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Potential Hosts Pull Out the Stops for Meeting Planners

March 22, 1987|MARY ANN GALANTE | Times Staff Writer

The Anaheim Marriott is not going to risk its future by serving Bambi for dinner.

Neither is it going to risk offending anyone's artistic sensibilities by putting kiwi--too much green!--in a salad instead of some nice, color-contrasting strawberries.

Not this weekend anyway as an estimated 2,300 members of the American Society of Assn. Executives--the men and women who organize and choose the sites for their groups' conventions--begin a five-day meeting at the Anaheim Convention Center and also sample the fare and accommodations at surrounding hotels and attractions.

The ASAE members--meeting in Orange County for the first time--are treated with decided respect everywhere they go because they control annual convention dollars of about $24 billion.

Just 50 ASAE members could bring revenues of $70 million to Orange County over the next five years, said William F. Snyder, president of the Anaheim Area Visitor and Convention Bureau.

So, not surprisingly, the bureau is spending about $250,000 for a fancy reception, lavish banquets and a Disneyland dinner for ASAE members. Of that, three major Anaheim hotels--the Hilton, Marriott and Disneyland Hotel--each have chipped in about $37,000 to wine and dine the conventioneers. Other hotels, including the Emerald, Doubletree and Alicante Princess, also have contributed and are offering their own goodies.

And while the convention is more or less in their neighborhoods, tourism promoters from San Diego and Long Beach will be luring groups of ASAE delegates to their cities for entertainment, too.

That kind of stiff competition--not only locally but against other convention sites around the country--is keeping venison off the menu in favor of veal for ASAE members dining at the Marriott.

The decision was made at an elegant, candle-lit taste-test dinner prepared for a dozen top Marriott executives at the hotel last Tuesday that served as a test for this week's crucial ASAE dinners.

"People will look down and see Bambi on the plate," explained Marc Hoffman, food and beverage director.

"We don't want 300 people to say we were the first place they ever tried peacock eyes, then leave to head for a restaurant," said Joe Rothman, general manager of the Anaheim Marriott.

The Marriott executives also seriously debated salad color combinations, whether dining room ashtrays were too big, and how to create rosettes of butter to boost their future convention revenue.

Those types of decisions are apparently typical of the planning for the convention. ASAE delegates--whose members range from executives of the 22-million-member American Assn. of Retired Persons to the 46-member American Council of Spotted Asses (donkeys, that is) from Billings, Mont.--will be treated to everything from an exclusive night at Disneyland to tours of the Spruce Goose and Knott's Berry Farm.

It all began last night when the delegates entered the convention center through a tunnel of multicolored balloons. Once inside, they munched donated oysters, lamb chops and burritos while mingling underneath a 16-foot Angels-style A with Rams' offensive guard Russ Bolinger, Frankenstein, and Mickey Mouse. Delegates could climb around surfboards and a lifeguard's station to watch sand sculpturing, an orangutan and the UC Irvine volleyball team--all while ballerinas and hula girls danced.

The rest of the conventioneers' stay will be equally bizarre or, depending on your tastes, exciting.

Acrobats and White Chocolate

On Monday night, delegates will have Disneyland to themselves to watch flying trapeze artists and a circus parade strutting down the park's Main Street. The following evening, seven hotels will strut their stuff at elaborate banquets. Menus include beef and partridge consomme at the Hilton and white-chocolate conch shells dusted with pink powdered sugar at the Marriott.

Aside from those events, South Coast Plaza hopes to deliver its best sales pitches by providing free bus service five times daily to the Costa Mesa mall. Knott's Berry Farm is donating tiny jars of boysenberry jam and prancing Snoopy characters for convention center entertainment. Many hotels have set up free concierges' floors to provide breakfast, drinks and games.

"Meeting planners have the life style of the rich and famous, believe me," said Sarah Schantz, public relations manager at the Emerald of Anaheim, where almost half of the 500 rooms are occupied by ASAE delegates.

When the delegates are not being fed or entertained, they can watch ASAE lectures or stroll through 300,000 square feet of exhibition and meeting space at the convention center. Inside, about 400 exhibitors are selling convention-goers everything from insurance to jewelry to convention packages to Juneau, Alaska.

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