Destination West in Pictures

Meeting buyers and suppliers gathered in-person at the Sheraton Denver Downtown for business, education and a little bit of fun.

Northstar's annual Destination West, held June 6-8 in Denver, began with a surprise: In Colorado, masks are no longer required indoors or out for those who are vaccinated. Thus, the pictures below show many of the 108 meeting professionals who joined us at the newly renovated Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel with their faces uncovered and big smiles finally visible once again.

We still observed many health-safety protocols: All participants and staff had their temperatures checked daily and wore Volan Technology devices in order to conduct contact-tracing; participants' health credentials were managed securely by SafeAcess; and tables in the meeting rooms for the education and the hosted-buyer appointments were strategically spaced. Our post-event statistics show that a healthy 89 percent of the participants had been fully vaccinated and 11 percent were tested before attending the event.

In addition to our wonderful host property, Destination West was supported by a number of generous sponsors: Visit Denver, the Hyatts of Denver, Aventri, International Gifting Co., Imprint Group, Presidential Worldwide Transportation, PC/Nametag and Delta Air Lines.

Northstar Meetings Group will hold a full slate of in-person events this year. Planners and suppliers can register their interest in attending upcoming meetings at any time.

We invite you to view, download and share photos from the Destination West Photo Gallery, with credit to photographer Ketara Gadahn / Studio Alani. (Please tag @studioalaniphoto on Instagram or Facebook, and Ketara Gadahn on LinkedIn.)

Following are highlights from Destination West 2021.

A Warm Welcome

Our host property, the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, recently completed an $80 million refurbishment.

While masks were no longer required for those who were vaccinated, all participants had their temperatures checked every day.

John Severe, director of group sales for the Sheraton Denver Downtown, made all participants feel welcome at the Land, Sea and Sky reception.

Fun food is back! On the menu for the Land, Sea and Sky reception was a carving station featuring smoked bison tenderloin, house-brined whole roasted chicken (Land on a Sword); whole roasted grouper with black garlic purée and a classic béarnaise sauce that also could be used on the salmon (Sea); and king trumpet mushrooms with jalapeño and garlic, seasonal roasted vegetables with a mushroom sauce, and roasted asparagus (Land). The above desserts in "just a taste" size were mini opera cakes, passion tartlets, pistachio and chocolate éclairs, chocolate-raspberry cakes, salted-caramel tartlets, and dulce mango cakes.

Merideth Marder of Staged Right Events, Alice Stewart of EMC2 Travel Planners, Carla Nichols of HelmsBriscoe and Colleen Schwoerke of PlanIt Right show their smiles during the opening reception at the host hotel.

Bringing the 80s into the 21st century, a jean-jacket gifting bar from International Gifting Co. was open throughout Destination West, allowing all participants to find the perfect fit and color to take home with them.

Day Two

The morning began with a panel discussion about current challenges and solutions for planners, moderated by Dean Savoca, M.Ed, CSP (left), a change-management speaker with a long history in the hospitality industry; and featuring Tracy Blair, director of sales and marketing at the Sheraton Denver Downtown; Kelly Chaco, CMP, director of events for Eurofins U.S. Food; Jill Garcia, president and owner of the Hutton Group, a full-service planning company; and Jason Lusk, associate vice president of convention sales at Visit Denver, the city's convention and visitors bureau.

Appointments between buyers and suppliers were held at large, well-spaced tables. Arlette Garibay, director of sales for the Greater Ontario (Calif.) Convention & Visitors Bureau and Edgardo Barrantes, who specializes in venue sourcing and contract negotiations for HPN Global, showed that selfies can be a "thing" again.

Taking in the sights: Imprint Events Group and Presidential Transportation hosted they day's afternoon activities. Michele Stephenson, CEO and founder of MDS Events, Carol Harvey, an event planner for Edify, and SarahBeth Donaghy, an event marketer for Facebook, took the E-Tuk city tour, which covered Denver's Larimer Square and River North (RiNo) neighborhoods, Union Square Station, the Colorado Convention Center and other landmarks.

A second tour took participants to Lohi (Lower Highlands), another city neighborhood. Stops — and tastings — at Waldschänke Ciders + Coffee (above) and Diebolt Brewing were the highlights.

Our drive to dinner in the River North Art District took us down streets decorated by colorful murals like this one.

Once the J. George Leyner Engineering Works plant, built in 1886, the industrial-chic Bigsby's Folly was our dinner destination. The venue, which accommodates groups of up to 150, has an extensive list of wines from California, Oregon and Washington — as well as Colorado.

Creative hors d'oeuvres were passed among the group, including these antipasto cornets.

Northstar's James Antaky enjoyed the outdoor patio at Bigsby's Folly with Jessica Young, sales and marketing manager of meetings and events at Discover Flagstaff (Ariz.), and Cat Puccino , director of national accounts for Visit Santa Barbara.

Day Three

On our final morning, Erin Popovich, a three-time Paralympian who won 14 gold medals and now works for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, shared her story, along with observations on the needs of para athletes.

The smiles continued during the second day of 15-minute hosted-buyer appointments. The proof is in the faces of sales managers Ryan Moyer (left) and Stacia Hunter (right) of the Gila River Hotels & Casinos - Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Ariz., and Timothy Glanzer (center), founder and CEO of Elevated Meeting Solutions.

The agenda concluded with a tour and lunch at the Hyatt Regency Denver, host of next year's Destination West, to be held May 5-7. The property is about half a block from the Colorado Convention Center.

Participants constructed their own bento boxes for lunch. Options were seared snapper with summer corn and fava bean succotash, blackberry BBQ short ribs with a tangy slaw, heirloom tomato and buratta salad with ciabatta, and baby kale Caesar salad with garlic croutons and shaved parmesan. For dessert, dulce de leche churros were paired with local favorite Sweet Action Ice Cream, alongside a s'mores bar.

Interested in other Northstar events? Register now.