The hospitality—and by extension the meetings—industry is, by definition, hospitable. Meeting and event planners like people; they like bringing them together and helping them achieve a common goal. So it’s no surprise that our industry has more than its fair share of people who not only create experiences but also amplify experiences simply by being themselves. They positively color every interaction they are a part of thanks to their contagious, upbeat energy.

Northwest Meetings + Events asked industry professionals in our region who they first think of when they think of someone who makes a big impression. Here are some fun facts about three of those delightful personalities.

Andrew Hoge
Director of Celebrations
Fairmont Olympic Hotel

Michelle DeRouen pointed me in the direction of Andrew Hoge, saying that people want to work with Hoge because he has a way of making everyone feel like they are the most important person in the room. “Someone asked me recently how to pronounce Andrew’s last name, and I wasn’t entirely sure, so my response was, ‘He’s just Andrew—like Madonna or Prince. No last name required,’” says DeRouen. As the director of celebrations for the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Hoge draws on his experience as a fashion-show stylist to create memorable occasions.

What do you love about the hospitality industry?
This might be a cliché, but the people are the best part of this career. My colleagues at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel have challenged me and encouraged me to grow more in ways I didn’t know I would. Plus, there are people in this building who have served guests with top-notch service for decades; there is something to be learned from that. And on the other side of the spectrum, celebrating my clients during the most important moments in their lives—whether they are hosting a wedding or remembering the life of a loved one—is an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience.

What is to your work that the little black dress is to women’s fashion?
I always keep a bottle of Creed “Himalaya” cologne on my desk. When planning events, I like to engage all of the senses, including smell, and who doesn’t love to be around someone who smells good? Plus, just like the little black dress, a signature fragrance never goes out of style.

If you could have one meetings and events superpower what would it be and why?
I would love to be able to make florals and centerpieces appear out of thin air. When I’m planning the event, they are the component I am always fussing over. Plus, if an event needs a little sparkle, beautifully crafted floral centerpieces always elevate a blank space.

If you could have dinner with someone who is alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I would have loved to spend time with Steve Jobs. I have always been impressed by the ability to balance creativity and business to create products that have become essential for our day-to-day lives and create solutions to problems we didn’t know we had. I believe that type of thinking has applications in so many industries.

Two things you cannot live without?
My iPhone and round brush. (I have the most insane hair routine, and, believe me, it doesn’t get there by itself.)

What is your guilty pleasure?
Stopping to smell the roses! All kidding aside, I am very self-critical and always strive to do or create what is next and unexpected. Combine that with the fabulously jam-packed day-to-day responsibilities of my position and stopping to watch Netflix can seem like a luxury. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Favorite quote? “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou

Mowbray Brown
Group Sales Manager
Indulge Boise Food Tours; Independent Step-on Guide

I met Mowbray Brown when I was on a FAM trip in Boise several years ago. At the time, Brown was a sales manager at the Red Lion Hotel Boise Downtowner and had been recruited to serve as our tour guide on the shuttle bus. Years later, I still remember Brown’s enthusiasm, energy and sense of humor. He made the tour and, by extension, the city memorable. Since then, Brown has become group sales manager for Indulge Boise Food Tours, introducing locals and visitors to the city’s best food and drink spots. He also moonlights as an independent step-on guide for bus tours, and, speaking from experience, if you’re visiting Boise, you couldn’t find a better person to welcome you to the city.

What do you love about the hospitality industry?
I love the amazing and endless variety of people I get to meet and the adventures we share.

What is to your work that the little black dress is to women’s fashion?
Insatiable curiosity.

If you could only have two crayons out of a crayon box, what two colors would they be?
At the end of my tantrum over being only able to have two out of a whole box, I’d have to pick the midnight blue and the green.

Favorite quote?
“All cruelty springs from weakness.” —Seneca
But, my most useful—and used—quote is, “The only difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude.” —Bob Bitchin (aka Robert Lipkin)

If you could have one meetings and events superpower, what would it be and why?
Remembering everybody’s name would be very handy.

If you could have dinner with someone who is alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I could possibly decide on two crayons; the more I think about this question, the longer my dead dinner-guest list gets: everybody from Sacajawea’s son, Baptiste Charbonneau, to Jesus of Nazareth.

Two things you cannot live without?
Mountain rivers and music.

What makes you smile?
Almost everything. Life is such a trip, and nobody gets out unscathed.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Gelato. All flavors.

What did you want to be as a child?
A cowboy. I came close for a couple of years out of high school as a wrangler and guide at a guest reach in central Idaho. Although I grew up in the city, I had a horse as a kid.

Darl Schaaff
CEO and Partner
Art Services North

When we asked Julie Dodds, vice president of convention sales for Visit Anchorage, if there was someone in her market who immediately came to mind as a bigger-than-life personality, she didn’t hesitate to recommend Darl Schaaff, CEO and partner of event-production company Art Services North. (When I told Schaaff this, he started laughing and said, “It must be my clothes.”) As his company’s lead creative designer and project manager, Schaaff leads a team of six full-time and three part-time employees in producing 90–100 events each year.

What do you love about the hospitality industry?
The creative energy of impassioned professionals powers this industry that enables dreams to be realized. We construct a world of real events and activities, often masked in something slightly greater than everyday experiences. We make the magic that brings people and causes together, inspires and sometimes changes the world.

Favorite quote?
“The only thing that shatters dreams is compromise.” (My real favorite is “May the bridges I burn light the way for others.”)

If you could have one meetings and events superpower, what would it be and why?
Opening clients’ minds to the possibilities and removing the fear of budgets, time and workload until a vision is created. There are so many ways to do things; I wish we could always start from the dream.

What makes you smile?
The client’s reaction when they see the final product, the happiness and the relief on their faces, especially if their dream is realized. I always try to put one more thing on the truck, one little surprise that is my way of saying thanks to the client for believing in our company. As much as I profess to love the client’s reaction, it is my own reaction that motivates, inspires and encourages my work. Nobody likes my work more than I do.

Two things you can’t live without?
Absolutely first is my sense of humor and the second is my ability to engage. This might be on stage or more likely by the outfit I design and wear to emphasize the theme or style of the evening. Being a little bigger than life has always been part of my “shared experience” that makes each event personal. It is a combination of a statement piece and a little court jester. It creates conversation and often inspires others to be more bold in public.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Watching the reaction of the guests when they enter. I worked with a very successful designer who taught me that an event’s success often comes from a shared experience. The “wow” when people walk into the room, that thing that makes people turn to a total stranger and comment. That one thing that surprises and pleases when you experience it individually and as a group. This one trick gives permission for people to relate, engages them and gives them a sense of being part of a special group for that event.

This year’s three inductees into our annual Hall of Influencers are the brains behind our region’s most spectacular events and joyful celebrations.


Shelly Tolo’s clients are a loyal bunch, with good reason.


This jewel of the Inland Northwest is full of charm.