Tag Archives: special events


Bravo and a big standing O to Toronto’s URBANSOURCE CATERING who, this month, celebrate 30 successful years in one of the most volatile and difficult to crack service industries – event catering.  Starting off with a modest yet stylish storefront on Yonge St at Davisville, founders CALVIN HAMBROOK (below right) and WAYNE ABELL (below left), have built up a loyal following of corporate, private and fundraising clients who sing their praises and re-book year after year, and a professional staff who delivers 5-star service at every event.

1091 The 2 Crazy Owners Opening DayAfter moving to the larger 396 Queen St East with its big commercial kitchen in January of 1990, the business expanded with more staff being brought on board then, when the space next door at #400 became available in late 2012, Calvin and Wayne took that over, opening a stunning art gallery (www.UrbanGallery.ca) with exhibitions curated by Toronto artist, Allen Shugar. The gallery hosts monthly artist events plus can be used as a private party/dining venue.

Calvin Wayne & AllenCalvin, Wayne & Allen (above L to R)

I had a chance to chat briefly with Calvin the other week, who gave me a brief overview of the evolution of UrbanSource Catering – here’s our conversation which is, perhaps, a great lesson on how to build a thriving business while maintaining high standards of service and always delivering a quality product.

Calvin, any personal thoughts on the significance of reaching this milestone with your business? Over the past 30 years, what we’ve learned is the importance of not only giving our clients the best food, and service, but creating a thriving environment for all our staff. We see and appreciate the talents and work ethic our staff bring to our company, both on and off-site. Permitting our staff to grow professionally and bring their own energy and talents to the table helped us become a responsive company that can cater to a broad spectrum of events. It lets us bring enthusiasm and passion to every dish we serve, every party we staff and every event we plan. That’s something our customers can attest to – and this is how you stay successful for 30 years.

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WWP-7200Weddings are such big business now – how have you seen catering for weddings evolve over the past 30 years…and are you seeing any changes ahead for this season’s wedding banquets?  Weddings have evolved in many ways over the past 30 years, yet in many other ways they are the same. Many couples are much more interested in being ‘hands-on’ these days, and look for a more personalized event. But it is still a big undertaking for them, whether it’s a small reception or a big event. Often it’s the first time they’ve had to plan anything as elaborate as a Wedding Reception – and our team of consultants keep everyone sane and happy – and actually enjoy their Wedding!  Our Wedding consultant, Kaspara Albertsen, has guided many couples through the whole planning stage, and helped them overcome hurdles to get the wedding they’ve dreamed of!

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Knowing that Urban can supply full on-site service staff, how important is having professional cater waiters/service staff at an event? Having professional staff at an event saves you headaches and stress –our Staff Manager Jean-Marc Fontaine hears from our clients often, how they ‘couldn’t have done it without our staff’ or ‘Thank you for sending me xxx, they understood my party and my guests’. That’s the difference between throwing a party and being a GUEST at your own party!



IMG_0320 You have an exciting and innovative Exec. Chef, Lyndon Wiebe – what does he bring to UrbanSource? Lyndon (below) has cooked and traveled the world, and he has a great ‘taste memory’ of things he’s tried. He can make the classic dishes – as well as our 30 Years of Urban Classics  – but he is always introducing new and delicious dishes for us to offer to our clients.

Lyndo- HEAD SHOT6Each year, Urban supports a number of worthy charitable events – which ones and why?  We recognize the need to give back to our community, and Toronto is one of the most charitable cities anywhere. We support so many worthwhile charities: Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Fife House, Surrey Place, Casey House, Inside Out,  Nellie’s Shelter, Toronto United Church’s Heart & Vision and many area Hospitals and charity fundraisers.


IMG_0975 US-25 Any suggestions/recommendations for people planning weddings, corporate events or personal dining parties to create the best experience for their guests?  We suggest they make a list of all the items they can think of that they will need to provide for the event, assign an estimate of $$$ and a timeline. This will help them plan their budget, and how many guests they want to invite. If they see that this will be more than they can manage, either time-wise or budget-wise, they will save themselves a lot of headache, heartache and energy. This also makes them a much better-educated client, and will help them choose a caterer that meets their particular needs.

IMG_0063And what food trends do you see coming our way over the next year or so?  Street food, homestyle menus and ethnic dishes, especially South Asian and South & Central American. And more vegan, gluten-free and green-sourced foods, pickled vegetables, and house-butchered meats, artisanal foods….people are really embracing locally-sourced foods.

Seared salmon stackwasabi tuna canap+¬

If you’d like to experience what 30 years of successful catering and event planning can do for your next special event, dinner, gala or fundraiser, contact UrbanSource Catering for a quote: http://www.urbancatering.com/

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CONGRATULATIONS TO CALVIN, WAYNE and THE FABULOUS STAFF @ URBANSOURCE CATERING…wishing you another 30 years of delicious success!

2015 Decal Tourism Toronto

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Each year in August, I attend the Incentiveworks conference and trade show in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where I get to meet up with old friends in the meetings and events industry, make some new biz connections and check out new opportunities to explore.  This year, I took Jennifer Murray, an Events/Mkt’g/PR student going into her last year at Humber College’s program and she had a blast! Sometimes it’s good to see things you take for granted through a newbie’s eyes. Big thanks and congrats to organizer Robin Paisley and her team for another great year at Incentiveworks.


One of the first booths was Berber Lounge (pictured above) where they set up the giant (and very comfortable) booth similar to their venue located at Front St East, Toronto. Lots of yummy taste treats but where were the belly dancers? I needed to wiggle off a few pounds..LOL

Jennifer and I loved meeting the men of Cheesewerks – Toronto’s premiere big cheeses!  We spent a long time tasting their apple & cheese samples – .in fact, we were little piggies. Yum yum yum  www.Cheesewerks.com

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Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery of Niagara made a beautiful statement with their rustic booth (below) …loved the decor. http://www.ravinevineyard.com/

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Then we moved down the aisles and had a little chocolate-money fun at the Caesars Windsor booth. They know how to spoil trade show visitors!

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Jenn and I had our pictures taken with a big furry friend at the Arctic Kingdom Marine Expeditions booth. Grrrrrr. The polar bear (made of borg, not real fur) was so cute and cuddly, Jennifer near fell on top of him as he tumbled over after she hugged him a bit too much!! Think it was all the sparkly stuff we had at Caesars…LOL

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We were thrilled to meet up with the reps from the host hotels for the upcoming Canadian Comedy Awards in Ottawa. Patrick from Les Suites and Melanie from the Courtyard Marriott posed with Jennifer (below)  www.les-suites.com  www.marriottcourtyardottawa.com


I always love visiting the various Maritimes booths (the reps are always so damned friendly) and this year, I took Jennifer to Pr. Edward Island where she showed her prowess with a putter! She shoots…she scored! Me, too…and we ended up with a handfull of black and blue ball markers. Sounds rude but if you’re a golfer, you’ll know what they are…and I have a bunch of ’em, if anyone wants them!

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After all the drinkies, it was time for a visit to the loo and one of the service companies, Star Meetings, had decorated the ladies room….I couldn’t resist snapping these loo pics!

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Back on the trail looking for cool booths, we then found Universal Links who had a “special guest” in their booth….LOL! Stick your head thru Rob Ford’s tummy and snap a pic. I just couldn’t stoop that low – literally – my back was hurting!

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Loved these cute rubber duckies we found at the Calgary booth…one now sits proudly on the side of my own tub.


We met these super friendly ladies who told us all about the Metropolitan Hotel – we noticed they had colour-coordinated their wardrobes to match the booth. Apparently, they said, it was a happy accident. Love the fresh flowers.


Jennifer entered a cool contest to win a flight, courtesy of Porter Airlines. Good luck, Jenn, you gotta take me with you if you win.


And then I introduced Jennifer to the rep for CanSPEP, an organization for professional meetings and events people. They offer valuable information and networking opps for new graduates such as Jenn as well as industry pro’s such as myself. www.canspep.ca


Another sponsor for the Canadian Comedy Awards was also there, VIA RAIL, so we got to try out their comfy seats. Hope our trip up to Ottawa is just as nice as this.


Sole Power Productions welcomed all the visitors to Incentiveworks with their groovy music and delightful skating dancers. They played all afternoon and kept everyone energized and happy. The best entertainment on the trade show floor!  www.solepowerproductions.com

20140820_124053So if you’re in the Meetings & Events industry or planning to enter this business, I strongly recommend you sign up for the educational workshops & seminars or the FREE trade show next year. Watch for dates and news here: http://http://www.incentiveworksshow.com/show-info/

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It’s always great to catch up with events industry friends and business colleagues, so yesterday I was ready to walk the aisles at this year’s CANADIAN SPECIAL EVENTS showcase down at the MTCC and it didn’t disappoint.

20140326_112949This year’s event featured a lot of amazing stilt-walkers, courtesy of ZERO GRAVITY CIRCUS [ http://www.zgcircus.com]. The gentleman pictured above was soooo tall, I had to ask him to stoop down in order to capture him with my camera!

First off, I made a b-line straight for my friend Crystal Leochko of BRASH AVENUES  [ http://www.brashavenues.com ] – pictured below (R).


I’ve followed Crystal for a number of years as she’s grown her incentives and logowear business located in Burlington, ON, and I always recommend Brash Avenues to all my clients for their wide selection of quality items, fast turn-around and speedy delivery. This year, I really liked the cool kitchen utensils that can be logo’d with your corporate i.d., great for all the foodies out there.

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Just along the aisle from Crystal was the EMS group [ http://www.eracademy.com ] – many large event planners forget how important it is to have the EMS team on hand for any medical emergencies. These folks are all certified paramedics and provide customized emergency response plans so if you’re presenting a major sports event or rock concert this year, these are the guys you want on hand.


The most exciting connection I made was with the iBID representatives Tim and Brandon [www.ibid-events.com ]. iBid is an interactive bidding system using touchscreen & tablet technology that significantly increases the amount of $s raised at fundraising events as guests interact with this fun and exciting online program. This new e-program is really leading edge and I recommend ALL fundraisers check out iBid’s site.

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iBid effectively replaces those old school paper bid sheets and pencils (that always get lost halfway thru a silent auction!) and after watching the demonstration I definitely recommend a personal demonstration from the Toronto rep, Brandon.

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The fun folks at LaROUGE [ http://www.larougeentertainment.com ] showcased some of their cheery entertainers (above).  And I loved the Victorian “steam punk” vibe in the FOS Décor Centre booth (below) [www.fosdecor.com ]

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Every year, I pick up my copy of the TSEvents Guide – the “bible” for special events folks that lists all the venues, caterers, suppliers, A/V companies…all the industry consultants you could ever want. [ http://www.tsevents.com ]


Woohoo, I met the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit down the next aisle – I want these two at my next party!


It’s always nice to meet fellow chocolate lovers and the ladies of TIFIDIN (below) offered yummy treats that carried inspirational thoughts and messages, great for sales and marketing meetings, brightening up your employees’ days or distributing to customers. [ http://www.tifidin.com ]

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A good, clean H2O drinking supply is always important at large outdoor events and the folks at WATER-ON-WHEELS deliver the best. [ http://www.wateronwheels.ca ] I’ve used them myself and can recommend them for all your sports, music or other outdoor festivals.

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Nice to run into old friend Terry Holdershaw pictured below of SCOTIA ENTERTAINMENT [www.ScotiaEntertainment.com] whose string quartet entertained on the main stage. Beautiful music and a lovely soothing respite from the hustle and bustle of the busy exhibitor aisles.

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The food samples from PER SE Catering & Events were deelish! And the chef was kinda cute, too…LOL!  [www.persecatering.com]


Met a couple of wild’n’crazy ladies from THE AGENCY GROUP [www.TheAgencyGroup.com] who shared stories from the trenches of Canadian showbiz with me. Aaaah, memories from my old days working the big rock tours and concerts in the 80’s and 90’s. Big shout out to Soniya (l) and Stefanie (r) – if you want to book great high profile speakers and the greatest bands and musicians in the country – call these ladies!

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I was quite embarrassed that I had not visited the uber cool restaurant JOEY EATON CENTRE [ http://www.joeyrestaurants.com] located on the Dundas St side of the Eaton Centre. The venue looks pretty awesome so I’m hoping to organize a FAM visit with some PR colleagues in the next month or so. The knowledgeable young chef certainly knew his stuff so I can’t wait to try the menu.

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Saw this beautiful floral display (below) set up by DECOR AND MORE [www.decorandmore.com]

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Groove is in the heart…..STARDUST EVENTS presented a fabulous display booth with a hippy dippy vibe. [www.stardustevents.com]

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When you gotta go, you gotta go…and how better to take care of business than with the Royal Flush mobile loo from IT’S MY POTTY [www.itsmypotty.com]. Check out their mobile facilities below…mention my name, get a good seat!

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I had a “Jimmy Buffett” moment when I stepped into THE CANVAS NURSERY booth [www.thecanvasnursery.com] , a Florida-based company offering full-sized artificial palms and tablescapes. Made me want to do a tiki bar themed event….and they even gave me a Pina Colada flavoured lollipop! Yum…

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What a fabulous afternoon spent with innovators and visionaries in the special events industry. Thanks to http://www.canadianspecialevents.com for hosting another fab event.  And thank you to the man in the mirrors who allowed me to touch up my lipstick and hair on the way out!











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What a brilliant and delicious night it was! I haven’t been to the Toronto Board of Trade for years and last night, local event and party planners were treated to a colourful and tasty showcase of their new function rooms and facilities located in the First Canadian Place in Toronto’s financial district. Oliver & Bonacini catered the event, along with a few other local foodies who brought along some extra special treats.


Joining me was  uber fabulous photo journalism student Gabriella Luchetta, who took a lot of these photos and she had a ton o’ fun schmoozing with the guests and the great O&B staff who plied us with the most scrumptious food and drinks.

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Upon arriving, we were treated to a pretty in pink glass of champers poured over candyfloss….we kept going back for more!!

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Then Gabriella and I enjoyed the entertainment from the boys of Train Reaction downstairs along with yummy handcrafted ice cream courtesy of Cremahh (www.cremahh.com) Thanks to owner Sabina Morell for piling up generous servings for us.

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Back upstairs, we scoffed down some amazing mini donuts courtesy of Glory Hole Doughnuts (www.gloryholedoughnuts.com)

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We all enjoyed the musical entertainment presented by www.TheyLounge.com and the sultry sexy song stylings of Deena who was pretty awesome and those shoes…damn!

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Gabriella and I worked the room like crazy, networking with Bay Street types, party planners and even a few film folks, too.

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Ran into the fabulous Roni Feldman who manages/produces corp. events and meetings at one of the food stations and had a laff with her about the crazy “dragon breath” popcorn that Gabriella really got into….

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…..and then …taa-daaah. Who did I run into but the fabulous Julio Reyes of @fashionights fame and his gorgeous fiancé Daniel. No sooner had they showed us their rings when Justin Edmead of @TDotTV and his lovely lady friend crashed our circle of friends. Such lovely people to run into.

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Big thanks for the warm hospitality – the evening was a great success for the Board of Trade and O&B, and thanks especially to the men with the meat who kept me happy all night long…yum yum yum.

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INTERNSHIPS – good opportunities to learn or soul-sucking advantage takers?

Over the past few months, I’ve been reading a lot of negative stories about how badly treated interns are – how there are no benefits to working one’s butt off for no (or limited) financial rewards and the mistreatment of these poor poor put-upon students. Yeah right! So here’s a blog that may anger, enrage and piss-off a lot of people but this is based on MY experience as an industry professional who pays a modest monthly honorarium as well as full-time mentoring and investment of my time, knowledge and expertise for my interns…but I am constantly disappointed by their lack of commitment or any sustained level of enthusiasm.


As a marketing, PR and events professional who is always looking to mentor and support newbies to the industry, let me tell you that internships are not a one-way street and are not always as they’re portrayed by this group of “entitlement focused” dis-engaged  and frequently under-educated university students.  Over the past ten years, I have sought out interns from Toronto universities and colleges offering specialized programs for events, marketing and public relations and on each and every occasion, have found the students or recent graduates frighteningly under-educated. Who graduates a student from a PR program without teaching them how to write effective media releases? How come they don’t know the importance of developing (and keeping current) media contact lists that include print, broadcast, outdoor, transit as well as web-based news sources? And how come they don’t understand the importance of tracking time allocations for clients – I have yet to receive a full series of completed weekly time sheets from any of my previous interns!? This impacts client billings and yet they don’t understand this important factor and simply shrug off my pleas for time sheets. And when given the opportunity to go out and secure their own client where they can keep ALL fees associated with that client to themselves, they never bother to do so or come up with excuses why they can’t find a potential project for themselves. Isn’t this what you went to school for anyway?   thCACSWW99

When taking on interns, I ask them their preferred area of business – do you want to focus on managing/producing special events or create and manage public relations or publicity campaigns for clients? Based on their response, I tailor an internship that focuses responsibilities in those areas where they can shadow me, learn and then take ownership of projects and at the same time, learn and work on all the less-glamorous administrative chores that support these projects. I illustrate how important it is to track hours spent working for each client or project, how to calculate and quote on fees and retainers for clients, how to cross-promote, I give them an understanding of the sponsorship process and, of course, all media relations processes. Interns are given easy chores to complete each week including updating media lists, sourcing promotional opportunities for my clients, social media populating and engagement based on easy to follow parameters I have set….but after an initial rush of enthusiasm the first month, by weeks 7 or 8, I find that each and every intern loses interest, slacks off and ceases to bother with even contacting me for follow-ups. All I ask is for a 10-12hr per week commitment which is not a lot.

I insure interns are empowered and involved in every aspect of events management and promotions, media relations, client presentations and social media. I never expect them to pay-to-play: I reimburse all and any expenses incurred, transportation and they are given all sorts of perks and samples as well as getting paid AND having access to my contacts, my templates and marketing collateral, and my brain! How much is that all worth? They are treated with respect and their hours are scheduled to accommodate classes or other part-time work to the detriment of my own needs. So….who’s the bad guy here? If interns do not step up and ask questions, offer their own input and opinions, use their initiative to contribute why are WE the bad guys? Sure there are lots of jerks out there who do take advantage of unpaid interns but it’s up to those interns to report the “abuse” to their colleges, or simply walk away. You are not indentured to these “mentors”, nor are you forcibly confined. Quit being such cry babies!! Get out there and create your own opportunities – you interview the companies or individuals offering prospective internships, not the other way around. This is your career, your education, your life so take responsibility.

interns  Tough love? You betcha…but I’m fed up with continually investing time and energy in young people who do not respect or appreciate the amount of time being given them and knowledge imparted.  Stop wasting MY time.

I’d love to hear from other professionals and business owners who have gone thru the internship process – how do you mentor and help the neophytes? How have you benefited from intern assistance? What are your horror stories? And I’d love to hear from interns, too – what has been your experience and how did you survive inequitable situations or enjoy a fruitful and empowering relationship?

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After spending time with the uber cool NIK BEAT at Catalyst Gallery yesterday, I walked back along Queen St West (Toronto) and discovered a marvelous art gallery that also offers a great café and an event space ideal for live music, poetry and spoken word performances. It’s called the NORMAN FELIX GALLERY www.NormanFelix.com and I had the pleasure of meeting gallery director Erin Bittschwan who allowed me to take some photos to share with my readers and art fans. If you’re heading down to Queen West, drop in and check out the great art work on their walls and enjoy a deelish latte or espresso. The gallery is located at 627 Queen St West  Follow them on Facebook: /norman.felix

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My lovely assistant, Kaneesha, and I had a fabulous time tonight at the House of Moments open house, catered by the talented chefs from Oliver & Bonacini.

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Founder of House of Moments, Hamid Kouchak, has created a sexy, mystical special event venue  and restaurant that also doubles as a functioning art studio & gallery. During daytimes, Hamid hosts emerging artists who have no studio of their own in which to paint so he has opened up the doors to House of Moments to them. How refreshing to find a bar owner/entrepreneur with such a passion for art who really does support the local art scene. Bravo, Hamid.

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Kaneesha enjoyed the “tower of cheese” and hung out with one of the local deities……..20131009_185828 20131009_191606








…..and she took a couple of quick snaps of me playing with another far eastern god. 20131009_185600 20131009_185611

We had lots of fun with our favourite new bartenders and the delightful Dustin insisted on a special shot with me…I think I have a new “bestie”!20131009_184528














Below are a few random shots of the inspiring interior of House of Moments and tonight’s festivities, including the lovely hostesses who made us all feel so welcome. Congrats to all involved with the event…bravo for a job well done!

20131009_184638 20131009_18464720131009_19381020131009_193926  Check out www.houseofmoments.com for venue rentals, menus, art gallery and news of upcoming events.


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This evening, I had the pleasure of experiencing the hospitality and dee-lish menu samples from the charming folks of THE FIFTH INC. a multi-level café, grill, pub and fancy-schmantzy event space in downtown Toronto. www.thefifth.com

img166My lovely assistant, Kaneesha, joined me for the great networking opps and the generous sampling (hic!) of cocktails, wine and beer as well as the yummy appetizers (the juicy grilled lamb chops & mint were my fave!) and we also had fresh shucked oysters on the half-shell.

G at the Fifth Kaneesha

Bravo to The Fifth, for making this industry event a wonderful experience for all us jaded events professionals…and thanks, too, for the surprise gift bag with the Lindt truffles – wow, you really know how to spoilt usl!  Great to see Tourism Toronto there to support the venue and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up on all the TT news from around the world from my favourite “membership guy” Christopher Barry. If you wanna see all the great int’l events coming to Toronto over the next few years? Visit: www.seeTorontonow.com

Below are some pics I snapped of the venue (before all the people arrived so you can see how it looks), the elegant and cozy sheep cushions on the banquettes, Kaneesha tweeting out pics of our desserts, etc. but you gotta go check it out yourself. Tell them I sent you…..

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Even their exec. chef presented a food demonstration, creating the super tasty steak tartar for the rapt audience (below).


The Fifth has maintained all sorts of cool architectural salvage and original fixtures from the early 1900’s. I had to snap away and share these with you, too.20130924_185146 20130924_185206 20130924_185238 20130924_185302

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Thanks to the amazing event professionals at www.ignitemag.ca for hosting another brilliant expo for the special event industry at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. Saw some innovative lighting display balloons, courtesy of www.airstarcanada.com (below) and tasted several delicious wines from the Niagara region.20130620_154252And speaking of Niagara, I just had to take a picture in the green-screen booth of the Niagara Falls Tourism folks. It reminded me of that scene from Bruce Almighty when Jim Carrey is told on-camera he didn’t get the TV anchor job. Yikes!

img158Then I visited with a fab group of tourism reps from www.worldmarketinggroup.com (below) who shared their stories about Turkey, Ireland, England…and other international destinations they serviced. Could have stayed with them forever and those yummy Turkish Delight samples really hit the spot! Thanks Michael, Fiona, Sen & Kelly for your smiles and warm conversation – hope you got lots of business from Toronto event planners.

20130620_150038(0)I then noticed the lovely Princess over at the Medieval Times booth and snapped a cute pic of her reigning over her event planning kingdom. I wrote a nice article last November on Medieval Times for www.TheRider.com after being given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Toronto Castle. I met horses and knights and falconers and princesses and jesters and serving wenches and….well, I had a blast so I can highly recommend http://www.medievaltimes.com/toronto.aspx to anyone, young or old, for a fun evening of jousting and feasting.

20130620_154628I ended my afternoon with a visit to the www.ConventionsRegina.com booth where I got “arrested” by a Mountie! Well, maybe I was the one who tackled him and cajoled him into posing with me (below), and being a lifelong fan of the 30’s movie musical “Rose Marie” starring  Jeannette MacDonald & Nelson Eddie, I could not resist warbling in his ear…”When I’m calling you-oo-oo-oo oo-oo-ooo….” LOL!

20130620_150849Thanks again to the nice folks at Ignite Magazine for a super afternoon of networking and sourcing new suppliers and venues. Bravo, you!

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