October 23, 2016

Hilton marks 40th, in 70’s style

Mike Reilly Photo

From left, Terry Skorstad of Lake Champlain Maritime Festival, Rich Tulikangas of the board of Vermont Afterschool and Cheryl Thalmann of UVM Medical Center enjoy the recent networking event at the Hilton.

BURLINGTON — The Hilton Burlington and Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce teamed up for a Sept. 21 ’70s Throwback Party, on the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Hilton Burlington. disco balls, mood rings, disco dancing, foods from Pringles and Bugles to Jell-o molds, and a ’70s attire contest added to the retro feel of the evening.

“It’s 40 years today for the hotel,” said Jeff Webb, general manager at Hilton Burlington. “It started out as a Radisson, and had a relatively short stint as a Windham Hotel. It converted to a Hilton — the world’s strongest brand — in 2007, and hopefully we’ll be a Hilton forever.”

Event organizers wanted to re-create a bit of the feel of the decade when the hotel opened.

“We wanted to time warp back to the ’70s with music, fashion and food — we even have some 1970s cars out front. Actually, I hope people relate to the food. Some of the things that are common junk food today came out in the ’70s — and we’re serving it tonight. We also have the best in music, from the best of the Rolling Stones and Kiss on the rock side to music from the disco scene.”

Things are going pretty well for the Hilton in the present, too, Webb said.

“We had a great summer. Burlington is growing and growing. Talking with my peers at other downtown hotels, we’re all growing, and it seems Burlington’s becoming more of a destination.”

Webb thinks conferences are helping to drive tourism.

“People come for a conference, see how great it is here and decide to come back for vacation.”

The Hilton is not standing pat and continues to look forward, Webb emphasized.

“Our guests can now book rooms from their mobile devices — select a room, check themselves in and when they arrive, the mobile device becomes the key to their room. We’re the only brand that has this now.”

Webb said announcements on capital improvements would be coming in the next few months.

“We have very generous owners that appreciate what we do here and continue to invest in the hotel. We’re committed to always being the staple for world-class hospitality.”

Still, Webb said, looking back helped give perspective on the place of the Hilton in the community.

“You think of the millions of people that have been through here, the tens of thousands of events,” he said. “Everybody in the local community has some sort of attachment or fond memory of this hotel. Anywhere I go around town, people tell me they had their prom here, or got married here, or celebrated an anniversary here. That’s part of what’s great about our business in the hospitality field — we get to be a part of all that.”

Josh Palace of Spirit of Ethan Allen said, “Right now, we’re doing our harvest moon dinner cruise. We’ll keep cruising until Oct. 24, and we’re really excited. We’ve got 60 to 70 groups over the next three weeks, from leaf peepers to company outings and companies entertaining clients.”

Palace said, “A lot of people assume we stop sailing right after Labor Day, but it’s not true. And it’s important to note that our business offices are open year-round, taking bookings throughout the year. The best thing about my job is, whenever I tell people where I work, they smile.”

Eric Thompson was on hand representing — and distributing samples for — Vermont Brownie Co., a sister company of Vermont Teddy Bear Co., where Thompson serves as corporate sales and marketing manager.

“We specialize in helping businesses during the holiday season to send out gifts for corporate gifting to top clients, or for employee recognition,” Thompson said. “We had a lot of success with this last year and are excited about this year.” He noted gift packages could be customized with business logos right on the box. “It really helps our customers get their brand out there.”

Rich Tulikangas said after a few years of work and extensive travel for a national organization, he came to the event looking to reconnect with Vermont colleagues.

“I’m also focused on supporting the work of Vermont Afterschool, where I serve on the board,” he said.

Vermont Afterschool is a statewide public-private partnership working to increase the quality and availability of innovative learning opportunities during non-school hours.

There’s a new massage therapist in town. Merlin Trefethen launched The Wizard of Ahhhhhs Massage Therapy in Colchester in August.

“We’re located on Hercules Drive in Colchester, within site of Costco,” Trefethen said. “I’m a board-certified massage therapist with over 20,000 hours hands-on. I just relocated from Colorado, where I had over 650 clients in a town of 5,700 people.”

Trefethen brings a medical background, with 23 years working in hospitals, including work in operating rooms and emergency rooms, as well as experience as a firefighter and EMT.

“I’ve been working with the body my whole life,” he said.

Terry Skorstad of Lake Champlain Maritime Festival said this year’s event was a big success.

“We had Twiddle as our anchor band for two nights,” she said. “They drew great crowds, and those attending brought a very good vibe.” She said the festival drew more than 12,000 people for the weekend.

Ellen La-Fleche-Christian, digital storyteller, writes a blog called, Confessions of an Overworked Mom.

“I started writing it about nine years ago, and it sort of morphed into a blog on healthy living for busy moms,” she said. “I talk a little bit about everything — de-cluttering and organizing, gardening, cooking healthy meals, shopping at a farmers’ market, living healthy.”

La-Fleche-Christian said she likes the flexibility blogging offers, and writes about four posts per week.

“I also have all the social media channels — Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter,” she said. “I get about 70,000 page views per month and have about 2,000 newsletter subscribers.”

Andrea Marcotte of Colchester said she’s in the market for a new career, administrative post. She offers experience in both administration and sales.

“I came to tonight’s chamber event to network, meet new people and learn more about what they do,” Marcotte said. As for the throwback theme, she noted, “I wasn’t born yet in the ’70s, but I think this is great.”

Racheal St. Hilaire represented VABIR (Vermont Association of Business, Industry and Rehabilitation), a statewide private nonprofit group that assists Vermonters facing barriers to employment in finding gainful employment. St. Hilaire said the agency is expanding, adding career ladders and focusing on youth.

“We have employment counselors working right in schools, helping students identify career interests and find work.”

Rick Bugbee and Mary Branagan represented Vermont Associates for Training and Development.

“We offer job training services to older adults, connecting them with community-service assignments that hopefully improve their workplace skills and lead to employment,” Bugbee said.

“We run the senior community service employment program in the state of Vermont and bring out hundreds of seniors every year to get updated skills and jobs,” Branagan said. “And we really like what we do.”

Kelly Arnott of VR PRO was sporting a Santa hat to promote a coming event.

“We put on the Santa 5k Race every year,” she said. “This is the sixth year and so far, I think more than $70,000 has been raised for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, our charity of choice. This year we have a new route, still starting at RiRa’s but finishing here at the Hilton.”

Arnott said this year’s Santa 5k would include a full breakfast as well as beer, champagne and brownies. The event will be Sunday, Dec. 4, with registration at www.Santa5K.com.

Business Vermont roving reporter Mike Reilly offers regular coverage of Chittenden County business networking events, with notes on events, hosts and sponsors, news and snippets from those in attendance. For events sponsored by Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, check the website at www.vermont.org.

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