Each year the editorial staff of Seattle magazine sets out to put together the December “Best of the Year” issue.

“Every issue of Seattle magazine celebrates what we love about living, working and playing in Seattle,” ays Managing editor John Levesque. “But for the December “Best Of” issue, we really get to have fun with the concept. It starts in midsummer as our entire staff begins thinking about the people, the events and the trends that make this place so special. We also engage our readers in the popular Readers’ Choice survey, and I think the community appreciates the fact that it gets to be a part of the process. Ultimately, it’s an exercise in recognizing good people and noteworthy accomplishments, and our experience tells us it has become a hugely popular, much-anticipated annual event. After all, who doesn’t like an occasional pat on the back?”

Meetings are held, interviews are scheduled and then the writing begins.  Editorial Director Rachel Hart writes “I feel that Best of issues should be time capsules of the year of our city and capture the essence of what was in the zeitgeist. Many magazines do best of’s but I feel to do it well it has to be a recap of the year. And we do editor’s picks so we can provide our readers with a fun, authoritative recap of what stood out in the arenas of food, shopping, wine, arts, music, sports, etc. We spend all year keeping track of what’s happening and have a series of meetings starting as soon as June to discuss “what makes the cut”. It’s one of our most fun issues and we work on it all year long.  We also get our readers engaged, which is always fun to see what they’re paying attention to.”

Months prior, the party planning begins a life of its own.

Step one, select a date and location.  The date remains fairly constant, but is tied to when the December issue will be available for public consumption – so a little behind the scenes scheduling happens early on with our printer.  An interesting venue is so important as it creates the backdrop for everything else.  It doesn’t always need to be the newest location in town, though for some it is a big draw to attend an event at a location they have never been to.  In 2006 this event was held at the then very new Jonas Jenson Studios in Fremont.  This time around we partnered with the Seattle Design Center which has been around for many years, though the interior is frequently modernized and freshened up.

The SDC was seeking to showcase their property as more than just the Seattle Design Center, as well as re-introduce the design venue as “the” source for fabulous merchandise and expertise.

At first the venue presented a few challenges in terms of space available to accommodate the anticipated guest count. After a few site visits, we determined that connecting the main atrium with the plaza via the skybridge and utilizing upper floors in each to create “experiential” rooms was the way to go.  Trust me, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Date? Check. Venue? Check. On to the production team. Daniels Catering was already in place as the Seattle Design Center’s catering team and early on had agreed to partner with us to drive and manage the food and beverage infrastructure while we procured the actual participants and product.

All the event planning skills in the world cannot substitute for a talented design team who can take your vision of the event and design it with a master plan.  What exactly does this mean? The look and feel, event flow, lighting, décor, sound, etc. Luckily, I knew exactly where to start.  I reached out to Ryan Wenzel Events with whom I’d previously worked on the Bellevue Collection Culinary and Wine Showcase.  Sisters Deb Wenzel and Viki Ryan are an amazing duo who have created a company that offers way more than event décor; they offer expertise and endless design ideas – it’s like working with an interior designer who always keeps the main design in mind while crafting different spaces for the total look and feel. And remember folks, it’s not just about making the space look amazing – exceptionally detailed production schedules drive the event planning process.

Two areas where you really need experts are lighting and sound.  These are specialized functions that can make or break an event.  Proline/Avidex was recommended as the sound company along with Empire Lighting for lights and power.  Now the main team has come together and what a team it is.

Seattle magazine team focuses on content, entertainment, food, wine, pomp and circumstance.   The event team of RyanWenzel, Seattle Design Center, Daniels Catering, Proline/Avidex and Empire Lighting work together to make the event come to life from all design and technical aspects.  Peha Promotions leads the team and coordinates all the pieces and along with Seattle magazine marketing director Chris Deco and Associate Publisher John Spear drives promotion of the event in tandem with locating and integrating sponsor partners, charitable components and main event features.

What will you experience at this event?  Let me walk you through it.  Upon entrance to The Seattle Design Center you are greeted by sponsor partner Butler Valet and your car is whisked away for the evening.  Step on to the purple carpet and hear music that sets the tone before you enter the venue.  Beautiful lighting paired with purple draping and gobos reflecting the Seattle magazine Party of the Decade logo provide your entrance theme.

After you register, proceed to the Main Atrium which is lined with life-size Seattle magazine covers welcoming you to the Party of the Decade.  You are greeted with a signature take home wine glass and a door prize ticket – your opportunity to win one of many amazing prizes throughout the evening.  Check your coat and your first stop is the gorgeous Champagne bar pouring Nicolas Feuillatte paired with a delicious taste of fried chicken ala Lisa Dupar Catering; the name of her new book which you can purchase and have signed by her, is of course called “Fried Chicken and Champagne”!

Which way should you go now?  Upstairs to the second level or straight ahead into the main atrium? The main atrium features a performance stage, large flat screen, gorgeous Audi cars and tastes from 12 best restaurants and 12 award-winning Washington wineries and the Hornitos Tequila Margarita Bar.

Choose to head upstairs to the second level and you’ll find Duell Fisher and SEEN Seattle Lounge – interviews, photography and celebrities, oh my! While there meet Tommy Thompson, sommelier from the Tulalip Resort Casino and enjoy a glass of award-winning Washington wine at the Tulalip Wine Tasting table.  If its sweets and coffee you crave, take a seat in the Caffé Vita Coffee Lounge and enjoy a delectable treat from dessert stations including Cupcake Royale, Tulalip Resort Casino Desserts, Macrina Bakery and Trophy Cupcakes. You might bump into Molly Moon’s folks who are hand passing tastes of their scrumptious ice cream. Feeling energized now? Head on over to the Taste of Tulalip Retro Game Room and challenge your friends to games including pool, skeeball, fussball and air hockey. Sports not your thing? Take a seat on the plush sofas or belly up to the custom bar tables and enjoy a variety of savory creations from the Tulalip chefs and the Trumer Pils beer bar.

After you exhibited your prowess in the Game Room, venture across the Skybridge where you’ll find Tom Douglas Restaurants. Did you know that Tom’s first restaurant in Seattle was the aptly named Café Sport? Just as in real life where Tom Douglas connects the city, here he bridges the two event main rooms.  Savor wonderful bites from Lola, Seatown and other Tom Douglas creations beautifully paired with Chinook Wines from Prosser. Watch the crowd pass by, or just stand and be seen.

Time to venture on over to Plaza, where yet another stage will feature a variety of entertainment throughout the evening.  Around the Plaza you’ll find 10 more restaurant/chef stations and eight Washington wineries pouring tastes and offering samples.  Don’t miss the Makers Mark tasting table where you will be teased with a tiny taste of the “good stuff” before heading upstairs to the Decade Lounge – that’s where the full on bars are located!  DJ’s will be spinning there all night long in addition to a few surprise live performances. Enjoy signature cocktails from Effen Vodka, Makers Mark, Hornitos Tequilla.  Cocktails not your thing?  Then its Trumer Pils for you or a non-alcoholic specialty drink or simply a FIJI water.  Models from Seattle magazine’s Seamless in Seattle young designer program will showcase their latest creations as you enter the lounge.  The dance floor is yours for the night or if you prefer hang out with your friends (old or new) in the intimate private seating areas.

Entertainment throughout the evening includes performances by the Presidents of the United States, The Head and the Heart, Theatrics by Teatro Zinzanni, THEE Satisfaction, Ravenna Woods, dance tunes by DJ Riz Rollins and modeling of Seamless in Seattle designs.

Door prizes include: two $1000 gift cards from the Bravern, three $100 gift cards courtesy of Dr. Kozarksi for the Bellevue Collection, 4 lift tickets to Crystal Mountain, a gift set from the Red Door Spa, a 6 month membership + 10 private training sessions from David Barton Gym and the Seattle Design Center has offered up a gorgeous brown mahogany Anziano chair and trepied floor lamp.

Make sure you stop by the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance table, our beneficiary paired with Celebrated Chefs right near the entrance to buy a raffle ticket for one of 20 award winning Washington wine bottles and pick up your Celebrated Chefs cookbook. And finally, don’t miss the killer swag bag as you exit the Party of the Decade.

It all makes you wonder how much garbage a party like this will accumulate, doesn’t it?  Problem solved…Cedar Grove Composting came forward as a partner to provide all compostable utensils, plates and beverage items as well as all garbage and recycling containers inside and out.  I’d say we are in good, capable hands as long as everyone puts things in the correct containers.

If you are attending the event, have a wonderful time; drink responsibly and drive carefully.