Jonathan Byrd’s Lends A Helping Hand At Second Helpings

Since our days in Greenwood, Jonathan Byrd’s has always been a big proponent in being involved in the local community through service. Although our business has changed from our original roots, our bond with the Indianapolis community is strong and we want to be involved as much as we can.

For over 13 years, Jonathan Byrd’s has donated excess food to Second Helpings, Indianapolis’ local food rescue. A food rescue is different from a food pantry or a soup kitchen because a food rescue takes in prepared food or older produce from grocery stores, hotels, caterers, and food supply companies and makes new meals with that food, which is then distributed to over 85 social service agencies across Indianapolis. Second Helpings feeds people in shelters, day cares, community centers, and other programs that feed hungry people but don’t have budgets to pay for food. Second Helpings relies on over 700 active volunteers to help collect, sort, prepare, create, and distribute over 4000 meals a day, which adds up to over 1 million meals a year!

When you choose Jonathan Byrd’s to cater your event, you can rest assured that your leftover food will not go to waste. Second Helpings picks up food at 502 East Event Centre on a regular basis. In fact, Jonathan Byrd’s is one of Second Helping’s biggest donators of prepared food. In 2017 alone, we donated 11,741 pounds of food!


Volunteers from Jonathan Byrd’s at Second Helpings


Besides feeding the hungry, Second Helpings also gives second chances to the unemployed looking to gain the skills needed to work as cooks in the food service industry. Students are put through a rigorous training program in seven short weeks. During this time, students earn a Servsafe certification, learn knife and cooking techniques, and valuable life skills like teamwork and resume building. The team at Second Helpings then works hard to get job placement for their graduates through their connections with local Indiana businesses.  45% of the students were previously incarcerated and gaining experience from Second Helpings gives them a new lease on life.

Even though Jonathan Byrd’s has been a strong donator to Second Helpings, most of our employees hadn’t been there and didn’t know about the Culinary Job Training Program.  We’re familiar with the volunteers that come to pick up the food, but we haven’t taken the time to really see what really goes on. So, a bunch of us decided to put on hairnets and latex gloves and volunteered to help.

As a small group, we prepared and cut meat for meals that were being distributed the next day. Second Helpings used the produce it receives and makes casserole style meals with it. What they make depends on what kind of food they get each day. We spent most of the night cutting up beef and pork products. We worked with other volunteers to wash dishes and clean the kitchen. At the end of the night, as a surprise, we were treated to dinner made by the students in the Culinary Job Training program.


Susan, Jennifer, and Emily cut up meat at Second Helpings


Now that we saw first-hand how much Second Helpings does for the community, we were impassioned to do even more! We connected with Chef Vincent Kinkade, Director of Culinary Job Training, with our Executive Chef Brett Lewis to teach a class.

Chef Brett was delighted to visit one of the culinary job training classes and talk about the value of customer service in the food industry. In catering, customer service is essential from the moment the client books an event, to the presentation of the food on the plate, and up until they have finished the last crumb. As a chef, you must be prepared when certain dietary restrictions arise, and you might have to stray from the set menu. Chef Brett stressed how people with dietary restrictions are not to be treated like second class. A vegetarian might feel disappointed if they get the same meal as everyone else, but with no meat, instead of a dedicated vegetarian entrée.

Chef Brett made a tabbouleh, a traditional middle eastern salad with long grain brown rice instead of bulgar. He then gave it a little extra flare by adding roasted tomatoes and chopped cucumbers, which added a lot of flavor. The students enjoyed the tabbouleh and learned about a new vegetarian dish.


Chef Brett teaches students of the Culinary Job Training Classes offered at Second Helpings


“You need to make each dish unique and special,” said Chef Brett, “just like you are unique and special. Put your own flair into it and your guests will notice.”

Advice like that is essential to students who are eager to make a place for themselves in the world. Jonathan Byrd’s wants to keep supporting our partners within local non-profits like Second Helpings through service and support, however possible. We’re trying to think of more ways everyday to make our community a better place.

To learn more about Second Helpings, visit their website.


Cooking like a Caterer: Country Style Pork Ribs with Late Harvest Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic and Fresh Tarragon

Country Style Pork Ribs with Late Harvest Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic and Fresh Tarragon

Have you ever braised pork before? What about deglazing a pan with Apple Cider Vinegar? Our Chefs at Jonathan Byrd’s Catering have, and they want to share the steps with you! They’ve created a delicious new winter dish that will warm your bones on the coldest of days. Great for feeding a crowd or a few family members.




Country Style Pork Ribs – 6 each

Apple Cider Vinegar – 1 cup

Soy Sauce – ½ cup

Chicken Stock – 2 cups

Peeled Seeded Tomato – 2 cups

Sweet Onion – 1 pound

Brown Sugar – ½ cup

Garlic – 2 tblsp

Fresh Tarragon – 1 tsp

Apple Vinegar Powder – 1 tblsp

Salt and Pepper – to taste

Red Onion – ½ cup

Granny Smith Apples cut Julienne – ½ cup



Season Pork Ribs with Apple Vinegar Powder and Salt and Pepper, then place them in a hot frying pan with about 2 tablespoons of Canola Oil. Sear the pork for about 2-3 minutes on each side. The pork will not be cooked through but will have a brown color on both sides. Remove from heat and place them into a 16×9 baking pan.

Once the pork is removed, add the onion and more oil if needed. Sweat the onions for about 2 minutes, until they are soft and translucent. Mix in garlic until it is pungent, about 1 minute. Next, deglaze the pan with Apple Cider Vinegar and mix with the onions and garlic. Then add Brown Sugar and Soy Sauce. Once it gets back up to temperature, add the tomatoes. Let simmer for a minute, then stir in chicken stock. When the liquid starts boiling again, add the fresh tarragon and mix together. Once it’s back up to temperature, pour liquid over the pork in the baking pan. Cover the mixture with parchment paper and foil and bake at 325 degrees for 90 minutes.

After taking the pan from the oven, remove pork ribs from the liquid onto a separate plate.  Using a strainer, separate the solids from the liquids, and place the solids in a blender. Puree the solids until they are mostly liquidized. Add the braising liquid and continue to puree the mixture. When it is done, it will be a pourable sauce, able to coat the back of a spoon. Pour the sauce onto a plate and place the pork ribs on top.   

In a hot frying pan with about 2 tablespoons of oil, add ½ cup of red onion. Mix the onion in the oil until they are soft and a little translucent in color. Add ½ cup of julienne cut granny smith apples. Mix in the frying pan for a couple of seconds, and make sure the apples are not soft. Remove from the heat and lay them on top of the pork as a garnish. Top with chopped green onions for color.  Serve with extra sauce on the side.



Jonathan Byrd’s Debuts 2018 Menus

New Year – New Menus. Our team is excited to introduce out new menu options for 2018 and we’ve updated our menus to include more selections that appeal to our client’s requests. We hope that when you see our new options, you’ll be so happy you chose Jonathan Byrd’s to cater your event!

Late Night Snacks

What’s New for our Brides and Grooms that choose to get married at 502 East Event Centre? Late Night Snacks! Busting moves on the dance floor is hard work; exercise can be fun with the right party. But when the dinner is done, and the cake has been cut, is there nothing left to do but dance and drink? Not anymore!

“Let’s Get Popin'” Late Night Snack

We’re now offering Late Night Snacks on our Wedding Menu for couples that have their reception at 502 East Event Centre. Whether you’re a fan of sweet or savory, we have what you need to keep the party energized. Our “Garden Harvest” snack station has fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt dip, and zucchini bread. The “Let’s Get Poppin’” snack station has a variety of cheese, caramel, and butter popcorn with fun toppings for an added boost. The “Ice Cream Break” will help cool off your guests with a refreshing dessert. We bring our cart either full of novelties or we’ll provide an attendant to scoop ice cream for you. If you choose the scooped ice cream, you can count on us to bring toppings, so everyone can customize their own sundaes.

We feature these breaks for weddings at 502, but you can ask your Wedding Specialist about adding one to your catering package too!

“CandyLand” Late Night Snack


Our Stations and Displays are what set your event apart from others. Our Clients adore our gigantic fruit & cheese displays. Stations are a lot of fun, as they are a great interactive way for your guests to choose their food that’s a fancier presentation than a buffet line. A station or display is great for a cocktail hour or after party, when your guests want something to nibble on without needing a whole meal. You are also allowed to choose multiple stations, so your guests can have several options.

Fruit & Cheese Display

Premiering on our 2018 menu are two stations we think our guests are really going to gobble up. Our new fondue station will have everyone sporting cheesy smiles when they see this. Our gourmet blend of creamy Gruyere, Grand Cru, and Fontina Cheeses with freshly grated spices pairs perfectly with French bread and vegetables for dipping.

New! Fondue Station

Another new station we’ve added to our roster is the slider station. Sliders have evolved so much since they first came on the scene. Sliders aren’t exclusively burgers anymore. We wanted to make sure all your guests can try them, so we asked out culinary team to create something new and exciting. Our sliders include a traditional beef slider with cheddar cheese and caramelized onions; A pork tenderloin slider with braised red cabbage and garlic aioli; and a vegetarian slider with a quinoa patty topped with grated zucchini, parmesan cheese, and roasted plum tomato.


There’s lots to consider when adding new menu items. Appetizers must not only taste great, have a decadent presentation, and must be able to transport well for catering. It’s not easy to meet these strict criteria on a cracker-sized bite. Our chefs here at Jonathan Byrd’s stepped up to the challenge and created a few new appetizers for our staff to try, and our lucky staff was able to sample them first! Here are of our two unanimous favorites:

If you love shrimp tacos or fajitas, you’ll devour our new Tequila Lime Shrimp Tostadas. We take tiny flour tortillas and cook them, so they maintain their shape, then we spread an avocado cream on the firm tortilla to hold pieces of grilled shrimp in place. The end result is an incredible little snack that will leave you asking for more!

New! Shrimp Tostada Appetizer

For the vegetarians in your party, they will love the sweetness in our new crispy pita chip with local goat cheese and topped with peppadew peppers and a marinated olive. These little bites are surprisingly sweet and savory at the same time. They feature local goat cheeses from local Indiana farms, and at Jonathan Byrd’s we’re proud to maintain many local partnerships.

Is your mouth watering yet? These delicious new items are on our new menus at jonathanbyrds.com and 502east.com. Talk to your event specialist about adding any or all of these new items today!


2018 Wedding Trends That We Love

The end of the year is the most popular time of year for couples to get engaged. What a great way to start a new year with a new goal of creating an awesome celebration! Planning a giant party is no easy task whether your timeline is 2 months or 2 years – there are hundreds of tiny details to handle to make your big day the best day ever!

Our Wedding Specialists, Amanda Wood and Taylor Leavell, have some recommendations when it comes to the top wedding trends for 2018!


When you begin the wedding planning process, a good way to start is to pick a color scheme that you can incorporate into the decorations and attire. The Pantone color of 2018 is ultra-violet. This dark purple color will absolutely POP in floral arrangements and groomsmen ties.

The Wedding Playbook

Mauve, Rose Gold, Blush, and Berry are all trending colors in the purple spectrum. All three pair well with gray and white. Steel gray and navy continue to be the neutrals of choice.

Oh Best Day Ever

Metallics like gold and copper are excellent accents that can really make a wedding sparkle! These colors can sometimes lose their shine on paper and look yellow or brown, but metallic colored candle holders, vases, jewelery, as tiny accents send a glamorous vibe to the day.

Huffington Post

Can’t decide on a color? Be creative with patterns and geometric shapes. Marble or metallic accents like sign holders, backdrops, make bold colors really stand out.

Wedding Wire


“Edited, clean, personalized timeless touches are replacing DIY elements that drain the budget,” says our wedding expert Amanda Wood. A few DIY details are fun, but don’t go too overboard.

Flowers and Bouquets arrangements have moved from uniform to free-form with multiple tiers and layers. Simple arrangements with a few big flowers are less bulky than arrangements with multiple kinds of flowers and colors.

DeerPearl Flowers

If you’re considering Ultra-Violet, consider lavender or orchids for your bouquet. The bright purple color will really stand out in your arrangement.

Wilkie Blog

Multiple height garden style floral arrangements around colorful candle holders can really make your accent colors pop and create a balance of color throughout the room.

Brides / Style Me Pretty / Huffington Post

Many brides today are also opting out of a traditional veil and wearing floral crowns or clips instead for a more natural look.

Junebug Weddings / Wedding Sparrow / Pure Wow


You can’t go wrong with cake. Many brides are now adding floral accents to cakes. Bakeries today have lots of different techniques they can use to decorate such as airbrushing, painting, and lacing to customize each cake. One note of caution: Bright icing colors can make a cake look gorgeous, but it might change the flavor or texture.

Hi Miss Puff

Not a cake fan? Mini- desserts are becoming increasingly popular. Donuts, macarons, pies, cake pops, and cupcakes are a way to personalize your dessert menu.


When you order a cake, you’re often limited to 1-3 different flavors.  With tiny desserts, especially cupcakes and cake pops, you can add even more flavors to create a more diverse variety, and your guests will love to sample more than one.

Bridal Guide / Ruffled


Customization is key to make your wedding memorable. As a busy bride, you might not be able to see every guest, but adding personal touches like old photographs, personalized signs, and decorative frames really can make everyone feel a part of the experience.  Mix and match sign holders, candles, and frames to help keep the organic feel.

Bride and Breakfast

Once the music starts, most of your guests will get out of their chairs and mingle. If You keep more guests at one long table and seat them family style rather than smaller round tables. Family style service allows guests to choose what they want without having to leave their tables. It’s a nice compromise between buffet and plated. You can also make personalized table runners or long floral arrangements instead of individual centerpieces.

Brit + Co. / Mariages.net

Like our recommendations? Come meet with our wedding experts today! Taylor and Amanda are standing by to help make your Jonathan Byrd’s Wedding Dreams Come True! Call Today for a Free Consultation!



Partner Spotlight: Brickhouse Coffee Co.

If you’ve driven by the old Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria, you may have noticed a new sign on the left side of the building. The Brickhouse Coffee Company opened in August, and we at Jonathan Byrd’s have established a partnership that we hope will encourage their growth in the future.

Interior Door to the Brickhouse Coffee Co.

The Brickhouse Coffee Company has a very distinct look to it. This is not a chain coffee shop or a designer storefront selling high priced drip coffee sourced from who-knows-where. As soon as you open the door, the aroma of freshly roasted coffee wraps around you like a warm blanket, and you’ll know this is the real deal.

The main appeal of The Brickhouse Coffee Company is that they roast their own coffee right in-house and sell the beans to customers in-store and online. Burlap Coffee bags hang proudly from the ceiling like banners in a sports bar.  The décor is what the Stayton’s call a vintage industrial; complimenting the warmth of the coffee shop. There are many tables and cozy spaces for customers to sit, gather, or study.

In-House Roasted Coffee Beans are For Sale in Store and Online

The story of how the Brickhouse Coffee Company came to be is an interesting tale, but you should hear it first hand from the owners Jared and Lora Stayton. They will probably be standing behind the counter crafting coffee beverages for customers with their spindling barista daughters. When I had the pleasure of meeting them, Lora was hanging holiday decorations, and Jared was packing up supplies to head to a swim meet with their mobile barista service. And despite the work they had in front of them, they both took the time to shake my hand and tell me their story.

The Staytons were missionaries in Southern Spain where they learned first hand the need for financial sustainability for missions work. The community center in the church they were working at asked them to help manage the fitness center and continue development for the vision to have a coffee shop. The Staytons had fitness management backgrounds, but were clueless when it came to coffee. So, before leaving for Spain, Jared Stayton went back to school, Barista School that is; and learned all the ins and outs of coffee and educated himself on what it takes to make the perfect cup of joe. After living and serving in Malaga, Spain for almost a year and a half, the Stayton’s were forced to leave to change their visas from missionary status to business in order to continue with their new vision: using business to sustain them on the mission field.

Upon arriving back in the states, the Stayton’s home church, Horizon Christian Fellowship, learned of this business as mission idea and supported their endeavor by allowing the Staytons to use the old brick house on the church’s property as a roastery and helping them kickstart this vision. Brickhouse Coffee was born and soon, churches all over the area were being supplied coffee for their services as well as other business, coffee shops and organizations.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that the Staytons stumbled into the old Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria, and fell in love with the space.  It was bigger than they imagined, but it had enough space for their coffee roaster, which sits in the back corner in front of a brick wall signifying their humble beginnings in the old brick house.

The Lattes Taste Even Better Than They Look!

All the food that is served at Brickhouse is locally sourced from nearby bakeries with locally sourced ingredients. They feature a special Quiche that is potato based and is grain-free and gluten-free, “And that’s very important to me,” said Lora Stayton, owner and self-proclaimed “Caffeine Queen.” Besides quiche, Brickhouse Coffee has other baked goods and sandwiches for customers to eat with their crafted beverages. For those craving some food from Jonathan Byrd’s – Brickhouse serves Jonathan Byrd’s Famous Chicken Salad Sandwiches. Jonathan Byrd’s also prepares pork for the Brickhouse that is marinated, rubbed, and sauced with espresso.  On Saturdays, the Brickhouse clears its large counter and lays out all the ingredients for an omelette bar from 8am-1pm for $7.50. Coffee on the go is also available with their new drive-thru window.

If you’re a coffee connoisseur or a regular roast rookie, give Brickhouse Coffee a try. The friendly staff will help you with you place your order and suggest ingredients to create the perfect cup. We at Jonathan Byrd’s are excited to see this local family-owned business grow, and we hope it’ll become the newest gem in Greenwood.

For more information about Brickhouse Coffee Company, visit their website.



Partner Venue Spotlight: The Nest

When Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria Closed in 2015, our loyal customers were sad to see the end of an era. The Cafeteria holds a special place in the Greenwood Community’s heart, and we know everyone was very nervous to see what would take its place.  We are very excited to give you a sneak peek of something new and exciting going into the former cafeteria, and we’re proud to say that Jonathan Byrd’s will contribute to some of their events in the future.

The Former Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria in Greenwood

The building has been renovated into office spaces, and includes the new Brickhouse Coffee Company. The Banquet Rooms have also been completely renovated and recreated into a new event center. The Nest Event Center is independently owned and operated by Kristee Anderson. She has created a completely new and stylish space that will bring elegance and class to any event.

If you meet Anderson in her office, you will be transported into a picture from a home décor magazine. The black, white, gray, and rose-pink theme is a muted palette that is perfect for inspiring romance. No detail is spared throughout the office or the event center. Even Anderson holds a pink pen that matches the pink vases on the table perfectly. “Country Chic” is how she describes the new look, something many people will recognize while browsing wedding ideas on Pinterest.

When you walk into the foyer, the entire room is white, including the large fireplace and grand piano. The mantle, armoire, and large beams on the ceiling provide dark accents.  The room is so clean and white you’re almost afraid to leave a scratch or a footprint on the floor. The space is ideal for a cocktail hour or break-out room for appetizers or snacks. Rustic chandeliers finish off the country look. The dark barn doors slide to reveal a small conference room complete with a large rustic table with elegant legs that create a polished meeting space for a small group.

The Foyer of The Nest

The former banquet room has now been updated for the 21st Century. Floor to ceiling doors on one wall fills the room with natural light. The ceiling is covered with black tiles, and decorative mix-matched plaster white tiles are speckled throughout, completing the bold look.  The wall opposite the doors, at first, appears gray and stagnant, but with the flip of a switch, the wall comes to life with a beautiful interactive scene. This Environmental Wall is a fun feature that really sets “The Nest” apart from other event spaces.  The wall has three adjacent sections that can project anything from natural scenescapes, logos, lyrics, or the big game.  The large banquet hall can be broken into 5 rooms and can fit up to 550 people banquet style or up to 700 lecture style

The Environmental Wall Displays The Big Game

The Nest also features an indoor ceremony space. A repurposed alter stands at the front of the room, and rows of pews are going to be installed. Faux windows line the walls, making you feel like you’re in an actual chapel. This is a great option for those who want to do an intimate ceremony and then a large reception.  Anderson says in the Spring they will begin work on a gazebo for an outdoor ceremony option.

“We are ecstatic, thrilled, thankful, gracious, excited and proud,” Anderson gushed. Anderson had been the go-to party planner at her church for showers and conferences, but when she saw the opportunity to be an event planner in a space of her own, she jumped at the chance. Anderson is incredibly proud of the work done for The Nest, as it was a triumph for her and her family. Her husband is a musician and the grand piano in the foyer for him or any other pianist to play.  Her eldest daughter is studying to be an accountant and helped sort out the financials. Anderson’s son is nicknamed “The Muscle,” as she’s called on him many times to rearrange furniture and decorations. Her middle daughter has made all the promotional items, social media, and logos.  The Nest logo is encircled with thin lines, resembling a nest – a homage to the Byrd’s before them.

So far, The Nest has had a few conferences and has started booking holiday parties for December. While she is excited for new business, Anderson admits that she is overwhelmed with the reception she’s had so far. The Nest is not limited to weddings. They are willing to host any event that fits their space, including showers, board meetings, craft fairs, conferences, and anything in between.

The Newly Remodeled Event Center

Jonathan Byrd’s Catering is one of the preferred vendors on The Nest’s long list of local businesses that can be called upon to make any event spectacular in any price range. That’s one of the reasons Anderson believe that their business has been booming before their grand opening. “We’re a newly renovated space that’s not outrageously overpriced, and I think that’s getting the attention of a lot of young couples,” Anderson said.

If you are interested in seeing the upgrades to the old cafeteria or are looking for a new venue for your upcoming event, The Nest Grand Opening is Thursday, November 30th from 6-9pm.

For more information, visit their website or their facebook page






Great Games to play at your Holiday Party

With the Holidays fast approaching, your team may be given the arduous task of planning a party for all your co-workers. Holiday or End of the Year Parties can sometimes be lots of fun or a complete flop. Whether your party is here at 502 East Event Center, or in your company break-room, we’ve got some tips and tricks to keep your party fun for everyone!

Gifting Games:

A great way to show appreciation for your team is giving them a small gift. Encouraging gift giving is also a great way to boost morale. If everyone is sick of “Secret Santa,” here are some gift-focused party games that show gratitude for your personnel.

Raffles or Silent Auctions:

If you can provide a few big-ticket items for a raffle or silent auction – your staff will take notice. Gift Cards, Cool Company Swag, and Free Meals are just a items that can get a crowd motivated. Rather than having co-workers shop for one another, encourage employees to buy prizes or gift baskets.

Raffles and Silent Auctions are a great way to not only give to your employees, but also to local charities. Tis the season of giving after all!

Goodness Gracious, Great Ball of Presents:

For this, you will need one big money prize for the core of the ball. Begin wrapping the core with Plastic -Wrap, Crepe Paper, or Gift Wrap cut into strips. As you continue to wrap, add smaller prizes such as candy, lottery tickets, small toys, toiletries, small denomination gift cards, or Cash. Once the ball is full, it’ll probably be bigger and heavier than a basketball

At the party, have everyone stand in a circle and take turns unwrapping layers of paper until someone hits a prize, and then passes the ball to the next person. Keep passing until someone gets the big prize at the core.

This game can be adapted easily for whoever is going to play, and you can make your ball as big or as small as needed based on the number of people playing.

White Elephant:

An Office Christmas Party Classic, this game can please a crowd, especially if they all don’t know each other very well.  Have everyone bring in a wrapped present; the sillier the better. Make sure the number of gifts is equal to the number of people playing. Put all the gifts in a pile and then have one person choose a present and open it so everyone can see what it is. The next person can choose to steal the previously opened gifts or pick a new one from the pile. When someone’s present gets taken, they can either choose from the pile or steal someone else’s gift (but they cannot steal their gift back) until all the presents are gone.

If this game seems a little cliché, feel free to change it up a little. Gift themes can help your shoppers decide. Some variations on the gift could be;  re-gifts, movies, books, ornaments, or handmade gifts only.

More Games:

Maybe money is tight for you and your employees, and buying an extra gift isn’t in the cards right now. Here are some other party games for your employees to play to your company party that will keep wallets tight.

German Chocolate Game:

Not to be confused with German Chocolate Cake, but we promise, this game will be just as yummy.

Have players gather at a table around a pile of chocolate bars with their wrappers on.  To play this game you will also need a winter hat, scarf, mittens, kitchen utensils (pasta spoons, two-tined forks, spatulas, etc.) and a pair of dice.

Players start by rolling the dice and then passing them to the next player until someone rolls doubles.  The player that rolled double must don the winter apparel and attempt to unwrap and consume a piece of chocolate using only the kitchen utensils. While they are dressing and eating, players continue to roll dice. When someone else rolls doubles, whoever is dressed and eating the chocolate must stop and pass the clothing and utensils onto that player. The game ends when all the chocolate is gone.

Costume Relays:

If you have lots of space, this is a great competition to get everyone on their feet. You’ll need props and holiday apparel, the same number of items for each team. Have one person from each team be the designated model that the rest of the team will attempt to dress.  One by one, each person will run to the model and add something to them. When the model has been dressed by everyone – they must run to their team. The first team to have their fully dressed model return is the winner.

This can be a lot of fun and can fit most any theme. Get a bunch of stickers and other wacky items and make the model their own ugly sweater. Antlers, noses, tails can make anyone a reindeer. Top hat with a lab coat and a corncob pipe can fashion someone into a snowman. And of course, make anyone into Santa with a beard, hat, and coat.


If you have a large staff that can’t all get together, photo contests are a fun way to get everyone to pitch in digitally or on a community bulletin board and get everyone in on the fun.  Contests are also a great way to incorporate a theme. If you want everyone to dress a certain way to match your theme, offer prizes to those who are best fit the theme.

Santa Babies:

If you have a lot of young parents in your office, have everyone send in photos of their children or grandchildren in Christmas costumes or on Santa’s lap. For those without kids, pets dressed up as elves are always good for a laugh as well.

If you’d rather keep it employee-centric, ask employees to see if they can dig through the archives and find old pictures of themselves from Christmases long passed.  Not only can people vote for their favorites, you might have employees try to guess whose childhood picture they’re looking at. Guaranteed for some laughs from the past!

Cookie Contests:

Cookies are a great treat that most everyone loves. Small portions and a wide variety will guarantee that everyone will eat more than just one. Encourage your employees to participate in a Holiday Cookie Bake-Off, and get entire staff to taste test.

Cookie Decorating Contests are another fun activity for individuals or a group.  Provide blank sugar or gingerbread cookies, frosting, sprinkles and candies and see who makes the sweetest treat! Don’t forget to take pictures so everyone has a chance to see each entry.

Clothing Contests:

Ugly holiday sweaters are the new trend sweeping the nation. Ugly sweater parties are great if you have lots of multi-cultural employees. Ugly sweaters don’t necessarily need to be ugly CHRISTMAS sweaters.  Many sports teams, movies, and tv shows have gotten in on the ugly sweater game.  If you have an Ugly Sweater Party, give out prizes to best, funniest, and other categories to make everyone get in on the game.

If you’re looking for a crafty contest, buy some plain sweaters at a second-hand store and get some fun things to stick on them. Tinsel balls, googly eyes, big stickers, and letters are just some of the pieces you can get to start a sweater factory. Have everyone break off into teams and decorate an Ugly Sweater of their own creation.  Have everyone vote for the best sweater and see who wears it best.

If your Holiday Party is combined with a New Year’s Party, or you want your attendees to be more dressed up than a sweater, have a “Merry and Bright” party. The theme being sparkles and bright colors. Sparkles are the new fashion trend for 2018.  Gold and silver are perfect colors for a winter backdrop. I’m sure you’ll be surprised with how bright people will shine!

With the Holidays right around the corner, it’s good to start thinking of games and fun early so your Holiday Party isn’t the stale like in years past. 502 East Event Centre has lots of large spaces for all your employees to gather and have fun! If you need food for the party at the office, call us for catering options. We have meats,  sweets, and everything in-between!

Top 3 Corporate Event Tips

With more than 1.3 million corporate and business events going on annually in the US, they’ve become an integral part of the corporate experience!  With the increasing need to build sales, educate and train new and existing employees, and boost corporate morale, corporate events are more important now than ever.  According to The Bizzabo Blog, 84 percent of event planners define an event’s success based on attendee satisfaction – not an increase in sales or retention of new concepts.  So here are some of our suggestions to boost attendee satisfaction (which may lead to increased morale and sales).  So we have our top 3 corporate event tips!


No, we’re not talking about a powerpoint (in fact, we advise against them).  Don’t wait until the actual event to incorporate tech either!  According to Enterprise Marketing, event tech can increase event attendance as much as 20 percent and increase productivity by 27 percent. Not sure how to incorporate it?  Some easy ways are to create a hashtag for your event and encourage people to post photos and informational tidbits. Create a temporary Snapchat geofilter related to your event so people are inclined to use it and let their friends who what they’re doing.  You can find info on that process on Snapchat’s site.  You can also purchase a design from sites like Snapdaddy or Buildsnaps, who actually can create a custom design.


Use a real-time polling site or app such as DirectPoll or Poll Everywhere.  These apps allow your audience to vote from their cell phone or laptop.  With these tools, you can ask a variety of questions that can help your content and presentation to ensure effectiveness.  Poll Everywhere actually integrates with Google slides too! Here are some shots of those in action –


Make them say WOW

Whether it’s an eclectic venue, elaborate A/V set up, beautiful tablescapes – impress your attendees!  Create an experience they are not only excited to attend, but want to tell people about and share on social media!

If you’re a little tight on budget, try hosting a reception after your event with passed appetizers and a game room with poker and blackjack, depending on your audience.  Here are a few photos for inspiration!


 Be interactive!

No one wants to sit in a windowless conference room for 8 hours,  have a deli sandwich for lunch, and listen to monotone speakers with underwhelming Powerpoints.  Not only do attendees not want those things – it makes for a terribly boring day.  Not the mention, they’ll always dread your events!

Unsure how to get your guests involved?  Try hosting breakout sessions that allow guests to choose which sessions they find most interesting and offering round table sessions.

If you have the option, feel free to incorporate games to your sessions – everyone loves a little friendly competition!  You can quiz attendees over new information, company history, or even about one another.  Checkout this “Family Feud” style game that Casino Party Planners hosted for Baldwin & Lyons’ holiday party. 

Looking for more ways to get your audience involved?  Check out this listof 9 Ideas to Spice Up Your Workshop and Engage your audience.



13 FREE Event Planning Printables

Starting to plan your next event can be a daunting task, regardless of how many events you’ve already planned and executed.  Timelines, guest lists, catering, dietary restrictions; the list of important details is endless.  Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of our top 13 FREE event planning printables to help make your life a little easier!

For the Detail Queen

Sometimes you just need to get all of the details written down and organize your thoughts so you don’t forget anything!  These printables have multiple pages so you can get all your thoughts in writing and you’ll probably be reminded of details you may have missed!

  1. Free Printable Party & Entertaining Planners – Eliza Ellis