Non-Hotel students walking past the Statler this weekend may have been attracted to the area thanks to a dessert truck parked outside offering delicious — and free — cupcakes. But that was only the most public sign of this weekend’s 87th annual Hotel Ezra Cornell, which encompassed three days of fancy food, lectures by industry leaders and afternoon tea.
A ticket to HEC’s full list of events cost attendees $750 each, not including a hotel room stay. The event’s more than 300 student volunteers, some who worked around the clock, scrutinized every detail to make sure the guests were satisfied. Thursday through Saturday night, all of the events — and, in fact, the entire Statler Hotel — were student-run.
HEC’s guests — who numbered about 300 this year and included many successful figures in the hotel industry — came to see the students in action, according to Danielle Foster ’12, HEC’s Communications Director.
“They really let us show that we know what we’re doing,” Kelsie Taylor ’14, Assistant Rooms Director, said Saturday as she prepared the afternoon tea service.
Foster added that HEC is more than just a weekend when Statler Hotel is run by students.
“We really try to make it seem that they’re coming for the conference and not just back to the Statler,” she said.
The weekend featured goodies, including personalized pillows in each guest’s room embroidered with that guest’s initials, and meals intended to pique the interest of hotel industry experts.
Friday’s breakfast, for example, promised to “experiment with new flavors while staying true to the spirit of a good ol’ breakfast,” according to the HEC program.
Speakers included Ian Schrager, who founded famed New York City nightclub Studio 54, and Kevin Zraly, founder of the Windows on the World Wine School.
HEC also had its own mobile app to help attendees keep track of the schedule of events and other details throughout the weekend. The app was designed by Parker Moore ’14, who, as an Information Science major, is one of the few non-Hotel students on HEC’s staff.
“We really wanted to embrace our theme of innovation,” Foster said. An HEC app was first released for last year’s conference, but it was significantly updated this year, she said.
The dessert truck parked just outside the Statler’s lobby was another new addition this year. Mikki Cannon ’13, a volunteer who was stationed in the truck, said she enjoyed working in the warm weather and near so many cupcakes.
“Everyone else is jealous that I have this job,” she said.
The company that owns the truck, Sweet Street, has worked with HEC for several years, but had never brought the truck for the weekend, Cannon said.
The weekend culminated in a gala dinner in the Statler’s ballroom on Saturday night.
The gala “is the most fun event and the most elaborate meal,” Foster said, so it required the most preparation by students.
A few hours before the gala was scheduled to begin, dozens of students were hurrying around the ballroom to set up each place setting. The song “Call Me Maybe” blasted on the ballroom’s speakers, and a to-do list posted nearby reminded students they still had to “gather 200 bar napkins” and assist the bartenders with “polishing, ice, trash [and] garnishes.” Other students cooled a giant six-liter bottle of champagne.
Lindsey Brous ’12, HEC’s Program Director, said her favorite event was the cocktail reception that followed Saturday’s gala. It gave the students a chance to reflect on the weekend, she said.
“The end of the weekend is always bittersweet,” Brous said. “It is a huge accomplishment that everyone works hard for. However, many of us know we will be graduating soon and it will be our last HEC.”
Saturday night marked the close of HEC’s 87th year. The conference, which began in 1926 in Risley Hall, predates the Hotel School. For many years, it was famous around campus for its Waiters’ Derby — an event that featured student waiters racing one another on the Arts Quad while each carrying a tray and a bowl of water. The event is now known as the Service Olympics and occurs each fall semester, Brous said.