For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: DEBBIE KOEHLER
Associated General Contractors of Texas
The “watermen” of the Chesapeake Bay are hardy types with broad shoulders and strong forearms who haul up cages filled with live crabs to sell to restaurants and fresh markets throughout the Northeast. Their fathers and grandfathers often taught them the trade, and their boats are usually named after their wives.
All up and down the Eastern Shore in tight-knit towns like Cambridge, MD, there’s a deep-rooted respect for the wetlands, tradition, family and local community.
Last June, The Associated General Contractors of Texas invited member presidents, CEOs, owners and their families to the 400-room Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa & Marina outside Cambridge. The members meet once a year to discuss the latest legislative, product and business updates in their industry. And typically, the group books upscale, branded hotels in tourist destinations like Banff, Napa and Maui, with a premium placed on excellent infrastructure and easily accessible golf, shopping, outdoor activities and good food.
About one hour from Baltimore and Washington DC, Hyatt’s quiet waterfront locale on the shores of the Chesapeake was a major selling factor for the 210-person group.
“You feel the breeze coming off the water while everyone’s eating s’mores around the firepit, and it’s just so nice to be in the quiet nature away from all the hustle and bustle,” says Debbie Koehler, executive assistant with AGC of Texas for over 30 years. She says many attendees took brisk early morning walks along the seaside shell path and visited the nature conservancy in the 18-acre Heron Point Wildlife Refuge located on-property.
For group events, Koehler organized a shotgun golf tourney for 62 members, and “the crew at the golf club did a fabulous job” making sure everything ran smoothly. About the same size group also enjoyed a fine-dining dinner at the golf club right on the Choptank River.
“I can’t say enough about Sigrid Velez, the senior sales manager, and Aubrey Concar, our catering and convention services manager,” says Koehler. “The service was fabulous. Everyone checked on me constantly to see if I needed anything.”
Many of the non-golfers ventured into the 325 year-old Historic Downtown Cambridge area for antiquing, sightseeing and lunch at Jimmie & Sook’s Raw Bar & Grill—described as “a culinary ode to the Dorchester County waterman.”
About 30 rented a sailboat for an afternoon on the water. Some rented paddleboats and kayaks or tried their hand at fishing on the Choptank. Others opted to relax with their families on the beach and two large pools at the resort. At night, the hotel does a fun movie night geared for families.
This was a 4-night program but most everyone booked a pre/post to include either Baltimore/DC or visits around the Eastern Shore to authentic Chesapeake environs like the bucolic fishing village at Tangier Island, a hub of waterman culture.
Koehler says she always likes to infuse at least a few events with local culture. So she put together a big crab feast and invited crab pickers from the local crab factory to participate. The event was a highlight of the program for both visitors and locals.
“It was outstanding, with the crab pickers showing everyone how to crack open the crabs. They are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, and the kids just had a blast.” Koehler adds with a little laugh, “Although, we’re from Texas so I had to make sure we had some beef on the menu too.”