Alexis Cohen is director of special events and community engagement, Marriott Syracuse Downtown.
SWM: What’s your first memory at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown?
Alexis: I was a flower girl for my uncle’s wedding in the Grand Ballroom. Fast forward 20-plus years and I watched one of my weddings unfold and I watched the new couple dance from the balcony — it was magical.
SWM: What does your position as director of special events & community engagement entail?
Alexis: I oversee all of the hotel-sponsored events, and I work with any VIP guests or events. The community engagement piece involves working closely with nonprofit organizations in the community, whether it’s hosting an event here at the hotel or giving back volunteer hours.
SWM: What sort of special events do you help facilitate?
Alexis: I oversee all of the larger events, such as our annual Holiday Tree Lighting, New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and other fun events like Dancing in the Moonlight, the Cabaret and Dinner Shows and our Masquerade.
SWM: The Marriott Syracuse Downtown recently partnered with two local groups, Salt City Burlesque, Society Girl + Cirqovation, to host a Enchantment in Wonderland. How does an event like that come together? What sort of planning goes into it?
Alexis: It was pure magic working with these ladies. We just happened to be brainstorming and thinking of things that would appeal to a larger audience, and with some quick turnaround and fast planning, we had the most fantastic event that left our guests in awe and so many more people asking what are we doing next.
SWM: The downtown community has evolved in the past few years.
Alexis: Its been monumental to watch the change happen, it never fails when someone walks into the hotel, they could be having the worst day and then they look up and they’re greeted with beauty and warmth. I like to think that the hotel is just the beginning.
SWM: In your position, you strive to work with smaller nonprofit organizations in the area. How do you connect with such groups?
Alexis: A lot of my work is done the old-fashioned way of meeting people through other people. My favorite part is looking for these grassroots organizations trying to become established in the nonprofit world and looking and willing to try new things. It allows me as a planner to get creative and help them from the roots up.
SWM: How do you see the relationship between a large business like Marriott Syracuse Downtown and those small nonprofit organizations?
Alexis: One of the things that we are so proud of is our Community Room It’s complementary to local organizations looking for a room to have a board meeting in, and they need a little more space and privacy that perhaps a café can give them. We also have fantastic menus priced to accommodate their budgets. Finally our incentives to book your event with us for one or more years are hard to pass up — one of my favorites is our volunteer hours that we can give back to the organizations.
SWM: What’s your favorite part of your job as director of special events and community engagement?
Alexis: I love that I get to be creative and see things come to life. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a dream — these events are truly works of art. I am amazed each time to see how we are helping people that we didn’t even know we would be able to help. Some nonprofits have been able to capture a whole new audience through to the hotel, so much so that they outgrew our space and now are creating new events to come back to us!
SWM: What inspires you?
Alexis: I am very close with my grandma, who just celebrated her 90th birthday, and my mom. They always keep things in perspective, they’re both community-minded and have always encouraged me to think beyond, so for me, they are my inspiration to keep pushing, doing more and bringing more light, laughter and love into this beautiful city and hotel I call home!
Photo credit: Genesis II