Why ILEA Made a Difference - With Alysia Pope

As our May membership drive is right around the corner, ILEA Chicago's leadership took a moment to talk to one of our newer members - Alysia Pope, Senior Account Manager, Chicago at 360 Destination Group and ILEA Chicago members since January, 2017.  

Alysia shared her #MYILEA story and why she made the decision to join ILEA Chicago:

How has your ILEA Membership has enhanced their business or career since joining? 

ILEA has been a great networking tool for me since joining. It’s a great space to really gain knowledge on all of the different partners in our industry and the unique offerings that each of them have. This then enables our team to really feel confident that we’re presenting the best options for our clients. In addition, ILEA allows me to expand my knowledge in the industry with multiple beneficial events throughout the year and seminar offerings where I can continue my education.

Why ILEA - who introduced you to our organization originally?

Michelle Castady, DMCP and our Director of Sales introduced me to ILEA. Michelle felt that ILEA had made such a positive impact on her career and wanted to pass along the torch.

What is your advice to others in the chapter in getting the most of their membership?

Save the dates! Do your best to attend as many chapter events as possible. In addition to this, make it an effort to meet at least one new member at each event. In no time, you’ll have expanded your network of Chicago industry professionals exponentially.

Can you think of any #MYILEA moments that were particularly satisfying?

At one of the first ILEA events that I attended, our team invited a current student to attend the event with us, as she was coming close on graduation. Being able to give her such a positive network of people that are so willing to help you at any turn or favor you may need to ask is inspiring. The culture of ILEA promotes bettering its members, and seeing this in action with someone who was trying to break into the industry for the first time made me proud to be a member of the organization. 

Thanks Alysia for sharing your #MYILEA experience - we're certainly thrilled to have you in our organization and look forward to sharing more about your journey with us in the future.  

If you or someone you know is interested in joining ILEA, our May Membership Drive is the time!  Only in May, you can get 14 months of membership AND save $50 off your annual membership fee.   Just click here and sign up between May 1 - 31 using the promo code:  MAY50.

If you have any questions at all, please contact Sandy Sobczak, CERP at, or to any of the ILEA Leadership.   We hope to see you at the next meeting!

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Please join us in celebrating the 2017 N.I.C.E. Award Winners

If you didn't join us at the 2017 N.I.C.E. Awards night on April 18th, you missed a fantastic evening.  The awards committee out did themselves in truly transporting us to the streets of Havana at every turn complete with dinner, drinks, cigars, entertainment and more.  Taking us through the long list of accomplished members, was our Emcee for the night - the talented Becca Kaufman!  

Congratulations to all the Winners at the 2017 N.I.C.E. Awards: 


TIE:  Catering by Michaels for "Martini's & Oysters" & Food for Thought for "Glitter Cocktail"

Oysters-Oysters-Oysters!  Who isn't sick of oysters was the lament when Catering by Michaels was tasked with an oyster-friendly, foodie-friendly, cocktail-loving birthday party.  Dave and Jessica knew that they wanted to "do it up", then they started thinking about Dave's 45th birthday.  Spectacular venue, out of this world service, and out of the box food and cocktails.   When they reached out to Catering by Michaels, they set upon a great challenge:  an unforgettable night with creative food and unforgettable booze.... And Oysters  

Food For Thought's "Glitter Cocktail was the perfect accessory at the 2016 Adler Planetarium "Space Bling" Open House.  Not only did it deliver a flawless balance of tartness and sweetness, the glitter diamond ice cube was the ideal statement piece for the "blinged" out affair.   Inspired by a margarita served up, the "Glitter" was a delightful marriage of jalapeno tequila, triple sec, fresh lime juice and simple syrup and was presented in a crystal cocktail saucer at the entrance of the lit Diamond Lounge for the perfect welcome to the sparkly affair.  


 TIE:  Food for Thought for "Antiques, Garden & Design Preview & Catering by Michaels for "Modern Luxury"

 The Antiques, Garden & Design Show at the Chicago Botanic Garden is a night anyone lucky enough to attend with not soon forget.  It touches your senses on all levels from the moment you walk in.  The preview party greeted guests  with custom made Garden-inspired hors d' oeuvre carts roaming through every area of the garden, waiter passed spring cocktails, plentiful buffets, interactive action stations and room after room filled with amazing antiques and garden inspiration. Congrats Food For Thought.



 Modern Luxury magazine was looking to have an issue release party for bridal industry professionals, as well as to celebrate their new editor-in- chief.  They wanted to showcase trendsetting elements of all bridal industry facets and hold it at the beautiful new lfot space Architectural Artifacts in Chicago, which has quickly become and up-and-coming venue for higher-end wedding clients in the city.  Because Catering by Michaels advertises in the magazine, they were asked to do a trade and participate by both providing savory and sweet buffets. 


  Catering by Michaels for "ILEA Chicago Masters Dinner" 

ILEA Masters Dinner

 ILEA hosts a Master's Dinner in cities around the country each year in order to bring together and honor the top echelon on industry alumni on the night before their "Day of Education" seminar.  Having been a longtime member of ILEA, Catering by Michaels collaborated with them on The Masters Dinner, which had never before been hosted in Chicago!  


Catering by Michaels for "NFL Draft"

Best Catered Event - NFL Draft

The last weekend of April saw the return of the NFL Draft to Chicago for the second year in a row, bringing over 1,000 associates from the NFL and advertising partners back to Grant Park. Having made such an impression last year, Catering by Michaels once again provided championship worthy food for these elites as well as a group of special VIP's.  And this year, the event went into Overtime with a last minute After Party planned 16 hours in advance.  


 Arena Americas for "Louis Vuitton America's Cup" 

 Americas Cup

 The Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series sailed into Chicago as part of the first stage of competition in the 35th running of the event.  It centered around the popular Navy Pier, along the short of Lake Michigan as well as in downtown Chicago.  Arena Americas supported the competition with a variety of rental equipment, including clear span structures, customer printed graphics, flooring, tables, chairs an HVAC, as well as custom structures on the rooftop of the Pier.  The equipment was used for hospitality, VIP parties, sponsorships, vendors and ticketing.   


 M & M Event Rentals for "Jenna's Sugar Factory" 

Jenna's Sugar Factory

 'Jenna's Sugar Factory' evoked a vibrant lounge-like feel inspired by sugary treats in fuchsia, orange, purple and turquoise.  The event was color-blocked in the party colors using a combination of linen and illumination for an eye-catching effect.  Centerpieces were a mix of fabric and vinyl lampshades, gorgeous floral displays surrounded by dazzling clusters of stemmed vases and cylinders filled with matching candies, candles and gems.  The room was draped and up-lit for a totally color immersed environment.  The custom vinyl dance floor anchored the entire space and delighted the party-goers throughout the candy filled celebration. 


Kehoe Designs for "Brainlab Annual Party"


Creativity knows no bounds.  Kehoe created an annual celebration for their client where guests were transported to a jarring apocalyptic space from the moment of arrival. A re-imagined interpretation of a thrilling story, with penetrating characters, theatrical magic and ominous landscape.  Original artistic decor, state-of-the-art technical elements, and electric entertainment completely immersed guests in a unique cinematic experience. 


M & M Event Rentals for "Hannopoly"


'Hannopoly - Glitz and Glamour Edition' was the name of this event.  M & M Event Rentals set out to create an upscale look with the glamour and sparkle of its namesake board game.  The focus of the tables was elevated illuminated showpieces with custom graphics that combined diamond faceted glamour with traditional game piece whimsy.  These pieces were set atop a rhinestone platform with dripping strands of crystals and "floating" glass balls filled with gems and stunning fresh floral.  Echoing the excitement were cylinders filled with rose stems, and topped with glittering crystal balls further emphasizing the elegant glamour of the event.  


Arena Americas for "Celestial Ball"

In September of 2016, Chicago's Adler Planetarium hosted their annual Celestial Ball:  Across the Universe.  the black-tie gala was attended by more than 700 guests and raised over $1.6M for the planetarium's exhibitions, shows and programs that inspire young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  Arena Americas supported the event with a variety of rental equipment including tenting, air conditioning, power, flooring, tables, mirage chairs, dinnerware, glassware and flatware.  The equipment was used for a lakeside cocktail hour and sit-down dinner in the planetarium. 


Magnificent Events for "Backstage Pass"

"Backstage Pass" was a custom created show for a Fortune 100 company's sales incentive trip that took place in Hawaii.  This show created a battle of four different genres of music (rock, disco, country and pop) and incorporated 8 different front people, a common band behind each genre (totalling 9 more musicians) and 16 dancers.  The object was to give the attendees of this repeat client a look and fee that they had never seen before, packing ton of variety into one 2 1/2 hour show complete with customer mash-ups, choreography and stage theatrics. 


 The Actors Gymnasium for "Cirque du Flambe"

 The Actors Gymnasium

 The Actors Gymnasium provided the entertainment rfo 'Cirque du Flambe', a Carnivale- themed event at Carnivale Chicago, hosted by CSSI Marketing & Culinary during the National Restaurant conference.  Over 20 performers - acrobats, musicians, fire spinners, dancers and more - entertained 400 guests throughout the 4 hour event.

Sambe dancers in large feathered headdresses, living statues painted like birds, and a stilt-walker in electric blue were a visual Carnivale feast; a performance duo on aerial straps stunned guests with their gravity-defying feats of strength and grace and an ensemble of drummers accompanies the evening's featured acts, sparking and impromptu conga line among the guests.


 Magnificent Events for "CD & ME" 

Magnificent Events - Bar / Festival

 "CD & ME" in Frankfort, IL is one of the most beautiful and scenic venues in the Chicago suburbs.  Magnificent Events just completed its 13th year of its annual summer series.  They continue to refine the approach taking advantage of the uniqueness of the venue.  They created an experiential event featuring outdoor concert every Thursday from Memorial day through the end of September featuring 20 different bands including 2 national artists in an unplugged storyteller's environment that gave guests a one of a kind intimate experience. 


On the Scene for "Spain Annual Forum"

On The Scene

On The Scene was hired by a pharmaceutical company to produce the eventing events for an Annual Forum in Madrid, Spain.  taking place less that a month following the Paris terrorist attacks, the planning team overcame literally hundreds of complications and delivered 4 stunning - and safe - off site events featuring iconic Spanish sites and style.  Enlisting powerful vendor partners, and translators alike, they produced a party that rocked until the wee hours. 


Christina Currie Events "Timeless Wedding"

Christina Currie Events

The details of this timeless wedding were unique and creative.  An iconic hotel venue was transformed into the bride and groom's fairytale love story.  The magnificent flower petal theme was carried throughout the event; from inclusion in the invitation, hotel staircase, reception and photo booth.  The bride and groom's personas were Incorporated into the wedding materials and accents; guest room bodes, signature drinks, and initials logo on the dance floor, table tents and seating chart.  Friends and family continued to be wowed by the mix and match blush and gold decor that sparkled i the cocktail lounge, reception and nightclub. 


Perfectly Planned Events "Come Fly with Us"

Perfectly Planned Events

"Come Fly With Us" at the new and improved Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital!  This vintage, airline inspired event welcomed over 250 invited guests to an evening of interactive experiences, tours and entertainment led guests on a journey that was a huge success with both the attendees and the organizers.  this "friend-raising" event was underwritten by a provide individual to show his dedication, support and appreciation for the local hospital and to reconnect the community with the hospital's healthcare services and resources. 


Calihan Catering for "James Beard Awards"


The Oscars of the Culinary World meets the Lyric Opera house of Chicago.   This 2,000 person Gala features a 180-guest VIP dinner, over 60 activations of James Beard Award winning chefs and sponsors throughout the 2 floors of the historic Lyric Opera House.  This event is logistically challenging as there are 60 different equipment orders, 45,000 portions of food, 3 small elevators delivering the food from the floor above, over 30 hours of individual staffing labor within 2 days, and a strict fire code to follow. 


AFR Event Furnishings / Arenda Americas / Drape Kings / Feast and Imbibe / Magnificent Events / TWA Photography / Total Event Resources for " Networker"

Best Nice Team event

This team of NACE and ILEA members came together for the Chicago events community to create an event that attracted meetings and event industry professional to share a common experience for the senses that highlighted color.  This team of sponsors and volunteers offered more than just their products and services, they offered their creativity, time and energy to produce and unforgettable networking experience that still has Chicago talking.  Their willingness to participate and gifting of their services speaks volumes to the manner in which our industry takes care of their own. 


Zachary Stevens

Zachary Stevens

At just a 20 year old, Zach has managed to make a great impact on NACE.  he will receive his bachelor's degree in Hospitality Leadership this December, two quarters early, and his masters degree next year from Depaul University. In addition to his commitment to NACE as a student chapter liaison, he is also the President of DePaul's Event Management Club and Treasurer of American Hotel and Lodging Association.  One the NACE programs committee, he has co-planned the May NACE event and will co-plan the September and October events.  He aspires to one day, be a professor teaching future hospitality leaders. 


Vicki Bowman, CMP, CED

Vicki Bowman

 As Marketing & Event Manager for MCI, Vicki oversees the company’s marketing/advertising, web & social media presence, tradeshow participation, internal meetings & training as well as all VIP special events.  Inspired by the great conversations shared at the Roadshows and ILEA LIVE, she created a program of connecting with “Sister Cities” allowing sharing of information not just within the region, but with cities we would like to benchmark against in other parts of the country.  As an opportunity to start a fresh reboot of an already solid MarCom team, Vicki asked that the  MarCom team rethink of themselves as an extension of each of the other committees.  Finally, Vicki & the MarCom team are updating the Chicago website that is responsive to the members’ preference, full of newly written stories and members spotlights and all organized to be a one stop shop for ILEA Chicago’s finest. 


Karen Stefani

Karen Stefani

As a former boutique owner, Karen Stefani has accomplished her own success in sales and business.  She now oversees daily operations as the Owner and Operator of Inspired Catering and Events by Karen & Gina Stefani.  A true humanitarian, Karen is invested fully in Stefani's Children's charities as well as a certified WBE "Women Business Enterprise" with Inspired.  Karen's commitment to her staff and clients is second to none.  She works closely to develop the family focused culture from which the early roots of the Stefani Restaurant Group began with her husband Phil over 35 years ago.  She has a passion for creating spectacular catered events in a very forward-thinking way.  Karen's focus is staying up to date with the latest trends of the industry and developing mouth-watering cuisine options to suit her clients' vision for the perfect event.  


Jeff Stitely

Courage Award

Jeff was a successful jazz artist before creating Stitely Entertainment dedicated to bringing joy to celebrations.  7 years ago his wife was diagnosed with cancer.  Jeff has been by her side through every phase of her valiant battle, which is now terminal while also focusing on raising two teenagers.  He has to operate his business at a high level winning "Best of Weddings" and "Couple's Choice" Awards for 2017.  In 2016 he joined the NACE board as treasurer increasing their funds by 327% in his first year.  His commitment to joyfully celebrating life has not wavered one bit.




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A Message from Lisa Ware, President ILEA Chicago

Click on the link below and view the new video by Lisa Ware.

Thank you!

Lisa Ware, President ILEA Chicago - April

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Thank you Chicago Food Planet for a Great Members-Only Event

ILEA Chicago Members were treated to a unique experience showcasing the delicious food, robust history and unique culture Chicago has to offer.   A progressive walking dinner tour in Chicago's trendy Wicker Park neighborhood.  The tour titled "The World's Fare" was lead by our incredibly knowledgeable and fearless tourguide Jade.  Over the next two hours we would feast on food and drink from around the world with cultural ties to the 1893 World's Exposition, without ever leaving the 2-block radius.

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Lillie's Q

Named for his Grandmother Lillie, Chef Charlie McKenna's Southern American BBQ has been recently named the best new BBQ in the country and won first place in the Memphis In May.

ILEA Members dined on pulled pork sandwiches with beans and cole slaw.  Each table had their choice of 6 different sauces ranging from Eastern North Carolina to Hot Smoky.  This plate paired perfectly with a cold draft from Revolution Brewery. 


Chop Shop

Housed in a 100-year-old former auto body shop, the Chop Shop is Chicago’s only sustainable butcher + deli + restaurant + bar. It features handed down recipes from Mama Minelli.

ILEA Members shared a massive plate of Mama Minelli's meatballs which were 80% beef and 20% pork plus Italian seasonings.  Cooked in a homemade marinara and covered with pecorino cheese and accompanied by in-house made giardiniera and toasted french bread.  Paired with choice of bourbon or a beautiful Italian red wine.


Named after the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, the founders wanted to bring Authentic Argentinean to Chicago by featuring empanadas, special sauces, wine & fernet.

We gathered in this intimate storefront spot and dined on Bacon, Dates and Goat Cheese baked empanadas with an Argentinian Malbec.  With over 15 different types of empanadas to choose from, all with unique shapes, it is no doubt that we'll be back to sample more in the near future!

Urban Belly

Last but not least the famed Urban Belly.  Award-winning Chef Bill Kim reimagines Korean noodles, dumplings, and rice using only the most authentic ingredients.

We were greeted with passionfruit-lemonade spiked with vodka and coconut curry pho.  As we slurped down the last bit of our ramen each guest got to share their favorite part of the past two hours which ranged from spending 1:1 time with fellow ILEA members to exploring a new neighborhood.  Before we departed we got a chance to say hi to Chef/Owner Bill Kim and finished our meal with maple glazed donuts and vanilla ice cream. 



Many thanks to Chicago Food Planet - and Jade - for making this special ILEA Members-only event possible!  

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