‘Gala of the Galaxy’ is out of this world

Madoline Plattenberg, Assistant Sports Editor

For one night only, the lobby of the Jacobetti Center will be transformed into a spaceship called the “HM Voyager,” presenting out of this world galactic décor, high-end food and exceptional entertainment pieces. 

Northern Michigan University’s Hospitality Management program is hosting Gala of the Galaxy, its first annual promotional main event since 2019, on Saturday, April 16.

The gala will host a total of 125 people who will be feted with a 5-7 course meal, signature drinks, live and theatrical entertainment, a costume contest, virtual reality and galactic face art provided by NMU’s cosmetology program.

Hosting and planning the event is a requirement for the HM350 capstone course “Events and Management,” where hospitality management students learn to plan and execute large promotional events from start to finish. An elected executive team of nine students take part in one or more committees for different areas of the production, including marketing, decoration, entertainment, beverages, food, back of house (food prep and cooking in the kitchen) and front of house (hosts and waiters that receive, welcome and relay diner requests).

“It’s intended to be fancy and luxurious with the meal and event reflecting the $100 ticket price,” said Abigail Stelter, junior hospitality tourism management major, marketing team lead and executive banquet manager.

Stelter oversees all front of house needs, ensuring that decorations, service staff and entertainment needs are set, along with making sure that the chef’s staff are trained in prepping and plating food. Stelter frequently communicates with the executive chefs to ensure that front and back of house seamlessly work together.

An additional member of the marketing team, Larissa Wixtrom, junior hospitality tourism management major, is the event’s decorations lead.

Attendees are encouraged to dress as galactic as possible, emulating their favorite Star Wars or interstellar TV-show characters. The class created a Pinterest inspiration board and an Amazon list with items such as alien earrings, LED and metallic bow ties and holographic blazers. Once attendees acquire their boarding pass upon arriving at the gala, they are invited to sign up for a costume contest. Judges will declare a winner by the end of the night for the best outer space apparel

Stelter and Wixtrom are eager for the event, both looking forward to seeing how the night pans out. Stelter is particularly interested in attendees’ reactions to the event as a whole.

“I’m excited to see how they react to our team, how they engage with it and how they’ll take the experience,” Stelter said.

Through their involvement with planning, team members were able to build close relationships and memories with each other.

“In the kitchen, we have to develop trust for each other, and in doing that we get to know a lot about each other through spending hours planning and preparing,” Stelter said. “Some good and really high-stress moments.”

During the planning process, the team established an extravagant menu for the gala, taking everything they learned from menu development courses to cultivate an impressive array of food.

The tentative menu includes a wide variety of delicacies, ranging from a colorful sweet potato cauliflower soup garnished with crème fraiche and fresh dill to a fruit salad with poblano peppers, fresh strawberries, juicy mangos, jicama, peppery arugula and balsamic glaze, and even pan-seared scallops with pickled daikon.

“We’ve all been in the same classes, taking the same course route throughout the past three years,” Wixtrom said. “So being able to trust your classmates is important as you need to rely on each other for a lot of things.”

As attendees dine, they will be able to appreciate the décor that Wixtrom created with her decorations team to create an interstellar feel for the gala. Event planning has allowed the students to develop into leaders and showcase their talents.

“I learned a lot about myself while working on the décor aspects of the event,” Wixtrom said. “In being able to be creative, pushing elements and going outside of the box I’ve learned that I am capable and a really hard worker.”

As executive banquet manager, Stelter ensures that ideas are being effectively communicated across departments, along with creating and adjusting deadlines for team assignments, developing deployment of production documents, staffing students for the event and coordinating with other departments.

“While I learned more about my own capacity, I need to know what I’m capable of and what I need to rely on other people to do and accomplish,” Stelter said. “We don’t want to get too in over our heads, so learning what we can do to focus on specific ideas is a learning process.”

The gala will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at NMU’s Jacobetti Complex. Cocktail hour runs from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., with dinner ending the night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Those interested in attending can learn more on the events Facebook page. Tickets are currently on sale for $100 each on the NMU Ticketing Office’s website and will be available until they are sold out. For those who can no longer attend the event, the deadline for receiving a full refund is April 2.

Passion and dedication have played a large role in making this gala so notable for Stelter, especially in her role as the event’s spokesperson and manager.

“Working together and trusting other people to get tasks done collectively helped alleviate my fear of ‘oh, I’ll be too busy with everything I have going on,’” Stelter said. “I have a support system and a team to lean on.”