Convention Center Prepares for Awards Gala

Workers unload outdoor portable heaters and red carpets in preparation for the Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala.

The Palm Springs Convention Venter hosts a brunch Friday morning for several dozen meeting and event planners from across the country.

While workers unloaded dozens of portable outdoor heaters and yards of red carpet in front of the Palm Springs Convention Center Friday morning in preparation for the Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala tomorrow night, a few dozen meeting and event planners feasted on a brunch of doughnut pancakes topped with Grand Marnier sauce, crab cakes, fingerling potatoes wrapped in bacon, and so much more.

“I thought, oh no problem, after the 2,000 orders of beef short ribs, this little brunch is nothing,” laughed Chef Brad Toles, executive chef for Savoury’s, the catering operation that will come up with the awards gala’s lavish meal on Saturday night. And yes, the meal tomorrow night will include those boneless short ribs that have become a sort of tradition at the annual film fest extravaganza.

Jackie Lee Houston loved the short ribs and it’s what she asked for every year,” remarked James Canfield, executive director of the Palm Springs Convention Center, as the two of us took a preview of the massive exhibit hall nearly complete with some 200 tables, and enormous viewing screens. Houston, who died in 2011, was and one Palm Springs’ most prominent philanthropists and party-givers, and was also the former chair of the star-studded film fest awards gala.

The Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism host the meeting planners every year during the festival as a “familiarization tour” of Palm Springs. They represent organizations that have showed interest in selecting Palm Springs as a meeting destination. Local tourism officials began the tour Thursday by walking the meetingĀ  planners through various hotel properties, Village Fest and then having dinner at Lulu. And yes, the meeting planners will also march the red carpet tomorrow night to attend the gala as well.

“A lot of cities say they’re ‘walkable,’ but then you get there and realize they really aren’t,” said Canfield. “We take them around on foot to show them that yes, we’re a walkable town.”