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Annual Festive Dinner...a fun sleigh ride into 2021

Festive Dinner Article Header

By: Rebecca Trafford & Carolyn Leslie | Feb 16, 2021

2020 was definitely a year to remember . . . or, maybe it was one we’d rather soon forget! Like most events in 2020, the Annual Festive Dinner took place virtually. The planning committee was faced with the challenge of creating a fun and engaging event to wrap up what was a challenging year and to truly connect with our peers over the holiday season. Rather than looking back, they chose to look ahead, inviting everyone to login to “Eat. Drink. Be Cozy and Sleigh Hello to 2021!”

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The event kicked off with our fabulous co-hosts, (& committee members) Brian Henry and Jeanna Andre Murdie, welcoming 118 attendees across our Zoom screens. Skipping the usual glitter and glitz of the holiday season, they were dressed in their buffalo plaid pyjamas with their virtual backgrounds set to a cozy campfire scene. The evening began with a game of “Guess Who?” to break the ice. Henry led the group through a side show game which challenged attendees to guess which MPI member was featured in the throwback childhood photo. After quite a few laughs, guests were ready to crack open their bottles of bubbly. 

An incredible sponsorship offering from Peller Estates...bottles of wine delivered to the homes of the first 100 registrants had the planning committee high fiving and raising the virtual roof. The creative juices started flowing with ideas of how to both recognize Peller Estates and involve them in the event. A wine tasting session was just the thing! It was also the catalyst that took the committee where the needed to go to shape the remainder of the event, not only highlighting the sponsors but to also making them part of the event. 


Mark Vaina, a wine sommelier from Peller, provided a presentation that was professional, informative and interactive. Vaina took us through all the stages of wine tasting; everything from what type of glass to serve our bubbly in, to all the great options of food to serve it with.  

The wine was perfectly paired with a delicious menu created by one of Ottawa’s finest Chef’s. Even though we couldn’t be together physically, that didn’t stop us from enjoying a meal together… one that we prepared ourselves! Dressed in their cozy attire, Ottawa’s very own Executive Chef Patrick Turcot and Karen Wiersma, of the Shaw Centre, guided us through a culinary demonstration created just for the Festive Dinner!  


To say what happened during the cooking portion of this event was fun is an understatement – chat box exploded with so much entertaining conversation it was incredible. 

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Amongst all the laughter, some delicious meals were created. Our “At Home Chef’s” were challenged to upload photos of their plated meals to the virtual photo booth, sponsored by Pixilated. With Chef Turcot as the judge, the top three meals and their creators were each awarded a gift basket, generously donated by the Shaw Centre.

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Once everyone’s meals were cooked, it was time for dinner. Guests were broken out into Zoom rooms where they were able to dine in smaller groups of six. Many of these rooms were purchased as sponsored tables, creating valuable networking opportunities!


Emerging from the virtual dining rooms, after having enjoyed delicious home cooked meals wrapped up in great conversation, the committee wanted to keep the energetic momentum going. We all know how much the MPI gang loves a little friendly competition...and what better to ignite that than with a trivia game promoting the many wonderful highlights of Vancouver. With help from Michelle Taylor and our friends at Tourism Vancouver, the group played a Kahoot trivia game and we learned so much about the fabulous sites, sounds and tastes of Vancouver.


With everyone warmed up and feeling ready to dig deep into their movie trivia knowledge it was time to welcome special guest, Mr. Hollywood to test everyone’s knowledge on the movie classics of the holiday season. With questions ranging from over the decades, guests reminisced on some childhood favorites. 

This year's Festive Dinner, reviewed as “the most engaging Zoom call of 2020” would not have been possible without the generous support of the sponsors.  In addition to those already mentioned the event was supported by Ignite, our Annual Media Partner and DE Systems / MyConference Suite, our Registration Partner.

The virtual event surpassed the number of registrants from the 2019 in-person event. It was safe to say that a good time was had by all. We laughed. We connected. “We ate. We drank. We were cozy.” and we are ready to Sleigh Hello to 2021! 


As important as it was to begin the evening in a memorable way it was also important to wrap it up in a memorable way. With this in mind a festive farewell send off, crafted by co-chair Rebecca Trafford, was delivered by the committee….

‘Twas the holiday season, after one hell of a year
We weren’t sure we’d make it, but alas we are here
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
With salons being closed there was some questionable hair
The world was on lock down and there was nothing to do
We filled our time baking bread, doing puzzles and tiger king too
From masks and sanitizer to constantly washing our hands
The weren’t even any sports, no fans in the stands
It was a year to remember or perhaps one we’d rather forget,
but no pandemic can stop us from getting together to connect.
All snuggled up and cozy in our homes to set the scene
While familiar smiling faces gathered across our screens
From colleagues, to friends and all of our industry peers
The MPI Ottawa chapter wanted to spread some holiday cheer
While mama likes her kerchief, we like our plaid
We thank you for joining us in all the fun that was had
We ate, drank, connected and had lots of fun
Cheers from our homes to yours as we sleigh hello to 2021
Although things are different this year and we can’t physically be together
We need to keep reminding ourselves that this won’t last forever
How long will this last? A few more months maybe longer
Ones thing for sure our industry will bounce back stronger
Events will be back and people will dance in the streets
We know that together we change the world when we meet
Happy holidays everyone!

Rebecca Head Shot Article written by Rebecca Trafford, Chic + Swell Event Designers &

Profile Picture-CarolynCarolyn Leslie, Community Foundations of Canada

(Festive Dinner Co-Chairs)

Article edited by Cynthia Beaudin, Canada Foundation for Innovation



Rebecca - Carolyn Head Shot
Rebecca Trafford & Carolyn Leslie

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