BUCKHANNON – Preparations for the wedding reception were almost complete.
The baker had carried in an exquisite white wedding cake covered in delicate flowers and was arranging it while the bride and groom were saying their “I dos” in another room.
That’s when the unthinkable happened: The baker of that beautiful cake partially knocked it over herself, Sean Harris recalled.
Harris is the manager of the Event Center at Brushy Fork, and in his position, he’s learned the value of being able to improvise on-the-spot when mishaps happen.
“The bride and groom were literally getting married in one of our smaller rooms, and the baker knocked her own cake over,” Harris said. The baker, who was understandably beside herself, had a moment of panic. But Harris had an idea. He began hurrying from table to table in the reception area, gathering as many flowers and cupcakes as he could.
Before long, the cake was gorgeous once again.
“We fixed the cake without the bride knowing and told her after the wedding,” Harris said. “She laughed and said she would have never known and thanked us for not telling her during the reception.”
That’s just one example of how Harris and Laura Meadows, executive director of the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau, have come up with creative solutions when best laid plans haven’t panned out exactly the way they’re supposed to.
The CVB manages the Event Center at Brushy Fork, a state-of-the-art, modern facility that offers affordable rates and flexible space for a variety of events, from elimination dinners to multi-day conferences to large and small wedding receptions.
“We have had a huge range of private events in addition to public events, including craft shows, theatre and comedy performances and school events,” Meadows said.
Although the Event Center at Brushy Fork runs like a well-oiled machine, it’s virtually impossible to predict everything that might unfold. That’s why having a creative and quick-thinking staff is so important for ensuring all the events hosted at the center every year are a success.
“I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve taken away from managing the Event Center is that so many aspects of event planning are uncontrollable, and you have to adjust quickly,” Meadows said. “Thankfully, that’s one of Sean’s strengths. There’s always a new situation that we haven’t dealt with before, and we are constantly adjusting how we operate to stay on top of it all.”
For instance, there’s the time the City of Buckhannon, unbeknownst to Event Center staff, was flushing water lines in the Brushy Fork area the day of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet, Harris said.
The water was clean, but discolored.
“Our water was brown, and we had 312 people coming to the Event Center,” he recalled.
So, Harris, Meadows and Chamber executive director Tammy Reger beelined over to Walmart to buy all the bottled water on the store’s shelves.
Harris also remembers fashioning a makeshift projector mount using a cocktail table, black Gaffer’s tape and a cardboard box at the Wendling’s Food Show one year. Company managers wanted to display a presentation inside a 7,000-square-foot outdoor tent.
But the weather wasn’t exactly favorable.
“The wind was blowing over 55 miles per hour, and to show the presentation, we needed screens, but we couldn’t set up any because of the wind,” Harris said. “So, we got the bright idea to show the presentation on the slanted roof of the tent. We did this by going full Macgyver, using one of our cocktail tables, five pieces of black Gaffers tape and a cardboard box to create a projector mount. It went over amazingly.”
Harris said the key is to stay level-headed.
“Every event is unique,” he said. “We have mastered the art of remaining calm and tap-dancing until we find a solution.”
Conveniently located just off Route 33 in Buckhannon, the Event Center at Brushy Fork offers three smaller rooms and two ballrooms, with sizes ranging from 642 to 7,210 square feet. The center’s main ballroom can accommodate up to 430 guests indoors.
The Event Center began hosting public and private events in June 2016, and bookings have steadily increased with each passing year – from 13 events in the 2016-2017 fiscal year to more than 50 events from July 2018 to June 2019. Already this season, it’s played host to 30 events.
This story was produced in partnership with the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau.