As events manager for Gordon Food Service in Grand Rapids, Barb Beurkens holds eight private trade shows a year each attracting up to 10,000 food service professionals. The company's market area spans 30 states primarily east of the Mississippi from Michigan down to Florida.

A 31-year veteran in the industry, she knows what she likes, and she likes Michigan.

"The Midwestern hospitality and Midwestern work ethic make Michigan meetings so much easier from a meeting planners perspective," Beurkens said. It's like night and day. The concept of service is very different here. I think it's head and shoulders above other places where we've done events.

Beurkens is fortunate enough to hold two trade shows in Michigan, one at the Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi and the other in her own backyard, DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. She finds excellent service at both venues, but she admits to being prejudiced toward her hometown.

GFS Barb Beurkens

Event planner Barb Beurkens of Gordon Food Service spoke with Experience Grand Rapids about what she likes in a venue.

"I really can tell you with all honesty that I wish I could take the Grand Rapids building and their staff with us and plunk them down all over the country," Beurkens said. "It is truly a beautiful facility that is orchestrated by a team of professionals second to none."

"The people she works with in Grand Rapids are very service minded," she said. "They're absolutely thrilled to help and their attitude almost always is: The answer is yes; now what is the question?"

The city also has a lot to offer when trying to meet the growing desire for outside activities during an event, she said.

"I think people today are so busy that they need to combine great experiences with everything that they do," she said. "A city that offers interesting off-site opportunities has an advantage because it allows the meeting planner to sell the whole experience to potential attendees."

"Grand Rapids area offers events at the Van Andel Arena and performance halls as well as museums a wide array of downtown festivities throughout the year, and you cant beat our restaurants," she said.

In 2009, Gordon Food Service met with serendipity when the ultimate outside experience launched at the same time as the company's annual trade show in Grand Rapids.

"ArtPrize and our fall food show overlap," Beurkens said. "So our customers who attend our fall show now have this wonderful bonus of being able to explore downtown Grand Rapids and view all the ArtPrize exhibits."

This year the contest will feature 1,517 pieces of art spread over 162 venues in downtown Grand Rapids.

"That's just such a gift," she said. "It's wonderful."



Experience Grand RapidsInterviewed by Experience Grand Rapids, Mary Manier, CTP/CTIS, Director of Sales

Mary offers over 30 years sales experience selling and marketing Grand Rapids to meeting planner and group tour planners.