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by Dawn Mitchell

NACE Board Member

It was a star-filled night with the slightest autumn chill as the sun set at Curtis Arboretum September 15th, 2020 to begin our first in person NACE meeting in seven months. About the same temperature as our last live meeting March 10th at Yards Brewing Co., right before news broke about the pandemic. Two days later the NBA shut down.

So instead of another consecutive Zoom meeting, the choice to go in person in September with thoughtfully prepared steps to ensure a safe event (following all CDC and state health department guidelines) was met with huge socially-distanced smiles hidden behind fashion-forward masks.

Photo credits: Ralph Deal Photography

Bottles of sanitizer lined pathways as we all warmed up to a new registration scene: required health certification waivers, safety signage, and masks for those in need.

Jazzy instrumental notes from BVTLive! filled the garden atmosphere. Twinkling lights illuminated the stately tree at the entryway and the sound of laughter and glass clinking resumed.

Members and guests shared air hugs and elbow bumps. Mask-wearing Jeffrey Miller Catering (JAM) staff greeted guests with a choice of mint cucumber water, lavender lemonade and butlered hors d’oeuvres such as butternut squash latkes with rosemary olive crema, juniper gin-cured gravlax with lemon chevre on house pumpernickel, cold poached shrimp, and duck on a corn pancake with pineapple mustard seed chutney. Trays were monitored to ensure safety as guests juggled wine and appetizers while quickly stepping out of conversation several more feet to pop in a bite and return to elastic wrapped ears.

Spaced out tables with cream colored textured Choice Linens dotted the 45 acres landscape adjacent to the pergola. There, Frost321 prepared a mist of boozy infused frozen mango or strawberry margaritas. Nearby tables were manned with JAM staff behind a made to order guacamole station complete with yucca chips, corn chips or plantain and mango salsa, pico de gallo, crumbled cotija cheese, salsa verde, and crabmeat salad.

Across the way, JAM staff created individually customized barbecue in a jar—filled with pulled pork, chicken, beans and coleslaw with a choice of housemade BBQ sauce layered on a foundation of freshly baked cornbread.

A ping of a microphone alerted guests to make way to the elegant paneled open tent on the stone terrace to begin the catering leaders roundtable. Signature DJs and Schaffer Sound joined forces to ensure a flawless and safe program with moderator Tim Sudall, NACE Philadelphia/S.Jersey/Delaware Board President.

Expert industry panelists included Lanay Zarallo, Director of Catering, The Rittenhouse Hotel and The Westin Philadelphia; Michelle Finley, Special Events Coordinator, Finley Catering; John Serock, Owner, John Serock Catering; Joe Volpe, CEO, Cescaphe Event Group. Each with their own sanitized microphone and spaced 6 feet apart, shared insight on safety initiatives, the employment outlook, personal experiences during historic period, and of course, ending with audience questions on the state of the industry. Both Ralph Deal and Valley Creek Productions artfully captured this historic meeting.

Title Sponsor PartySpace discussed their new programs, Pay Per Lead and Hold the Date.

The event culminated with fresh wrapped housemade cookies and coffee to go.

Venue: Curtis Arboretum

Catering: Jeffrey Miller Catering


Entertainment: BVTLive!

Signature DJs

Schaffer Sound

Linens: Choice Party Linens


Ralph Deal Photography

Valley Creek Productions