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CONFERENCE FEES

Early Bird Registration: 
October 1 - January 7
MNFEA Members $150/person
Non-Members $200/person


Regular Registration:
January  for 8 - February 28

MNFEA Members $200/person
Non-Members $250/person


Late & Onsite Registration: 
Begins March 1
MNFEA Members $250/person
Non-Members $300/person

Conference fees include sessions, workshops, networking activities, included optional events, and most meals (onsite only).

Register Now

2022 Conference Speakers



Meet The 2022 Speakers

Sarah Routman
Laugh Healthy, The Laughter Book

Sarah Routman knew just what to do with her MA in adult education: She became a laughter professional. Formerly a high school teacher, adjunct leadership instructor at the University of Minnesota, and Executive Director of two non-profits, she is a sought-after keynote speaker, conference presenter, and personal coach.

Thanks to her BA in English, and BFA in Photography, she created four coloring books, co-authored ‘The Laughter Book’ (coming soon), and is a published photographer and poet. Her caregiver chapter in an anthology about living with chronic illness provides a new look at how to unleash joy in our most difficult moments. 

Sarah wows audiences with her expertise, enthusiasm, and highly interactive laugh-it-out approach toward event planning, corporate wellness, and personal stress management – all while providing a serious and seriously fun exercise workout! She will tickle your funny bone as she turns everything you thought you knew about laughter on its head.

Jillian Nelson
Community Resource and Police Advocate, Autism Society of Minnesota

Jillian Nelson is an Autistic Adult and the Community Resource and Policy Advocate for the Autism Society of Minnesota. Jillian has a diverse background in disability service work including direct support, special education, housing, employment supports, support groups and more. Jillian routinely connects with the community through the information and resource hotline and is ingrained in the disability public policy field as a registered lobbyist, co-chair of the consortium for citizens with disabilities anti-discrimination committee and has been appointed by the Governor’s office to the Council on Developmental Disabilities and State Rehabilitation council, as well as serving on many work groups and committees. Jillian is passionate about redefining accessibility in Minnesota beyond ramps, handrails and bathrooms. Jillian aims to spread the important message that accessibility is for every one and that inclusive communities build better communities.


Heather Zehr
Artistic Director/Creative Sales Director, Enticing Entertainment

As Artistic Director, and Creative Sales Director of Enticing Entertainment, Heather is nothing short of a “Pint-Sized Powerhouse”. With over 15 years of experience in the circus arts, directing, stage/ costume design, festival entertainment coordination, and theatrical performance, she has an incredible understanding of all aspects of the event and entertainment industry. Her passion for all facets of event production gives her a very unique and intriguing approach to sales and event execution. She believes that immersing people in a world where anything is possible and getting them to think outside the box when it comes to festivals and events, is crucial to creating impactful event experiences.

Joanna Schnedler
Executive Director, Minnesota Music Coalition

Joanna is Executive Director for the Minnesota Music Coalition, a statewide arts service organization for the state's independent musicians with programs such as the annual MN Music Summit conference and the Caravan du Nord tour across greater Minnesota. Prior to this, her most recent role was as Executive Director of the Minnesota Theater Alliance, a statewide arts service organization for performing arts organizations and practitioners.

Throughout her career in nonprofit administration and performing arts management, she has had roles such as General Manager for the Fitzgerald Theater/Minnesota Public Radio, Performance Manager for Theatre de la Jeune Lune, in fund development for social service and social enterprise organizations, and as a professional stage manager for theater and opera companies. She is on the CreativeMN arts impact committee, and is a Board member for The Moving Company theater and the Richfield Foundation.


Nate Berg
Vice President of Sales, G.L. Berg Entertainment

Nate grew up in the entertainment world going from stage to stage, show to show since he was a kid. Joining the industry in a more official capacity 10 years ago, Nate’s expertise is in helping planners find the best entertainment- on or off stage - for their special event, making sure the performers fit the event, the audience and budget. As an avid fan of all types of events from concerts, shows to live sports, he loves to help others get the best entertainment experience at their events, too.


Rina Rossi
Program Officer, Minnesota State Arts Board

Rina Rossi is a program officer with the Minnesota State Arts Board where she has managed multiple grant programs including the Minnesota Festival Support grant program. Previously, Rina worked in youth development. She has served as a longtime volunteer programming coordinator for several Minnesota based roots music festivals as well as engaging with regional and national festivals as a member of various musical ensembles.

                                                   Lauren Bennett McGinty 
Executive Director, Explore Minnesota 


Lauren Bennett McGinty is a nonprofit executive with more than 12 years of experience working in communications, operations, finance, hospitality, education, and advocacy at Minnesota-based nonprofits. Most recently, she served as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild where she directed strategic plans, executed major events, and guided overall marketing for more than 160 breweries.

In November 2021, Lauren was appointed by Minnesota Governor Walz to serve as the Executive Director of Explore Minnesota. 
Explore Minnesota works to inspire consumers and facilitate travel to and within Minnesota while pursuing an entrepreneurial approach and leveraging the state's tourism investment with increased involvement by the private sector. Tourism is a key sector of the state's economy, historically generating $1.0 billion in state sales tax on $16.6 billion in leisure and hospitality sales and employing nearly 275,000 workers in Minnesota's leisure and hospitality businesses.

                                                Kelly Sayre
Founder & President, The Diamond Arrow Group

Kelly Sayre empowers people with realistic tactics and tools to help them live life safely and on their own terms. Her refreshing angle on personal safety emphasizes non-physical, proactive situational awareness techniques that recognize and avoid threatening situations before they happen. 

With a grounded approach and high energy, Kelly works with law enforcement, nonprofit, corporate and youth organizations on emergency preparedness, situational awareness training and personal safety. She is a frequent speaker at national events and a guest on global podcasts.  

Kelly is trained in FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team program, the Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooter Preparedness Workshop, and Texas A&M Extension Service’s crisis communications. She is a member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, TeamWomen, and the Tri-County Humane Society. Kelly lives in Minnesota with her husband, children, and a 180-pound Great Dane. 



 Katie Battis-Troyer

Founder & Chief Experiential Curator, Claim Our Space

Katie Battis-Troyer (pronouns: She/her/hers) is the Founder and Chief Experiential Curator of Claim Our Space, LLC.  Katie served in several community- and social equity-centered roles within government, philanthropic, and corporate organizations. Through these experiences she recognized that institutions have a unique opportunity to leverage events to expand their impact and attain social justice while fostering deepened relationships in their communities.  

Katie has a passion for curating creative events that drive impact while always keeping innovation, relationship building, and fun at the center. Katie is trained in the Technology of Participation (ToP)® facilitation methods. She believes that these methods are grounded in building consensus within groups to come to a common vision. Katie leverages the ToP methods when facilitating community engagement conversations and to guide visioning, design, and evaluation of events with her clients. 

Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Concordia University-Saint Paul. She was selected as a Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow through the Minnesota Council on Foundations in 2015. Katie resides in Saint Paul, Minnesota with her husband Tim. Katie enjoys interior design, watching virtual music concerts, and learning to cook new cuisines – currently Jamaican.

Shelley Villalobos
Executive Director, Council for Responsible Sports

Shelley Villalobos is the executive director of the Council for Responsible Sport, overseeing the certifications of some of the world's most responsibly produced events. The Council exists to support, certify and celebrate social and environmental responsibility at sporting events. She works primarily with event organizers to enhance the positive social impacts of their events while limiting and mitigating their environmental consequences. Prior to work with the Council, Shelley served in community outreach roles at the University of Oregon Athletic Department and the City of Eugene, Oregon. She holds a degree in Journalism and Communications and a graduate certificate in Leadership in Sustainability from the University of Oregon, where she also played on the softball team.


Nick Borelli
Director of Marketing Growth, AllSeated

Every action Nick Borelli takes professionally is to fulfill his mission: “Improving experiences for attendees by supporting and advancing event professionals globally”. Nick is the Director of Marketing Growth for AllSeated and exVo and has been in the event industry since he was 14 years old. He specializes in applying design thinking to accomplishing big goals.He speaks internationally on a range of topics both from his professional focus (live experience marketing and activations) as well as industry hot buttons (diversity, pricing transparency, and association leadership). In 2018 alone he gave over 100 educational presentations to event professionals. In 2018, Nick adopted a panel inclusion rider which states that planners who book him must do everything in their power to make panel diversity a priority before he will contribute to their discussions.Nick has been awarded the International Live Events Association's Esprit Award for International Volunteer of the Year, Cleveland Business Connects magazine’s Networking Star of the Year, Smart Business Magazine’s Social Media Impact Award, and the ISES WOW Award for Best Marketing Campaign over $75,000. In June 2018, Nick was named one of Meetings Net's Game Changers for his work in advocating for the advancement of the events industry. He has held multiple positions with the International Live Events Association (ILEA) including International Marcom Chair, Chair of Digital Strategy, Midwest Brand Champion, ISES Live Conference Technology Chair as well as Cleveland Chapter VP of Communication and President. Nick is the Chair of Public Relations and Marketing for the SEARCH Foundation, and has served on a number of advisory boards for a variety of organizations. Hehas contributed to Event Manager Blog, Meetings Net, Trade Show News Network, Event Industry News, Midwest Meetings Magazine, Smart Meetings Magazine, and many more print and digital industry outlets. Nick is obsessed with telling stories that change behaviors.

Beatrice Adenodi
Founder/CEO, Mirror Ink

Beatrice Adenodi is a marketing guru, awareness advocate, and founder/CEO of Mirror Ink, a full-service business consulting firm based in Minneapolis. As a first-generation Nigerian-American immigrant, Beatrice had to figure everything out on her own. Over the years she built her own set of tools to overcome the challenges of life. Through her unique perspective, she has been able to help many people get out of unfortunate situations by guiding them from being reactive to reflective in their setting. A sought-after speaker, she was invited to speak on stage at Unveiled Beauty 2019 and has also been a featured guest on podcasts such as Humanship, The Eulogy, Peace and Possibilities, and Wild Ones. She was driven to create her social experiential platform Mindless Behaviors in2014 after a tough transitional phase led her to reflect on her relationships, faith, and career. Feeling powerless and invisible, she discovered she had been ignoring her own voice and reacting without thinking in difficult situations. Beatrice set out to reclaim her power. As she grew into her voice, she realized she wasn’t alone. She recognized the impact her newly reflective mindset could make on society and developed an innovative new approach to guide others to find their own voices. With the completion of her book about these experiences, Mindless Behaviors: Breaking Through Unseen Barriers, her platform is now poised to help create generations of hopeful people.

Shad Gordon
Sales Manager, Biffs, Inc.

My name is Shad Gordon and I’m very passionate about my role as the Sales Manager for Biffs Inc. I had a great career in the golf business before coming to work for Biffs Inc. I have worked at The Wilds Golf Club in Prior Lake for 23 year, the last 16 years as the General Manager. During this time, I have gained valuable experience, sales knowledge and have so many great relationships that I know will be continued during my time at Biffs Inc. 

My wife Becky and I have 4 kids: Emma (22), Austin (20), twins Carly & Isabelle (14). Our daughter Emma is currently a student at the University of Minnesota and our son Austin has committed to attend and play baseball for the University of Minnesota – Duluth.  I have enjoyed many father-daughter dances and coaching my son in baseball, basketball and football over the years. Family, friends and golf are a big part of my life.

Paula Kennedy Smith
Owner, Kennedy Concessions Inc.

Elementary school teacher turned full-time concessionaire, Paula Kennedy Smith has been in the festival industry since 1995. Paula and her husband, Andy Smith, run Kennedy Concessions Inc., a mobile food and beverage company serving large, outdoor events in and around the Twin Cities metro area. Their most recent project, The Blue Ox Burger Bar, is a build-your-own-burger destination at the Minnesota State Fair. Team Kennedy-Smith has served delicious bites to thousands of hungry customers at fairs, festivals, special events and concerts for 26 years. Paula and her family reside near Hastings, Minnesota.


Vince Vanella
Owner, The Vanella Group

Vince Vanella has worked in the environmental services industry for over 30 years. A lot of that time was with Waste Management, handling their largest Minnesota accounts.  He’s held numerous positions in operations, operations management as well as marketing. He has designed and implemented large commercial, institutional, event, and residential waste and recycling programs.

The waste industry has been actively “going green” for nearly 30 years.  Vince has been at the forefront of these changes.  For example, he was one on the founders of the Recycling Association of Minnesota (RAM).  He also started the Ronald McDonald pop tap recycling program in 1989.  This program has raised millions of dollars for Ronald McDonald charities in the United States.

10 years ago, Vince, and his wife Kris, decided to branch out on their own and started The Vanella Group of MN. One of the company’s fastest growing division’s is TVG Events, where they provide a high level of environmental and logistic services for majority of all events, of all sizes, in Minnesota. They have become the leader in providing sustainable event services.

Heidi Marsh
Executive Chef, Mayo Civic Center

Heidi started her food journey as a line cook in college. She began in cafeteria settings, then bar & grills, nightclubs, home health and nutrition, then began cooking within the fine dining setting. She mastered pastries, bread, and baking philosophy. She began working in a small French-American farm-to-table bistro. This position gave her a sense of belonging in the culinary world. She found collaboration, creative freedom, causal interaction with guests, and days filled with many “ah-ha” moments as ideas, both savory and sweet, came to fruition.

Heidi continued on to work as an Executive Chef in many upscale-casual concepts. She helped to build and create an event expansion at the Aster Cafe. Here, she was able to explore global inspired dishes with the Minneapolis Film Society. Her next adventure was creating High Tea Services of multiple varieties at the Mad Hatter Restaurant and Tea Room. This position gave her a closer look at the “daintiness” and presentation aspect of fine dining. Her most recent project involved the creation and opening of the Hi-Lo Diner. This project was particularly special, as it was full of history. Being a fully restored diner car that was positioned in Minneapolis and came from Pennsylvania, this diner had flare from the beginning. Heidi created an approachable menu that would prove to be both interesting and profitable. She constructed the menu staple - the Hi-Top, which consisted of a “pillow of fried dough, a sort of not-quite-as-sweet doughnut, topped with anything from sweet apples and sea salt caramel to fried chicken and gravy”, as stated by the Pioneer Press.

She enjoys volunteering her services and getting involved with non-profit associations such as the Salvation Army, Girl Scouts of America, America Reads/Counts, Malibu Fire Victims and any association that provides growth and relief in the community.

Heidi currently works as the Executive Chef for the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, MN. Her focus is on global cuisine with focus on dietary niches specifically plant-forward and sustainable sourcing.

Tom Whelan
Irish Fair

A dynamic, successful sales and marketing leader and mentor with wide-ranging experience, Tom Whelan is Factotum at Wheels Brewing Co. Originally a small-batch brewing operation, now a professional relationship-facilitating and problem-solving consultancy.    

He ended a 40+-year career in marketing after serving as President of Nemer Fieger, a privately-owned, regional advertising and marketing communications firm. He formerly held sales management positions in the publishing industry, including years spent at Greenspring Media, Star Tribune and the Chicago Tribune

He is actively involved in the community, currently serving as board chair for Irish Fair of Minnesota. He is also a care-driver for Mobility4All and volunteers at ICA Foodshelf in Minnetonka.

Whelan is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and, with wife Marty, lives in Minnetonka.




Lora Harper
Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Irish Fair

Lora Harper is Vice Chair of the Irish Fair Board of Directors and has stepped in to fill some of the key components of the executive role for the organization.  Her career experience spans a variety of marketing and business development leadership roles including strategic alliances and partnerships, product development and management and subsidiary operations. She most recently served as Interim President of HealthPartners UnityPoint Health, a start-up joint venture before retiring to consult and nurture her passions.  When she is not traveling, she volunteers with Irish Fair, HealthPartners Hospice,  Sanneh Foundation, Chica's Rescue and is a National Marrow Donor courier.

Jim Bach
Apres Event Decor and Tent Rental

Jim was born and raised in Bloomington, Minnesota. He graduated from Normandale Community College and wanted to go into Law Enforcement, but ended up in the party rental business {go figure!}.  Jim has been a integral part of the Après team and just celebrated his 32nd anniversary in 2021! In that time, he has worn many different hats - from a delivery driver to crew chief, from warehouse manager and to now Director of Tent Operations. He has been in the sales end of the business for the past 28 years. He loves the challenges of the event business, from the smallest of events to the large-scale functions that can attract thousands of people. From deadlines that give you all the time in the world to complete, to the short challenging timeline that keeps him up at night wondering what he got himself into!  Working in the event industry gives Jim a lot of satisfaction. He loves working with a wide variety of clients and meeting new people. Executing events and seeing the rewarding accomplishments we can do at Après is the most satisfying. "When" Jim is not at work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons.

Lana Thomas
Owner & Operator of Rebel Lobster & Outlaw Grill Food Trucks

Lana Thomas runs two successful food truck businesses, one of which being among the most sought after trucks in the Twin Cities. Lana’s background is in real estate and after 12 years as a licensed realtor/broker she and her husband, Darren, switched gears and dived head first into the mobile food business. They built their first truck, Outlaw Grill, in 2014 and added Rebel Lobster in 2018. Lana is a Board Director for the Minnesota Food Truck Assoc. (MFTA) and considered an ambassador of the food truck industry. Recognizing that food trucks are a permanent and vital part of the food culture in the Twin Cities, she actively supports and helps shape the landscape for current & future small business owners.

Steve Madson
President/Owner, SRO Productions, Inc.

Steve Madson is the President/Owner of SRO Productions, Inc., a Minneapolis-based event production and promotion company. Each year, SRO provides production support for multiple events in the Twin Cities including the Stone Arch Bridge Festival, Live at the Hilde, The Beer Dabbler events, Twin Cities Summer Jam at Canterbury Park, Holidazzle for the mpls downtown council, and many others.

SRO also provides transportation management services for many large public events including the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, College Football Playoff, Minnesota State Fair and some PGA tournaments. Steve is also the past president of MNFEA and board member.



Sierra Johnson
Sales, United Rentals     

Sierra has 5 years of experience in the rental industry, covering Minneapolis/St Paul and many event centers throughout the Twin Cities. Sierra has worked with large Minnesota events from Super Bowl LLI, the X-Games and the NHL Winter Classic. 




Maureen Bausch
Partner, Bold North Associates      

Maureen Bausch is currently a partner with Bold North Associates (BNA). BNA is a consulting firms specializing in business development, marketing and destination development. Prior to joining BNA. Maureen was the Interim CMO of Mayo Clinic. Maureen has spent almost a year in this position during a period of transition at Mayo Clinic. During this time, she led marketing, provided oversite for a large team, managed professional sports partnerships market specific corporate outreach and site growth.

Maureen has spent the majority of her career working with retailers. She joined Mall of America in 1990, 2 years prior to opening. She rose to Executive Vice President managing the $1B asset and reporting to the Ghermezian family. As EVP, Maureen had responsibility for a $100M budget, all aspects of the P&L, managed a team of 1500, worked with 800+ retailers, restaurants and attractions over 25 years. Maureen lead the Business Development efforts, attracting new retail and attractions. Mall of America opened in 1992 and generated total sales of over $800M within 5 years.

She began her career directing advertising for Cub Foods, her family’s business. During her 13-year tenure, the company grew from 4 stores to 85 in 14 states. Cub was sold to Super Valu and transitioned from a private family organization to part of a publicly held, large wholesale food organization. Maureen left Mall of America in 2015 to become the CEO of MN Super Bowl LII. During this 4-year assignment, she launched 2 companies a 501C3 and a 501C6. Raising $60M in private funding, she created the Bold North brand, hired a staff of 32, secured 10K volunteers and engaged 400 committee members from the public and private sector. She had oversight responsibility for 200+ events and 5800 visiting media. The Minnesota Super Bowl LII has been deemed by the NFL as the most successful in history with an economic impact of $450M for Minnesota.

Maureen graduated from the University of Minnesota with an MA in Journalism/Marketing and has taken further continuing board education courses at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management. She has always been active in the community. She has been a board member for several non-profit organizations, St. Catherine University, Minnesota Retailers Assoc. US Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism. Today she is a board member of the MN Orchestra, Taste of the NFL as well as others. Maureen and her husband Bill, live in St. Paul and have 5 adult children. They enjoy traveling, family and outdoor activities.

Becky Pierson
President/Executive Director, Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce

Becky Pierson is the President/Executive Director of the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce, serving the western suburbs of Wayzata, Plymouth, Long Lake, Excelsior, Minnetonka, Mound, Orono and beyond. Becky joined the Chamber in 2013 coming from a corporate background in Travel & Events with Carlson Marketing Group. The Chamber’s mission is to be a positive force in the community; promoting, connecting and supporting our members. Annually the Chamber hosts and produces both member events and long-standing community events including the Wayzata Chilly Open, Wayzata Art Experience, James J. Hill Days, and new to the mix Wayzata’s Boo Bash Dash & Lake Street Mile. The Chamber is a grateful member of MNFEA.




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