NACOGDOCHES, Texas — While guests with fancy hats, pastel dresses, bow ties and suits mingle by the pool, Stephen F. Austin State University hospitality administration students work behind the scenes to make the Kentucky Derby come to life at The Fredonia Hotel.
From the moment guests arrive, event-planning students dressed to the nines greet and escort them to the reception area where catering students serve hors d’oeuvres.
As if on cue, music sounds and a massive curtain opens revealing the dining area. Red, white and blue ribbons tucked inside a vase of roses stand in the center of each table carrying the Kentucky Derby inside.
Recently, the hospitality administration program hosted the Hospitality Shindig, a themed dinner and fundraising event featuring a reception, five-course meal and silent auction. This endeavor was a collaboration between a special-events production course taught by Dr. Gina Causin, associate professor, and a catering and special events course taught by Dr. Donna Fickes, clinical instructor.
“I’m very satisfied with the outcome of the event,” Causin said. “It was highly successful, and everyone had a great time.”
This student-run endeavor taught students how to plan, implement, and market an event; select a menu; decorate; provide entertainment; recruit sponsors and more.
In Causin’s course, students divided into teams to handle various responsibilities, such as sponsorships, silent auction, logistics and marketing. Joseph Dorgali, senior hospitality administration major, served as the event leader and encouraged his classmates to treat this event like a real job.
“Our goal was to show people SFA’s hospitality administration program is the best,” Dorgali said. “We poured our heart into this event. It took the whole class to make this happen. All of us were involved in planning because we had pure passion in what we were doing.”
Catering students worked with the event-planning students to establish a meal around the theme.
“This was a great catering experience for the students,” Fickes said. “Students learned how to budget and modify a recipe for four people to feed 100. This is the fourth catering event the class has participated in this semester, so they were able to use their knowledge in a hands-on experience.”
The shindig served as a fundraiser to support student scholarships, field trips, conferences and faculty-development activities.
“Without this, there wouldn’t be any SFA students traveling the world to experience the industry,” Dorgali said. “Our whole industry is about gaining experience and that’s what SFA gives us. From our training here, we are able to get great jobs and go far in this field.”