ILEA? You will meet and work with seasoned professionals who will welcome your assistance as they are happy to provide advice and guidance.  You will gain a more personal connection to the board and the membership in general.  That sense of gratification of helping to create memorable experiences for others.

How has ILEA made a difference in your career? My first ILEA experience was the CPD in Sydney Australia in 2002. The only person that I knew in the industry  was Bill Pry from BBJ.   I was living Nashville at the time working as a charity volunteer producer and designer where he had sponsored several charities. 

It was the recognition from ILEA and Special Event Magazine that transformed my volunteer work into a full time event business.  My relocation to Chicago in 2011 was made much easier because of the people that I had met through ILEA.

Tell us one thing we might not know about you.  I have a couture degree from FIT in New York and lived in the city for ten years as a fashion designer.

What do you love the most about what you do?  Exceeding expectations.  Pushing boundaries.  Creating a sense anticipation, wonder and surprise.  Invigorating the “inner  child” within the guests.

Where did you grow up?   Ohio

Thanks Timot!

For more information about Timot McGonagle or Kehoe Designs, you can reach Timot at: Timot@kehoedesigns or 615.500.1349

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Meet Jodi Whitlock, Director, ILEA Greater Chicago

While new to ILEA, Jodi has been in the events industry since the early 90's. She started working as a freelance staff person for Corporate Event Interactive in 1994, and became a full time staff member in 2004. CEI is Chicago's boutique interactive/teambuilding company, and we offer 150+ customizable events.
As the Senior Event Producer at CEI, Jodi is responsible for staffing events, developing new programs and working with clients to create memorable and fun experiences. CEI has been involved with ILEA for 15+ years, with Linda Whitlock (CEI President) serving as President of the ILEA Chicago Chapter in 1999/2000, and Jodi is thrilled to be taking the reigns as the ILEA rep for CEI in 2017.


Q & A's:

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

What made you interested in participating in ILEA Leadership? I felt that it was the best way to get involved in ILEA and make the most of my membership. I thrive on collaborating and being involved with the Board is definitely that! 

What would you say are the benefits for participating in our ILEA committees?  Developing more meaningful relationships with awesome industry people! And being really in the know as far as what is coming up.

What's your advice for those unsure where to start in becoming active in ILEA?  Just ask! Any board member or committee chair will be thrilled to answer questions on how to be more involved. Express a bit of interest and you will be recruited!

How has ILEA made a difference in your career?  The depth of relationships with industry peeps. My network has grown exponentially is a very short amount of time.

Tell us one thing we might not know about you. I’ve been a Reiki Master for 3 years, and make Reiki-infused baked goods.

What do you love the most about what you do? It’s never the same.

Where did you grow up? Michigan

What's your event gone wrong horror story? Haha! Let’s have a glass of wine and I’ll tell you…

Thanks Jodi!

For more information about Jodi or CEI, you can reach Jodi at: or 312.540.1000

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Summer's a Wrap After ILEA Chicago's August 30 Street Fest

We ended summer with a bang at the first ILEA Summer Fest hosted by Hard Rock Café.  What a perfect night on their lovely patio!  Hard Rock provided passed hors d’oeuvres, a stationary buffet with some great summer comfort food and beverages perfect for our ILEA Chicago koozies.

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Our long-time member, Dave Calzaretta with Magnificent Events, kicked off the presentation.  He gave such a great overview of the world of summer fests.  Everything from musical entertainment, staging, permitting, parking, food, and more!  Everyone was impressed with all the little and complicated details that go into such a large event. 

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 Following Dave, Hayden Moldenhauer with Arena Americas, was able to dive a little deeper into the tenting structures and parameters for permitting.  We all learned that tents might as well be buildings with all the architectural details and plans required.

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Spoon Photo & Design snapped photos for us all evening, including a great group shot with our ILEA International President, Ingrid Nagy. It is always great to have members from other chapters in town for our events and we couldn’t think of a better send off for summer!

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 Finally, many thanks to Erica Roskoskey with Food For Thought Catering Group for planning this fabulous event


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