Today@Sam Article

Greek Isles Event Earns McWilliams Top Award

March 13, 2019
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti

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Sam Houston State University Director of University Events, Charlene McWilliams, was honored with a 2019 Texas Star Award for "Best Event for a Non-Profit Organization (under $75,000).” This recognition marks the third consecutive year for McWilliams to win the award.

Showcasing the best of the best in the special events industry, from design and decor to logistics and technology, The Texas Star Awards is the pinnacle mark of professional achievement. The program is hosted by the Texas Chapters of the International Live Events Association.

SHSU’s 14th Annual Academic Awards Dinner was the event that earned McWilliams the top honor. Elegantly presenting a Greek Isles theme, the formal dinner for 190 guests celebrated the scenic beauty and culture of Santorini - one of the most luxurious destinations in Greece.

“Dr. Hoyt visited Greece on vacation and talked about how beautiful it was. When I saw the photos, I realized she wasn’t exaggerating,” McWilliams said. “Having previously done a Venetian Ball and Tuscan theme that incorporated some Greek feels and aspects in the design and decor, I wanted to take this dinner in a different direction and focus on trying to recreate Santorini.”

greek 1Before arriving, guests were introduced to the Greek Isles theme with a unique invitation surprise.

“I try to make it a fun experience for the guests from the very beginning, which starts with the invitation. This year’s invitation was a message in a bottle that people are still talking about. The bottle was filled with blue sand signifying the ocean, mixed with fuchsia sand speckles representing the flowers and sprinkled with seashells,” McWilliams said.

From sparkling ocean views, flowering vines, whitewashed architecture and vibrant blue domes, McWilliams perfectly captured the iconic beauty of the Greek Isles, completely transforming the ballroom.

“The walls were draped with backdrop images of the island. The lush bright fuchsia floral seen in Santorini, was used in abundance throughout the room,” McWilliams said. “Little details, like the sailboat place card holders that sat on each table, looked like they were sailing in the ocean because of the blue table linens.”

greek 3The realistic look and feel of Santorini’s coastal landscape is what McWilliams believes helped tip the scale in her favor for the award. A grand, key feature that set the event apart was the custom-made cluster of blue dome structures between 7 and 9 feet tall, reminiscent of the iconic architecture along Santorini’s cliffs.

“The dome buildings were the focal point in the center of the room with smaller ones prominently featured along the head table, suggesting a village. The desserts were even custom made to look like the domes, and that was truly the wow factor that concluded the evening,” McWilliams said.

McWilliams credits the talents of several people and departments who helped make the evening possible including, Riley Kleppelid, special events coordinator; Charles Henson, Jonathan Kinsey and their team for lighting and run of show support; Amy Bass-Wilson, Lori Proctor, Stuart King and SHSU Print Services for the printed items; Aramark / Classic Fare Catering for the meal; and Magic Moments for the décor and props. 

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