Every December, Apex has a holiday party. We take our employees and their significant others out for two nights on the town. Apex is headquartered in Michigan, but we have employees all over the country. For a while we were having our holiday party in Michigan, flying in our out-of-town employees. As we got bigger, with our people spread out all over the country, we decided to have destination parties.

For the first two years of our destination parties, we went to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas. What can you say? Literally nothing. They make you sign a waiver; what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I hope I haven’t said too much already!

Every year we try to top the previous year, to up the ante. We’ve decided to switch our party’s destination city every two years. This gives our team enough time to explore and experience these places without the venue getting stale.

After two years of Vegas, our next party destination was New Orleans. Normally a warm weather wintertime retreat, on our first visit there (in 2017) it snowed!!! All the locals said it was a once in a generation event.

When we discussed how to make the following year’s party better, feedback went something along the lines of, “Can you fix the weather?”

So, for 2018, I planned the weather to be 70 F when we arrived and a high of 45 F when we left; still better than last year! But, Saturday. Oh, Saturday.

Well, let me backup.

Some of us arrive on Thursday, and Thursday is usually a party-day you plan for yourself. But 8 of our team (plus their significant others) ended up being in town and wanting to hang out together. So, I made a call, and ended up getting enough space in one area of Marigny Brasserie on Frenchman Street. Then we wandered around and went into each jazz bar, for just one drink. Our waiter had advised us that there were many jazz bars around, each with their own vibe. We were warned that the mistake most people make on Frenchman Street is to go to one bar and stay. The right way to do Frenchman Street is to go to a bar, have one drink, then move on. See them all. And this is what we did.

Friday, during the day, the party schedule is open. People to fly in, rest up, sightsee, or whatever they want. Every year there are some bigger things people want to experience, so they try and get other people to join in. Last year there were go-kart races and swamp-boat tours.

This year Kyle suggested a cooking class, and 14 people signed up. We had a blast, cooked ètouffée, jambalaya, and bread pudding.

Friday night we plan a fun, casual evening. Past activities have included bowling alleys, beer gardens, and bocce ball. This year, we went to an 80’s style arcade, and provided food, drinks, and some quarters to our team. We gave away some holiday gifts, had the second annual ugly-sock contest, and generally just had fun.

Friday party at Barcadia

Remember up above when I said “But, Saturday. Oh, Saturday?” Well, Saturday night, is our fancier dinner-party. I plan a meal at a classy restaurant, the ladies get super dressed up, the men wear suits or tuxes. This year, I planned the party to start a little earlier, at 6 pm. All day Saturday it rained; it didn’t pour, but it was wet and soggy. I got some messages from co-workers that said they weren’t going to come to a parade in the rain. I tried to talk as many in as I could — telling people that it was going to be something they wouldn’t regret, even in the rain. About 5 pm, the rain stopped, the radar showed nothing in view. So, at 6 pm we met outside the hotel… where we met up with the Joe Simons Band, two stilt-walkers and the rest of our team!

Joe Simon’s Jazz band and our two stilt walkers

At 6 pm the rain started up. I was so worried. But people’s spirits were up, drinks were full, and the band was excited. At 6:12 pm the rain stopped! With musical accompaniment, police-escort, and high-stepping dance moves we paraded our way to dinner at Balise.

Our Parade

We got to Balise totally dry. (Well, at least not rained on.) We even had time to hang out on the balcony before the rain started back up again. Dinner at Balise was amazing; In my opinion, the best dinner we’ve had so far.

Dinner and drinks at Balise

There is a reason that Apex won Inc.’s Best Workplaces award! Next year’s party destination is still up in the air, but it’ll have to be somewhere that allows for parades or something even cooler, because, as always, next year’s party has got to be even better than the last.

Photos courtesy of Martin from Martin Vecchio Photography