How the Event Industry Is Helping Hurricane-Damaged Destinations

Communication Network attendees take a break from their annual meeting at Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel to clean up post-storm debris at Zoo Miami.

Photo: Douglas Stevens

Experiencing the ravages of a hurricane can make one feel helpless. But when natural disaster strikes, members of the hospitality industry often find ways to be helpful by deploying their experience.

In keeping with that trend, chefs, vendors, and all living former U.S. presidents have stepped up to help those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma—which walloped Louisiana, Miami, the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico, and Texas from late August into September—including entire destinations.

“We all have a role in the community,” says Claude Delorme, executive vice president of operations and events at the Miami Marlins. The team is hosting a benefit concert at Marlins Park over the weekend, which will take place simultaneously with a similar event in Los Angeles. “If we can be of assistance, that’s an opportunity for us.”

Given the immense need of those who suffered losses, events are being organized with short lead times, which presents many challenges. But those situations are familiar to industry professionals. In fact, they’re welcome opportunities to be of service, says Nicole Whitaker, director of sales & marketing at National Hotel Miami Beach, where Chefs4Neighbors, a tasting from area chefs, is taking place tonight.

“Each year we partner with the South Beach Food & Wine Festival, so we have a format for food events and from that we know the number of tables, linens, etc. that we need, and it’s been tremendous to see how many people want to give back,“ she says. “We’re working extra hours to do this, and that’s our way of giving back.”

Initiated by the National’s executive chef, Matthew McDonald, who has ties to the Keys and quickly recruited other culinarians to participate, the event stands to raise as much as $20,000 for the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico. Many of the chefs are making meals that feature Key West-focused flavors, and they provided raffle tickets for a dinner for two at their restaurants or hotels.

The event also is happening with the help of suppliers who donated to the cause, including Contempo Linens & Events, Stacole Fine Wines, Sysco South Florida, Voss Water, Santa Margherita, Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, and Notorious Pink.

Similarly, the Marlins Park event, Somos Live—which means “we are one voice”—is taking place with the help of vendors. The Marlins ticketing agency,, is waiving its fee, while other partners ”stepped up,” says Delorme. The ball club also is offering free venue rental. Scheduled performers include Marc Anthony, Camila, Gente de Zona, Nicky Jam, DJ Khaled, Prince Royce, Romeo Santos, Alejandro Sanz, and Daddy Yankee, and proceeds from the event will go to the American Red Cross, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity International, Save the Children Federation, U.S. Fund for Unicef, and United Way of Miami-Dade.

Another food-focused event comes from star chef José Andrés. Continuing his Herculean effort to benefit Puerto Rico—where he has served more than 350,000 meals to hurricane victims—Andrés will headline a benefit dinner with two other stars of Washington’s culinary scene, Inn at Little Washington chef Patrick O’Connell and Rose’s Luxury chef Aaron Silverman. The trio’s 56-seat dinner, slated for October 18 at Pineapple and Pearls, will benefit victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as well as those impacted by the earthquake in Mexico, according to Washingtonian. Proceeds will go to the Unidos Fund and Andrés’s organization, World Central Kitchen.

Among other events, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama are contributing to an October 21 event called Deep from the Heart: One America Appeal Concert. Slated to take place at Reed Arena at Texas A&M University, acts will include Lyle Lovett, Alabama, and others.

Back in Miami, on October 22 the Actors’ Playhouse kick-off party for its 30th season will be a benefit for hurricane relief, through the American Red Cross.

Meanwhile, modular structure builder Eventstar Structures has brought its expertise outside of the country, providing sleeping structures and general purpose venues—including large structures as base camps for utility providers and government agencies—in Cuba, Dominica, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas. And the Greater Miami and the Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau has been promoting existing teambuilding programs that help area nonprofit organizations.

Echoing the sentiment of many in the industry, Eventstar president and C.E.O. Alain Perez says, “The moment we saw the potential for severe impacts throughout the region, we reached out to our friends and partners to discuss ways that we may be able to assist.”