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Last year, COVID upset the party business. This year it’s back, in a more human way.

Author of the article: Denise Ryan

Published Dec 15, 2022 via the Vancouver Sun

Sharon Bonner just threw the best party of her life.

This time last year, the holiday party was over before it even started.

In December 2021, as COVID cases climbed, British Columbians were hit with a ban on social events and gatherings, bars and nightclubs were closed, and restaurant capacity was restricted.

One year later, parties are back. “Staff rallies, grand openings, galas, fundraisers, team meetings, customer appreciation events, tenant appreciation events, holiday parties, year end parties, Christmas parties, company picnics, said Bonner, the award-winning CEO of Bright Ideas Events Agency.

“Last year, we had an event planned for 500 — we had spent all year planning it — and we had to pull the plug. It was horrible.”

When COVID hit, Bonner and other event organizers were dealt a blow that no amount of curated Zoom gatherings could remedy.

“The party season isn’t just about the entertainment for the people who attend the parties: it’s jobs, it’s livelihoods,” said Bonner.

This year, events are back “fast and furious,” said Bonner, but isn’t quite the ‘Roaring Twenties’ rebound analysts predicted would follow the pandemic. It’s something, well, far more human.

“I see more connection, more than I’ve ever seen, people are so grateful to be together. I saw a lot of people connecting, sitting, visiting, hugging, and warmth, more compassion, and more appreciation.”

Bonner said that although a handful of guests continue to wear masks, “People are not afraid.”

Safety protocols are available. “We have masks and hand sanitizer, but we don’t put it in everyone’s face.”

A recent event, a staff party for Norland Limited, was held at the Rocky Mountaineer Train Station. The theme was travel and the destination was Paris, “the city of love and light.”

“We wanted four destinations, but with labour shortage and supply chain issues we cut that down to one,” said Bonner. It’s challenging to get both staff and the stuff to create the magic.

“Costs are up 30 per cent across the board. An item that cost $10 three years ago, now costs $13 or $14,” said Bonner.

No matter. With Paris, who needs another destination? Set decorations were provided by Grant Harasyn from Vancouver Art Department Inc., who created Paris monuments — the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, two cafés, the Eiffel Tower, a chocolatier, a casino and a Paris train station.

People came. They hugged. They talked. They connected.

“It was remarkable,” said Bonner.

Bonner has also adapted to the current economic pressures by developing a consultancy, sharonbonnerconsulting.com, for organizations that can’t afford an event planner, but don’t know how to do it themselves.

“They get all my knowledge, contacts, references, ideas. I create an event blueprint, a production schedule and a critical path: what to do in January, what do I do in February, and so on. They do the legwork.”

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