Written by RACHEL SCHROEDER
Over the years, annual beverage conferences have grown to become events that everyone in this industry greatly anticipates, as well as the extravagant and over the top kick off parties thrown by big name beverage partners. The location for one of this year’s conferences provided partners with limitless options for a one of a kind party in the city that is constantly celebrating. Some people know it as “The Big Easy” and others as Mardi Gras Central. But to everyone, New Orleans is one of the top cities to go crazy in, and that is just what partners Red Bull, Bacardi, Heineken, Ocean Spray, Fiji Water, Torani, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Community Coffee did. This year’s Maskers Masquerade far exceeded the limits and magnificence of previous parties, as sponsors went above and beyond to show guests a magical night filled with surprise and excitement.
Although this Monday evening began with torrential rainfall, guests still made their way to the Marriott where they were greeted by models dressed in flashy silver attire and bright colored feathered boas. Here, guests adorned themselves with festive mardi gras beads, grabbed their first cocktails, and loaded up on large tour buses, stand-ins for the mardi gras floats that were originally scheduled for guest transportation to the event.
Upon arrival to Blaine Kern Studios, the most respected and largest float builders in the world, guests walked into a festive maze of music, light, color and magic-the actual Mardi Gras Float Den. From mega-floats with fiber optic lighting to breathtaking giant figures, guests got to indulge while sipping signature drink concoctions like the Mardi Gras Sangria and the Masquerade Hurricane, and jam to the sounds of a full marching band as well as The Stooges Brass Band.
The next stop on the night’s agenda, a walk (or rain dash) through the courtyard to The Grand Oaks Mansion, New Orleans’ only indoor antebellum mansion replica. Scarlett O’Hara would feel right at home with the brick walkways, moss-draped oaks, starry night sky and winding waterway. Upon entering, guests were enticed with several new signature drink options that included recipe cards so guests could collect them and recreate the night at home…or at least the drinks.
The guests’ amazement with the night only grew as they made their way through the mansion being entertained by the alligator handler, magician, jester, palm reader and caricature artist, as well as beautiful models dressed in risqué sequined and beaded costumes. Everywhere you turned there was something new and amazing to engage in. The aroma of authentic New Orleans cuisine filled the air as guests treated themselves to crawfish beignets and cajun chicken and andouille gumbo, which were among the many classic New Orleans dishes served. Music by the acclaimed Zydefunk captured the audience with its bass-driven funk and had guests dancing and tapping their feet to the music. Just as the night was coming to an end and guests thought there couldn’t possibly be anything else, a full gospel choir dressed in red robes made their entrance and sang farewell songs, a fabulous way to conclude the evening, and a wonderful way to start off the week. All in attendance were in awe of the night’s events and had a marvelous and unforgettable time, which each person will remember whenever they look at their complimentary Vestal Watch, given as a gift that evening. As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez le Bon temp rouler” Let the good times roll…and they did!