Unusual Settings Give Event Venues Distinctive Flair

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Banquet halls are offering more amenities, new settings and new activities that enable guests to host both traditional and unusual gatherings.

The Peter Allen Inn & Event Center in Kinsman offers an English garden. In New Castle, Pa., the New Englander has taken on the atmosphere of a Pittsburgh brewery. And in Girard sits the Creekside Golf Dome that can house several sports activities as well as a banquet menu. Each brings a distinctive flair to the region’s meetings and banquet industry.

The Peter Allen Inn & Event Center opened in February 2016, but its roots date to 1821. It is named for Dr. Peter Allen, who built it as his residence. Now it is an inn and banquet center that boasts its original federal neo-classical architecture.

“One of the themes we have here is the idea of offering something you don’t have at home,” says its general manager, Aundrea Cika-Heschmeyer.

Peter Allen Inn offers several indoor and outdoor spaces and can accommodate eight people for overnight stays. That helps to draw customers to the countryside where the banquet center sits. “People are discovering us now since last year we were just being put on the map,” Cika-Heschmeyer says. “We are introducing them to the community of Kinsman.”

Since it opened, the inn and banquet center has added new spaces for parties and meetings. The newest is the chef’s garden – an English-style garden with flagstone, raised beds of herbs and vegetables and surrounded by ornamental apple trees. It can accommodate up to 50 people. Overhead lights drape the 1,000 square feet that contain farm tables and chairs. “The idea is you have a party right in the garden,” Cika-Heschmeyer says.

One of her favorite gatherings is a surprise party, she says, because of how guests react when they see the venue for the first time. She is in the midst of planning a surprise golden wedding anniversary party where the guests can roam the house. “They can have cocktails in the tavern, appetizers in the puzzle room and dinner in Heritage Hall,” she says.

The food Peter Allen’s chef serves to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner is purchased from nearby farms in Kinsman and Middlefield – among them Heritage Hill Farm, Miller Livestock, Red Basket Farms and Middlefield Original Cheese Co-Op. “We’re working hard to support the farms in our area,” Cika-Heschmeyer says.

The most popular menu is the three- to five-course farm-to-table fare. That menu, which changes frequently, isn’t scheduled until one month out so the items are fresh from the garden.

“Often people come asking for an Italian buffet. And what we do is take that request and respond to their tastes while still fitting it within our brand. So yes, our chef makes peppers and oil,” Cika-Heschmeyer says with a laugh. “But when they taste our chef’s creation, they realize there’s life outside of lasagna.”

More established venues, such as The New Englander Banquet Center, are finishing renovations to host “customizable” events and to “bring the Pittsburgh feel to the New Castle area,” says banquet manager Carissa Renninger.

The New Englander, opened in 1985, this year added a balcony terrace that overlooks the garden and a brewery for guests to make their own beer. “We give them special time with the brew master, and they can brew their own beer,” Renninger says. The New Englander offers a list of beers that guests can have brewed for a celebration.

The center offers six spaces that range from a traditional formal ballroom to rooms with an industrial feel that are more casual, Renninger says.

The menu is as varied as the choice of rooms.

The Crane Room Grille, for example, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. A “wide variety of food is on the menu and we specialize in customization for each event,” Renninger says. She notes that food stations are becoming more popular and seem to foster more of a party atmosphere than buffets and sit-down dinners.

Creekside Golf Dome is starting to be known as a “party place,” says its general manager, Jim St. George, as it brings in more business beyond indoor golf. Once, the winter months were the busy season at Creekside as golfers practiced in the dome.

Adding a banquet center five years ago brought in new customers in summer, people the golf dome hadn’t seen before. The venue books class reunions, graduation parties, weddings, baby and wedding showers and school field days. However, “kids’ sports birthday parties” are the most popular, St. George says. “At a bowling alley, you’re stuck bowling for two hours,” he adds. “But here kids can choose six different events.”

A party can be scheduled in the banquet center for food and drinks and then move into the dome for sports activities. “The kids love it,” St. George says. “We also help supervise and referee games and the parents can get involved and play too.”

Creekside has equipment on hand for a multitude of activities, but if a customer wants to play a sport for which the dome lacks the equipment, he is welcome to bring his own. Some of the activities provided in the 60,000-square-foot dome are flag football, soccer, kickball, a golf-driving range, wiffle ball and softball. “It’s fun and unique and we can customize whatever we do,” St. George says.

The banquet center can serve as many as 200. It gives the customer the option of providing his own food or having it catered through Creekside.

Other events have included conventions on concussion protocols for football coaches. “From a sports standpoint they’re great to have meetings here,” St. George says. After lunch and a presentation in the banquet center, the coaches can go in the dome to practice drills.

The banquet center is booking events for next year, “which is a great sign,” St. George says.

“We continue to upgrade ambiance inside and landscaping outside to make it attractive. As business gets better we’ll add more upgrades,” he says.

Pictured at top: A garden party at the Peter Allen Inn in Kinsman.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.