About ILEA Austin

About ILEA Austin Chapter



MEET OUR PRESIDENT

VANESSA VASS
President
Root Cellar Catering Co.

Vanessa Vass has been in the event industry for over 8 years and loves making event dreams come true. She has been the Catering Sales Director at Root Cellar Catering Co. since April 2016 and has enjoyed every minute of it. As a Texas State University Alumni, Root Cellar Cafe was always on the calendar for every Sunday Morning Brunch and when they asked her to join the team it was the easiest decision she ever made. She is a part of event organizations such as ILEA, NACE, and The Rising Tide Society. Lastly, she is a huge nerd and routinely plays dungeons and dragons as well as video games in her spare time.



OUR BOARD 



MELISSA MINTO
Immediate Past President
Texas Pro DJ

Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Melissa settled in Austin, Texas in May of 2015 after living in Atlanta, Georgia for almost 10 years. After graduating with a Business Management degree from Kennesaw State University in 2008 during a terrible economy, she stumbled upon a job opportunity waiting tables at an established and nationally ranked private country club. After working up the ranks to Director of Catering for over 10 years in the club industry, Melissa recently made the transition to VP of Sales and Marketing for Texas Pro DJ.


Over the past fifteen years, Melissa has planned and executed events for the likes of former US President George W. Bush, Jon Bon Jovi, Arthur Blank, Ryan Seacrest, Tyler Perry, and many more all through the private country club industry – all of which could not have been done so well without the help of her industry friends. She knew when moving to Austin over 7 years ago that her first plan of action was to sign up for a membership with ILEA, especially since she was new to the city as a whole. She has not regretted this decision one bit since and has formed some of her closest friendships and business relationships all from being a part of such a great and supportive organization as ILEA.

Melissa is a proud “dog mom” to her 7-year-old black lab, Noodles, in which you can find them both enjoying the beautiful Texas weather on the weekends at the local dog park or greenbelt. In her spare time, she enjoys wake surfing, cycling, paddle boarding, traveling, and drinking rosé.


SARA ABRAMS
President - Elect
University of Texas

Sara Abrams is a UT graduate and now works for Texas Executive Education, which is part of McCombs School of Business. Sara is a program coordinator, working with corporate and international groups to produce educational events. Sara is an active member and President Elect of International Live Events Association. In her spare time, Sara can be found working out at the gym or out at the golf course. Sara is a dedicated dog mom to her maltipoo, Pete!



JONATHAN JOW
Historian/Secretary
BoothEasy Photo Booth Company

Jonathan Jow has been in the events industry for over 10 years and is most intrigued by how events can shape the outcome of brands and their marketing events. Jonathan served on the Board last year as the VP of communications.




Deseree Hierholzer
Vice President of Communications
Premiere Event Rentals
Deseree Hierholzer, CERP, is a Senior Event Consultant at Premiere Events. Over her last seven years in the event industry she has become proficient in tent specialization and site services management. Which has led to her working with varying scope clientele, such as Magnolia Market, SXSW, Austin Food & Wine Alliance, University of Texas, City of Austin, Sea World and may more. She has a passion for networking, enjoys margaritas and most of all she loves her husband and daughter.



Amy Bay
Vice President of Programs & Education

Eclipse Event Co., Senior Planner

Amy was born and raised in Harker Heights, Texas and is a native Central Texan. Her love of events and southern hospitality was instilled in her at a young age. She went on to pursue a degree in Family & Consumer Sciences from Sam Houston State University. After graduating, Amy moved back to the Central Texas area and has spent the past six years obtaining invaluable event experience. She has worked for various companies in catering, rentals, and floral. But as her true love was always event and wedding planning, she joined the Eclipse Event Co team in September 2018. Amy has been a member of the ILEA since 2020 and this is her first time serving on the board. When she is not planning events, Amy loves spending time with family and friends or in her craft room, where she makes beautiful handmade cards. She also loves movies, books, cooking and exploring the Great State of Texas, especially during wildflower season.


Arrington Grawunder
Vide President of Membership 
Uptown Valet & Transportation, President

Arrington Grawunder moved from Bedford, Texas to attend the University of Texas in 1999. After graduation he formed Uptown Valet and Transportation. Uptown Valet & Transportation has serviced events for former US Presidents, Grammy Winners, Academy award winners, and many other high-end clientele. His goal is to provide a higher level of service and exceed expectations. Being actively involved with ILEA since 2008 has been an integral part of success and something he considers vital for Uptown to thrive. He is married to Christy and has twin daughters, Addison and Vivian, and a son named Jack. He is also a dog dad to Henry, Lilly, Teddy, and Cooper. He is also actively involved with Austin Angels, Austin Pets Alive, Texas Exes, and Habitat for Humanity.


Art Fuentes
Director of Membership
Eclipse Event Co.

Art has been a member of the Austin event industry for the past 10 years. He began his events journey in his final year at Texas State University (Eat ‘Em Up Cats!) Where he interned for a local event planning company, and after graduating at the middle of his class he was brought on as an Assistant Event Planner. After making the treacherous 30-mile trek on IH35 from San Marcos, TX to Austin, TX, he continued his work in the event industry by taking up the position of Office Manager for Simon Lee Bakery (a bakery known for their amazing and delicious wedding cakes). After a few years (and a fluctuating waistline), he moved on over to Westbank Flower Market where he eventually became the Events Lead, preparing and executing a wide variety of events. During all this time he has served as Eclipse Event Co.’s go-to Assistant for all types of events, and has been awarded the titles "Employee of the Month", "Quarter", and "Year" (titles awarded to himself, by himself). Art offers an extensive events background, and this is his first year on the board!



Olivia Benamati
Director of Membership
BoothEasy Photo Booth Company

Olivia Benamati is an event specialist at BoothEasy. She’s been in the hospitality industry for the past 5 years and this past year began to specialize in events. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she made her big move to Austin 4 years ago. She is currently serving her first year on the board of ILEA Austin. Olivia’s biggest joy is her dog Stassi and making people smile. When she’s not working on events you can find her hiking outside, or drinking Titos!

Mackenzie Garcia
Director of Programs
Events by Mackenzie

After my own wedding, I decided that wedding planning was something I have a passion for. I am a bubbly person with an eye for the details. Since starting my business, I have enjoyed working with many different couples, families, and vendors to create beautiful celebrations for them.
My favorite part of the wedding day is watching the first few minutes of the ceremony. After all, that’s why we’re all there.I love love and I feel blessed to be apart of my clients’ special day.

Lauren Troccoli
Director of Communications
Fairmont Austin

Lauren started her events career in 2019 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, as Event Coordinator. In this role she oversaw the logistics, vendors, and management for museum events and private rentals. To further her hospitality journey, she joined the Horseshoe Bay Resort, to grow as an Event Manager , focusing on the corporates meetings and wedding markets. Lauren joined the Events Services team at Fairmont Austin Hotel in 2022 , and is now overseeing an array of programs and events for corporates clientele. In her free time , Lauren spends time going out to brunch with her friends , playing videogames, and snuggling with her cats Uma and Sobek!


Bailey Saunders
Director of Communications
Westwood Country Club

Born and raised in a small east Texas town. Bailey always knew she wanted to live in “the big city” and become the ultimate party planner (as her 14 year old self would say)! After high school Bailey attended Texas State University where she studied Public Relations and Mass Communications. During her time at Texas State Bailey interned with Embassy Suites Conference Center and Clearly Classy Events. After college she began her career in the Club Industry at the Hills of Lakeway and later moved onto her current workplace, Westwood Country Club. She has been there for five years starting as a banquet captain and is now the Catering and Events Manager. In her downtime Bailey likes to spend time with her Corgi-mix Traveler and trying all the restaurants and delicious foods Austin had to offer. This is her first time serving on the board and she is super excited to serve her Austin ILEA Chapter! 



Thank you to BoothEasy for the Board headshots!