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Saratoga Springs-based event planner specializes in setting multiple stages

Outlook

Saratoga Springs-based event planner specializes in setting multiple stages

Tonya Pellegrini draws on theater background as she plans weddings, annual Victorian Streetwalk
Saratoga Springs-based event planner specializes in setting multiple stages
Tonya Pellegrini outside Canfield Casino at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, January 24, 2019.
Photographer: Erica Miller/Gazette Photographer

Every year for more than 30 years, hundreds of people convene in Downtown Saratoga Springs during the holiday season for the annual Victorian Streetwalk. 

For Spa City resident Tonya Pellegrini, her favorite part of the event isn’t Santa’s arrival. It’s walking along Broadway before the people arrive.

“It’s like the calm before the curtain opens on opening night,” she said. “You’re hoping somebody comes and then all of a sudden the streets are filled with people and you say, ‘thank God.’” 

Pellegrini has overseen the Victorian Streetwalk for the past three years while serving as the Director of Promotions and Events for the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association.

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She is also the owner of Malta-based event planning company, Pellegrini Events, which she never saw herself launching. 

After graduating from Russell Sage College in Troy with a degree in theatre and literature, Pellegrini followed her passion for film and theater. 

“Theater is real and live, so you can screw up, but you still have to keep going,” she said. “Every single piece is important from the lighting to the props, so if something is missed – it’s greatly missed.” 

Pellegrini worked for Adirondack Scenic Design, an Argyle-based scenic, and entertainment design and fabrication company, before relocating to Wilmington, N.C., where she took a position at the movie studio, Screen Gem Studios. 

In 2003, the Ballston Spa High School alumna found herself moving back to Upstate New York and film gigs became harder to come by. 

“Events, like theater and film, have an opening night and hard deadlines, and the timelines are similar,” she said of event planning. “I was also used to managing things and putting out fires, so it was an easy transition, because of the similarities.”
 
Pellegrini said her favorite event to plan is a wedding. 
 
“There’s so much care taken throughout the entire event, because it’s such a special day,” she said. “There’s a lot of emotion and there’s a lot going on, and it’s all about making sure it’s the best day ever.” 
 
The most enjoyable part of planning a wedding, according to Pellegrini, is showing her clients the final product. 
 
“I love showing the couple what we’ve done when the space is empty of guests,” she said. “I also love when guests get there and walk around the space and check everything out. 
 
“It’s the calm before the celebration storm.” 

More from Outlook 2019

 Pellegrini said planning, managing and executing an event comes down to understanding your client’s vision. 

“You need to be a good listener and take their vision and walk them through it,” she said. “You have to understand what they want but also ask questions to make sure they see the big picture before you can start the process.”

Unlike corporate events, Pellegrini said there are a lot of little details when planning a wedding. 

“I like to break weddings out into three events – the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception – and then personalize each of them,” she said. “From the chairs to the seating cards, you can bring a client through the whole day.”

Pellegrini said the Capital Region is full of competition in the event planning industry. 

“There are more and more people coming up and there’s definitely enough work to go around,” she said. “You just have to be out there looking for it and letting people know you’re there.”

After spending more than 15 years in the event planning industry, Pellegrini said she constantly stays up to date on changing trends. 

“The West Coast is always a couple years ahead of us in terms of trends and Europe is too, so I always like to see what they’re doing,” she said. “Pinterest also comes in handy and gives clients a way to visualize things as well as lets them show me what they like and don’t like.”

In the future, Pellegrini said she would like to take on more events outside of the Capital Region. 

“I’d like my business to have a larger geographical footprint,” she said. 

ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER  
Guests take a tour in the Great Hall after a press conference outside announcing a public campaign and construction update at Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, December 6, 2018.
ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Guests take a tour in the Great Hall after a press conference outside announcing a public campaign and construction update at Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, December 6, 2018.

Pellegrini is also looking forward to the progression of Universal Preservation Hall (UPH) as she serves as a board member for the historic former church, which is being transformed into a 700-seat theater-in-the-round.  
 
The building, which was built in 1871 on Washington Street in Saratoga Springs, was saved from demolition in 2003. In July 2015, Proctors announced it would handle management and marketing for the more-than-12,000-square-foot facility. 
 
“When I walked into that building, my heart exploded,” Pellegrini said. “I wanted to be part of what it’s going to be. 
 
“Everyone can enjoy art, whether it be music or theater, people can find a connection to it and it brings people together.”
 
Pellegrini said UPH will have a significant impact on the Spa City. 
 
“It’ll bring art and culture to Saratoga Springs and the Capital Region as a whole,” she said. “It’s a beautifully mind-blowing building and it’s going to be really special.” 

More from Outlook 2019

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