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Spring 2020 Idea Magazine

May 12, 2020
Guests enjoy royal treatment at the 2020 Stafford Dinner, which is run by Northwood students from beginning to end.

Guests enjoy royal treatment at the 2020 Stafford Dinner, which is run by Northwood students from beginning to end.

Hannah Siegel (‘20), center, a member of the student committee that organizes the event, works with fellow students serving scrumptious food during the 2020 Stafford Dinner.

Hannah Siegel (‘20), center, a member of the student committee that organizes the event, works with fellow students serving scrumptious food during the 2020 Stafford Dinner.

A guest at the 2020 Stafford Dinner has his hands full with dessert choices.

A guest at the 2020 Stafford Dinner has his hands full with dessert choices.

Online Exclusive: Stafford Dinner Has Storybook Ending

Annual Event Raises Scholarship Funds While Providing Experiential Learning

The royal blue fabric draped from the ceiling, the soothing music playing in the background, and the smiling faces on the young people serving food gave the 2020 Stafford Dinner a feeling of effortless grace.

Real truth: it was far from effortless.

In fact, a great deal of behind-the-scenes effort by many students went into making the 45th annual event the success it turned out to be. One reason the event takes place each year is to give Northwood Hospitality Management students real-world experience.

“We gain so much practical experience that can’t be obtained in a classroom,” said Zach Barton, Registration and Entertainment chair of the student committee that organizes and executes the dinner.

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Students run the event, beginning to end. From deciding on a theme to planning the menu to hiring entertainment to ordering food to selling tickets to decorating the venue to cooking to serving to cleaning up – and lots more in between – students do it all.

In addition to Barton, this year’s leadership committee included Ashley Phillips (Chair), Hailey Hartwick (Vice-Chair and Marketing Chair), Jessica Sierocki (Decorations and Logistics Chair), Tymbre Flint (Food and Beverage Co-Chair), Raquel Escamilla (Food and Beverage Co-Chair), Hannah Siegel (Service Chair), Justin Carter (Fundraising Chair), and Brianna Tibbs (Procurement Chair). Roughly 30 students helped out on the night of the dinner, most of them in the kitchen or as servers. All Hospitality Management students are required to contribute in some way, all as volunteers.

“They are taking what they learn in a textbook and applying it,” said Northwood Director of Facilities and Events Karla Spaeth, one of the advisors for the Stafford Dinner. “Everything they do connects to some form of a career. They can use that skill set when they graduate. And it helps to have it on a résumé.”

Details, Details

The Stafford Dinner takes place at a different venue each year, generally an established banquet facility in one of the communities near Northwood’s campus. The 2020 event was the first in some time to be held on campus, which might seem like it would make the process simpler.

Yet looks can be deceiving. Plans to prepare the food at the GSAB Learning Kitchen inside the Gary Stauffer Academic Building and then transport it to the Hach Center venue were complicated when new equipment was donated for the facilities just weeks before the event. That meant the students had to manage the installation process, including producing technical drawings and passing health inspections.

“There’s always a glitch of some sort,” Spaeth said. “It’s like (the reality TV show) Master Chef. You’re almost there, and then they throw something at you last minute. We don’t do it on purpose, but something always seems to happen.”

Spaeth recalled one year when the dinner’s primary decorative element was a beautiful assortment of flowers, which were delivered the night before the event and were mostly dead when the students returned the next morning.

“So we spent much of the day of the event scrambling all over the area, to florists and grocery stores and anyplace else we could find more flowers,” Spaeth said with a wry smile hinting that it is more pleasant to tell that story than it was to live through.

Nothing quite that dramatic took place this year, as about 135 guests enjoyed the dinner’s “Storybook Tales” theme. The Saginaw Valley Theatre Troupe provided interactive entertainment, and the guest speaker was David Parker, a former Northwood Hospitality Management student who went on to work as an executive chef.

Happily Ever After

Proceeds from the Stafford Dinner fund several scholarships for Hospitality Management students for the coming academic year.

“Everything went really well,” said Assistant Professor Nicholas Hamilton, chairman of the Hospitality Management Department and another advisor for the Stafford Dinner. “It truly did have a storybook ending.”

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