Annual IFEA Conference Brings Top Events Coordinators to Tucson

September 19, 2015

IFEA President Steve Schamader with

IFEA President Steve Schamader with FEATSAZ board of directors in Tucson.

by Mariana Colín

Next week, Tucson will host an event for people who plan events. Each year the International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA), comprised of the some of the world’s top event and festival organizers, holds their annual conference in cities across the globe and this year, for their 60th conference, the IFEA will land right here in Downtown. This is the first time in a long time the event has been held west of the Mississippi, and Downtown is more than ready to show itself off to the professional party planners of the world.

The IFEA conference will bring over 400 conference-goers to the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Downtown Tucson, providing an opportunity for attendees to trade secrets of the event and festival-planning business.

The J.W. Marriott Starr Pass will host the convention.

The J.W. Marriott Starr Pass will host the convention.

“We are in a position to be a world class event city,” said Kurt Tallis, president of the Festival and Event Association of Tucson and Southern Arizona (FEATSAZ), the local IFEA chapter. He points out that challenges in event planning which Tucson is just beginning to encounter, such as how to structure an event around the Streetcar route, are issues that other cities have encountered and solved in the past.

“This is an opportunity to learn from the best,” he said. “It allows us to sort of get out of our fishbowl.”

‘Best’ is clearly not a word Kurt takes lightly. The IFEA conference attendees are people who have made a career out of large-scale party planning, and have organized some of the most famous parties of all. The Kentucky Derby Festival, the Indy 500, and the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade are all planned by IFEA members and will all have speakers at the conference.

Some of the Korean lanterns are already in Tucson, waiting to be displayed for the convention.

Some of the famous Korean lanterns are already in Tucson, waiting to be displayed for the convention.

Planners of more internationally famous events will also be present. Conference-goers will include the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, as well as organizers from the Jinju Province Lantern Festival in South Korea, an event that attracts millions of people each year. A special presentation from the Lantern Festival is planned for the conference.

With so many newcomers arriving in Tucson who specialize in creating city and event brands that bring people together, the IFEA conference offers a chance to help define Tucson’s potential in the event planning and festival world.

But the best news for those of us who don’t plan parties for a living is that on Monday September 21st, the conference won’t be exclusive to just IFEA attendees. The public is welcome to join in the fun at 7 p.m. around 5th Ave. and Congress St. to join as visitors from around the world come and see what Tucson is about. Monday will be the opportunity for these party professionals to sample Downtown Tucson and 4th Ave. with native Tucsonans, exploring the city’s art, culture, food, and nightlife.

The night will allow participants to choose one of three different tours around Downtown. If you fancy a night of health and wellness you can join the conference attendees for a walk around Downtown with Meet Me at Maynards. If Tucson’s arts and culture offerings are more your scene, there will be special conference events at MOCA, El Presidio, the Fox Theatre, and the Screening Room. Or, if you’re just looking for a night on the town, you can join the crowd on a tour of Tucson’s most notorious bars and restaurants. No matter which tour around Downtown Tucson you choose to join, you’ll get to hang out with some of the most important and successful festival coordinators in the world.

For more information on IFEA, visit their website here. To learn more about FEATSAZ, click here.