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ACMC employees Carol Marcus, left, and Pam Dekraai enjoy the company’s holiday party. More than 800 people usually attend the annual party. Submitted photo

Creativity, planning key to throwing a memorable holiday party

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business Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
(320) 235-6769 customer support
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

It’s not even Halloween yet, but many businesses have already started thinking about this year’s holiday party.                                   

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At Home State Bank, which has five locations in Willmar, Hutchinson, Litchfield and Cosmos, planning for the annual party begins as early as June, said Jennifer Unterburger, human resource officer at the bank.

However, the bank doesn’t have its holiday party in December. This year, the party — a three-hour boat cruise on Lake Minnetonka — took place in September.

“I start planning the party depending on what we want to do, but I always start early,” Unterburger said. “I give myself plenty of time so I’m guaranteed to get the date and venue that I want. If we want to do something outdoors in the fall, I’ll probably start planning as early as April or May.”

In the past, Home State Bank has also held holiday parties in October or January. Each year, Unterburger tries to plan something different for the party. One year, employees went to the Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis. The next year, it was a winery tour in Alexandria. Another year, staff saw a show at The Barn Theatre in Willmar.

“We always want to do something special for employees, something they wouldn’t typically do on their own,” said Unterburger, who has planned the bank’s holiday party for nine years. “We want to show them that we appreciate them. It’s a morale booster, no question about it.”

Even though the party isn’t held in December, it still has that “employee appreciation” feel to it, Unterburger said. In addition, having the party at a nontraditional time of year allows more staff to attend.

“We get away from that Christmas rush,” Unterburger said. “We’re not competing with family parties and get-togethers. This gives employees a bit of a break, so they’re not ‘Christmas-ed out.’”

But having a company party in early to mid-December doesn’t necessarily mean staff won’t attend. At Affiliated Community Medical Centers, which hosts its holiday party at the beginning of December, more than 800 people typically come to the event, according to Teresa Behm, who works in the marketing department at ACMC.

For the past six years, ACMC has hosted an “Employee’s Children Holiday Party,” where all staff – which, among the 11 clinic sites, totals more than 1,000 – are invited to the party, along with their children, grandchildren, and even nieces and nephews.

The party, held at the Holiday Inn and Willmar Convention Center, has a kid-centric theme, with crafts, games and everyone’s favorite: Santa and Mrs. Claus, who take pictures with the children that their parents can have as a keepsake.

ACMC also holds a charity drive at the party as a way for employees to give back over the holidays. Last year, ACMC had Angel Trees set up at the party, and employees could take a tag, fulfill the request on the tag and donate it to the Salvation Army in Willmar. There were around 300 Angel Tree tags at the beginning of the party, and by the end, nearly all of them had been taken.

“It’s really a teachable moment for the kids,” Behm said. “It shows them the importance of giving back. There are others who don’t have as much as we do, and it’s important to do something nice for them, especially around the holidays.”

Other notable parts of the ACMC holiday party include a giant Rice Krispie sculpture (one year it was gingerbread people) and smaller Rice Krispie treats to eat, along with other kid-friendly foods such as pizza, chicken nuggets and Christmas cookies.

“We get so many cute thank you notes from the kids after the party,” Behm said. “This party is a nice way to give back to staff and their families.”

Both Behm and Unterburger agree the most important part of planning a holiday party is making sure that it’s something employees will enjoy and, most of all, appreciate.

“Our staff do so much and work so hard all year long,” Behm said. “It’s nice to do something fun for them at the holidays.”

“This is a treat for them. It should be something for them to look forward to,” Unterburger said. “The main thing is to be genuine. If you truly appreciate your employees, they’re going to know it. That will show in your party.”

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Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.


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