Phoenix 2014 Update #10 – The Brands Wikipedia Won’t Tell You About
Who is the Event Director?
That’s always the question.
I’ve been home for a few weeks now from my my desert trip to Phoenix and SinCity, and I’ve been thinking about how different the two events are, and how an event is like a wedding.
How a wedding is a mirror of the bride and groom. And how an event is a mirror of the Event Director.
1,001 choices! Every choice reflecting the person behind it.
Let’s pretend you were planning an event.
What choices would you make for …
- Ballroom layout, and seating?
- Prize money?
- Judging panel and policies?
- Website feel?
- Floor size and quality?
- Deejays and music directives?
- Scheduling and pace?
- Attire? Slacks Or Jeans? Heels Or Toms?
- Contest types and divisions?
- Opening Ceremony?
- Who comes, which demographics, from where?
- Pro staff?
- Workshops and intensives?
- Your Facebook marketing “personality?”
- Plaques and trophies?
- Extras (buffets, food trucks, ice cream, popcorn machines, photo-booths, give-aways, childcare, hospitality suites)?
- Cooperation and training of the hotel?
- Your choices would give birth to an event that would be distinctly “you.”
Every event, like every Event Director, has its own unique personality. It’s own “brand.”
Have you been to any of these?
- The Classy Event
- The Monster Truck Event
- The Broadway Event
- The Cowboy Event
- The Glam Event
- The Homey Event
- The Adults Only Event
- The Intimidating Event
- The Cozy Comfy Event
- The Family Oriented Event
- The Red State Event
- The Blue State Event
- The ADD Event
- The Cosmopolitan Event
- The Small-Town Event
- The Sterile Event
- The Friendly Event
- The Competition Oriented Event
- The Non-Competition Oriented Event
- The Produced Event
- The Homespun Event
- The Elegant Event
- The Hipster Event
- The Traditional Event
- The Laid-Back Event
- The Prestigious Event
- The Tightly-Run Event
- The Free-Flowing Event
- The Cold Event
- The Warm Event
What would your event look like?
ED’s say an event feels like a “baby,” brought to life through blood, sweat, and tears. And drama.
Criticism of the event feels personal, like criticism of one’s child.
Phoenix’s “parent” is George Pavlatos. And Phoenix feels like George.
It didn’t used to. The “old” Phoenix was about the pool, the superstars, jack and jills, the adults-only party of the year.
But the Phoenix I attended this year is very much like George, who took over four years ago with a vision. Seeing George is to see that vision.
George is Greek. Black Kalamata olives for eyes, skin like honey-soaked melomakarono. A shock of wavy, silvery hair. Built stocky and strong, like a boxer, maybe a boxing manager. He dresses well. Elegant black suits, white shirts open at the neck or dressed with ties in bold patterns lesser man wouldn’t brave. This is a man who takes pride in his appearance. Pride, in fact, is what you notice most about George – pride in behavior, good deeds, his family, friends, country. Pride in his communities.
George refers constantly to his immigrant grandfather and the business ethics he learned pushing a cart on the streets of San Francisco and Chicago’s “Greek Town” where he organized push-cart vendors into a cooperative then parlayed his success into buying a boarding house, thus ushering the Pavlatos family into the hospitality business.
More than anything George talks of his father. A tower of a man whose civic leadership in the church and Chicago community is the standard, model, and inspiration for everything George is and does. Giving back, creating projects to help kids and the underprivileged, youth boxing programs, charitable associations, fundraising. Community leadership, more than anything, defines George Pavlatos.**
And this tells you about Phoenix, the Phoenix that George sees, the direction that he has in mind. He wants the event to give something to the community. He wants it to lead by example, to be respectable, elegant, and dignified.
He sees it as a luxury vacation at one of the premiere resorts in the world. He wants to welcome all ages, a family-oriented atmosphere, where where both juniors and seniors feel welcomed. He wants Phoenix to be a prestigious event, along the lines of Grand Nationals, or The US Open.
This seems possible. Phoenix has the history, the nostalgia, and the narrative to be a mid-summer “grand” event of this kind.
And it has the Camelback.
In the way that Grand Nationals is the Renaissance Waverly hotel, Phoenix is the Camelback. The stories, the memories, the images – Phoenix has been defined by these buildings and these vistas for 33 years. (During the reconstruction the event was moved briefly to the Biltmore, no shabby setting, but never felt quite right.) How fortunate that George just happens to have an inside relationship with the General Manager of the Camelback, a relationship forged in fire 46 years ago in Viet Nam.
Everyone seems to have ideas of what the new Phoenix Reborn should be.
Some say it should include more routine divisions not just Rising Star, as it did, for the first time in its history, this year. Large juniors divisions, outreach to communities with juniors (the shag community perhaps.) Classic and Showcase, Teams and Cabaret and Strictlys.
Others say exactly the opposite. That Phoenix was and always should be about Jack and Jills. Meaning no pressure or pre-planning, no stress. Lots of free time.
All kinds of ideas about how to handle the Invitational, including that it go back to what it was in the old days, where 20-30 women and men were invited to compete in prelims, in heats of four couples, on Saturday night. They’d dance in a box, each couple in one of the squares, the girls rotating each time.
Which made for a great 30-minute show on Saturday night and a great Invitational Finals (comprised of the winning 8-10 couples) on Sunday.
There are suggestions of a pool party, a Family Barbeque – “family” as in our West Coast Swing Family. Hamburgers and hotdogs at the Jack Rabbit pool, gathered together to watch the fireworks go off at the base of the Camelback Mountain range. A Fourth of July Pool Party to celebrate family and an opportunity for dancers from around the world to experience a quintessential American holiday, for Americans to commemorate our pride in this great country.
That there are abundant suggestions for the directions the event might take attests to the fact that people care, that people are invested in seeing Phoenix come back to life.
So many decisions, so many directions, so many choices. One thing is for sure – George wants Phoenix to be great, he wants to bring it back to life, to restore it to its status as a premiere event of our circuit year.
Numbers so far are encouraging, although numbers don’t necessarily reflect the quality of an event. When George took over in 2011, 350 people attended. The next year, 2012, numbers rose to 850 where it’s now held for three years. More telling is that this year 13 countries were represented, and 27 states. The event felt international – Russians, French, Germans, Swiss, Brasilians, Australians, and a large Singapore crew. George renamed the “All American” Jack and Jill to “All American Intercontinental.”
200+ rooms were booked – half the resort.
The hotel likes us. No small matter! Because the Camelback is not just a premiere destination resort whose reputation matters, and not just a Marriott with a Marriott’s pristine standard of service and expectation of commensurate behavior from guests. It is also the personal favorite hotel of J.W. Marriott himself.
Several years ago they didn’t want us back. There had been issues. Rooms torn up, noise, rowdy behavior, other resort guests had complained. George fought to get us back there. His friendships helped.
This year they liked us. I asked. Bellboys, front desk staff, restaurant, housekeeping, security guys – either they are unaware of previous difficulties or exceptionally well-trained in tact and professionalism. What I heard was “We like your group. You guys are well-behaved, respectful of rooms and property, not demanding.”
That’s what George wants.An elegant vacation, for elegant, well-behaved dancers. A prestigious, grand event, in the middle of our circuit year. He seems on the way to creating just that.
Here’s what I think.
If you could dream up the perfect way to start the summer -
To see the wildest, most beautiful parts of our country, and …
Dance while you’re vacationing …
At not one, but two fantastic events …
You couldn’t possibly do better than …
A trip to the desert for Phoenix and SinCity! Back to back!
It is a west coast swing dancer’s dream vacation! Two fabulous resorts, two utterly different experiences, two weekends in a row.
How can you beat this? The Grand Canyon? And Vegas? The Camelback? And the Green Ranch? Elegance and luxury? And glam and luxury?
It’s the Dancer Vacation Made In Heaven!
SinCity is on the rise. A sexy new event with clear vision, personality, and brand; growing each year in numbers and quality.
Phoenix is on the rise too, in a different way. Phoenix is rising from the ashes of its storied past. George is making that happen.
How fitting that the mythology is Greek. That it’s the story of a great bird, cyclically reborn, who obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. Our Phoenix!
** George’s story, the story of his grandfather, his father, and his family, is beautiful and colorful and poignant. It’s an American story. I will save it for later, for a lengthier interview, for those who enjoy long-form stories.
Stuff To Do In Phoenix
If you are planning a trip to Phoenix next year, here are a few of the zillions of things you might want to see, in addition to the Grand Canyon.
10 minutes from downtown Phoenix, Papago Park has an extensive trail network through the Sonoran Desert, and houses the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden and The Hall of Flame.
The Hall of Flame Fire Museum and the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes - an acre of fire history exhibits, 90 fully restored pieces of fire apparatus dating from 1725 to 1969. Includes pieces from England, France, Austria, Germany, and Japan.
Instruments from every country in the world, insider’s view of how instruments are made and played (you can play them yourself!) Instruments belonging to John Lennon, Taylor Swift, Elvis Presley, Carlos Santana, and others.
A Vaudeville-inspired roadshow and old-world magic
International exhibitions including 17,000 works of American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. Includes an interactive art space for children. Photography exhibitions, a landscaped sculpture garden, dining and shopping.
Displays and flies a variety of aircraft from WWI through Vietnam, including the most fully restored B-17 flying today B-17G Flying Fortress Sentimental Journey, B-25, C-45, SNJ, F4 Phantom, Migs 15 and 21 and other warbirds. Experience a flight back in time by taking a ride in the B-17, SNJ or C-45. Memorabilia from WWII and the Home Front through Vietnam, including uniforms, leather flight jackets, medals, photographs, many more artifacts.
10,000 square foot glass atrium of rainforest environment with lush tropical plants, trees, waterfalls and a large Koi pond. Thousands of butterflies from around the world fly freely, alighting on fragrant flowering plants and your own shoulders and fingers. You get to watch metamorphosis from caterpillar to the exquisite Blue Morpho butterfly.
Take in a show!
Monster Jams, Supercross, and home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a six level facility covering 1,300,000 square feet.
So, so, so much more! Including:
- Piestewa Peak
- Echo Canyon Trail and Recreation Area (on Camelback Mountain!)
- Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting
- Arizona Horses (Ponderosa Stables and South Mountain Stables)
- St. Mary’s Basilica
- Hole in the Rock
- Phoenix Theatre
- Burton Barr Central Library
You might want to make it a three-week trip. Or a month-long trip.
You might decide to stay forever.