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Salsa Challenge Adds Flavor to Recent Business Meeting

February 8, 2018

A few weeks ago, Keeneland Hospitality transformed a local association’s meeting into an exciting and engaging teambuilding experience.

Salsa Challenge at Keeneland

The idea first stemmed from the concept that events can be more than just a meeting. The Keeneland Hospitality and Special Events team worked with Meeting Professionals International (MPI), which represents professional event planners and suppliers in Kentucky, and turned their membership meeting in Keeneland’s world-famous Sales Pavilion into a memorable event. The goal was to create a concept that could allow guests to leave with the knowledge they need but also be inspired to try new things.

"The Keeneland staff did such a great job hosting MPI last week. The effort you took and attention to detail was evident. Thank you again for being such a great ambassador for Lexington!" - Becky Trimble of the Lexington Convention Center

The Keeneland Hospitality team went to work in customizing this unique experience for MPI. Members received specially-made electronic invitations from Paperless Post before attending “Engage! – A Multisensory Education Experience,” which kicked off with a panel discussion from six inspiring and innovative event professionals: Melody Rodgers – owner of Refined Social, Kyle Rodgers – owner of Canvas Event Furniture, Lauren Chitwood – owner of Olio Event Group, David Cottingham – COO of Wrigley Media, Matthew Stone – Founder of Bluestone Productions, and Keeneland’s very own Chef Marc Therrien. Next was the Salsa Challenge.

Salsa Challenge at Keeneland

Attendees were split into groups and challenged to create their own custom salsa in just 30 minutes using both standard items and specialty items they bought from “The Market.” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason, Chef Marc Therrien of Keeneland Hospitality and Chef Joe Hall of Red Mile then judged each salsa by taste, presentation and of course team spirit. In keeping with the Salsa Challenge theme, winners received miniature colorful cacti as well as reserved Grandstand tickets for Keeneland’s Spring Meet.

The fun continued afterwards as Keeneland's Chef Marc Therrien prepared a custom menu for the event as guests enjoyed a delicious Hispanic-inspired lunch. Members were able to network while also participating in a virtual reality demonstration – located in a desert with horses, a campfire and a table with chips and salsa, no less!


The Menu
  • Chilled vanilla bean and toasted cinnamon horchata
  • Street tacos – carnitas and carne asada
  • Campechana featuring calamari, shrimp, sea bass, avocado, tomato broth
  • Mini tamales – beef, chicken and roast vegetable
  • Chorizo avocado bomb – Spanish rice, manchego, caramelized onion and tomato
  • Salsa bar – tomatillo, roast salsa, charred serrano chile, lime, spiced carrots, lime crème, cotija cheese, cilantro and onio
  • Buenelos and poquto churros with bourbon sugar and cinnamon


What Guests Had to Say

"Thank you so very much for the invitation to today's event! As always, you all knocked it out of the park!" - Emily Downey – Alltech

Food served at the Salsa Challenge at Keeneland

"I came to the event today not overly excited about what the luncheon would hold – let me tell you I was completely wrong. I am leaving here inspired and excited to plan my next event. Thank you for reminding me how fun it can be to be an event planner." - Victoria Reid – Farm Credit Mid-America

"Thank you so much for having us out for the MPI meeting yesterday.  I had so much fun! Great job!" - Emily Johnson – Cincinnati Marriott

"I wanted to thank you so much for inviting me to yesterday’s event! It was informative, fun and certainly experiential! The salsa challenge was tremendously entertaining and so perfectly set-up and executed!  Thank you for including me!" - Carrie Gabriel – BB&T

“I do not look forward to these events as much as I should. But I have to tell you that as a meeting planner, you fed my soul today.” - Julie Kirkpatrick

"For those of us who have been members for a long time, it gets harder and harder to impress with a chapter program, but this one was definitely impressive. There are some tough nuts in that list of praise, so kudos to you, your team and the education team! I’m seeing a silver platter award in your future. I hope we do more events like this one in the future!" - Jodi Kenner, Affinty Travel and Events


Event Partners:

Bluestone Productions

Canvas Event Furniture

Lauren Chitwood Events

Meeting Professionals International

Olio Event Group

Refined Social Event Design & Production

Wrigley Media Group