Chapter News

When Doing Risk Management Plans, a Forest Fire Wasn’t at the Top of the Student’s List!

Written by Tauhni Willenborg and Maycee Quick


Every semester, the Advanced Events class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln plans live events with and for our community partners. Every three years the class plans a social event that focuses around a free wedding giveaway for a lucky couple. For this semester, our team of 10 students, led by our professor Dr. Kristin Malek, had 45 days to advertise the giveaway, choose a couple, and give them the wedding of their dreams. There were over 25 couples from five states who applied for the giveaway, with the winning couple being Jami Foster and Jared Denny, both from Nebraska. The wedding was scheduled to be held at the Halsey Pines Retreat at the Nebraska 4-H Camp. Over the course of the remaining 30 days, we took numerous visits to Halsey to assess the site, complete landscaping work, secure vendors, and ensure our decorations were prepared. Dr. Kristin Malek and student co-leaders Maycee Quick and Tauhni Willenborg also worked directly with the couple to see what they wanted for their big day and then coordinated with the team and vendors to carry out this vision. However, with the wedding being only five days away, we were thrown an unexpected curveball.

The Sunday before the wedding, we had everything set up and ready to go. We were onsite wrapping up preparations with our design and rentals vendor when we were evacuated due to a nearby forest fire. This fire continued to grow, and we received news several hours later that our venue burned to the ground with all of our supplies, decorations, and recently delivered food inside. In the matter of one day, our team decided we would not give up on the wedding because we knew our main goal was to give Jami and Jared their special day. Within a few hours, we secured another venue location in a different city at Raising Nebraska in Grand Island.

Knowing that we had four days to re-plan the wedding, our team got busy finding new vendors and sponsors. Luckily, the Grand Island community was very giving, and we were able to fill in the necessary gaps to ensure a successful wedding. This included finding a new food sponsor, a local hairstylist to do the bridal party’s hair, new decorations, tables and chairs, and Visit Grand Island who graciously secured hotel rooms for our team and VIPs. In the days leading up to the wedding, our team arrived on-site in Grand Island and got to work. These days were a whirlwind, but we managed to come together to pull off a beautiful day.

We hosted the rehearsal dinner on Friday night, which was followed by an almost all-nighter to get our site set up for the next day. The wedding was a huge success, and the couple were thankful for our team and the opportunity provided. When doing risk management plans, a forest fire wasn’t at the top of our list! This experience was something none of us would have guessed would happen, but we are grateful to have learned how to pivot an entire event during a time of unfortunate circumstances. We learned the significance of overcoming adversity and the magnitude of teamwork. We are fortunate to have such an amazing professor and course who supported our success and guided us in the direction of executing a beautiful event. As a result of this, we grew as leaders and a team and gained real-life experience in what it is like being an event planner.

heartlandpcmaorgWhen Doing Risk Management Plans, a Forest Fire Wasn’t at the Top of the Student’s List!