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Elevating Expectations: Local Event Pros Unveil New Identity, Focus on Future of the Industry

By Jessica Isaacs

With sights set on the future of the industry, traditions of the past and the grandeur of the Blue Ridge, the High Country’s own network of event professionals is celebrating the official unveiling of a new identity.

The group formerly known as A.C.E.S., or the Association of Consultants and Event Services, announced on Tuesday the change of its name to “High South Event Professionals,” which aligns with both its core values and its vision for putting our area on the map as the premier special events destination in the southeast.hseg-logo-play-v3

Since its inception as A.C.E.S. in 2004, the group has remained committed to its primary objective:

“Event professionals throughout the High Country have joined together to strengthen the industry with enhanced educational opportunities, cooperative marketing efforts and increased media attention to the diverse professional services,” its mission statement reads.

A true community of likeminded businesses and entrepreneurs, its members work together to support, educate, encourage and inspire one another, creating a united front from which they promote the High Country as the ultimate go-to for superior, stylish and perfectly executed affairs.


The membership features an expansive list of local vendors and consultants from all aspects of the event planning industry. A quick click over to its website gives you access to a massive directory of well-informed experts: florists, photographers, videographers, caterers, stationers, bridal shops, party planners, entertainers, site coordinators, rental companies, venue directors, transportation providers, officiants and so much more.

Members of the High South Event Professionals, formerly known as A.C.E.S., gather for a group photo op during a meeting at the Boone Courtyard Marriott on Tuesday night. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

Its bimonthly get-togethers give members a chance to share stories, compare notes, get to know each other, make friends and build valuable working relationships.

Denise Lovin, who coordinates the organization’s meetings and events, said her membership has helped her and her husband, Fulton, improve the services and knowledge they can offer through their own business, the White Fence Farm wedding venue in Trade, Tennessee.

“A.C.E.S. has always been really helpful because we have been able to learn a lot about the industry and network with other people who have similar services,” Lovin said. “We have learned from other vendors through their experiences what we can do to be a helpful resources as a venue. We can get feedback that helps us grow, build and improve.”

Lovin said the personal relationships that she builds with other group members are just as important as the knowledge and information they share with one another.

“We all support each other and refer business to one another,” she said. “I now know a lot of vendors that I can bring in for events that I have a personal relationship with, and I can feel really confident that my recommendation is going to be a good one.”


The membership convened at the Courtyard Marriott in Boone on Tuesday night for its October meeting, which included a celebration of the growing industry and the roll out of the organization’s new name.

Elizabeth Hempfling. Photo by Katie Langley Photography.

HSEP President Elizabeth Hempfling, a local wedding consultant, explained that the transition will allow the group to better market itself and the folks looking for top-notch services and high-end events in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

“The A.C.E.S. board felt like the branding of our identity needed to be very strong so we could build on a higher level and move forward in our industry,” Hempfling said. “As we all know, the wedding industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Taking on this new name gives us the branding that we need to reach all of our brides and the people who are coming to the High Country for their events.”

Hempfling said the association will stay grounded in its primary objectives, but will take on the spirit of its new motto, “Elevating Expectations,” as it reaches new heights with its creativity, efficiency and level of professionalism.

“The name High South gives us a classic, approachable feel that still represents the mountains,” she said. “It’s something that, 20 years from now, we can still use to represent our area for all of the different things that we’re doing.”

Lovin agreed that changing the name will emphasize the overall character and personality of the organization, encourage new members to join and appeal to more clients on and off the mountain.

“I think it’s an exciting change to identify ourselves in a way that can help people see where we are regionally,” Lovin said. “It’s exciting to see the industry grow here and, for us as a network, to be expanding, creating more opportunities not just to get to know each other but for brides, grooms and people coming in to really have access to everything in one place.”


The organization’s new name was inspired by its recent collaboration with High South Weddings, a brand new annual wedding resource guide and the latest adventure from the team at High Country Press Publications.

HCPP Publisher Ken Ketchie chose the new magazine’s name in honor of the area’s rich history as a sought-after vacation and luxury living destination in the southeast. Before the community’s tourism and attraction professionals rebranded our region as “The High Country” in the early 1980s, it was respected and referred to as “The High South.”

Hempfling and the A.C.E.S. board agreed with Ketchie that the moniker accurately reflects what today’s High Country has to offer brides, grooms, friends and families, starting with fresh, cool mountain air and matchless southern hospitality.

Ketchie and his team were on hand at Tuesday nights meeting to talk about High South Weddings, the inaugural edition of which will hit stands in mid-November.

Local jazz performer Maureen Renihan (left) and Nicole Winders of Grandfather Vineyards are pictured after winning prizes at Tuesday nights meeting of the High South Event Professionals, formerly known as A.C.E.S. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

“We heard a lot of encouragement from the local wedding industry to put together a publication like this. After thinking about it, it made sense,” Ketchie said. “This is what we do — we do the High Country Magazine, we do a visitor’s guide and we do a website. We do this 24/7 all year long, so it’s become a really nice fit.”

The magazine and the event professionals group will continue to operate independently from one another, but have now adopted the same mission and are working hand-in-hand to highlight the area’s potential for growth as a wedding and special events destination.

“When the name High South came about we thought, wow, this is beautiful. It rings true to the industry as a whole. That’s how ‘High South Event Professionals’ was born,” Hempfling said. “Moving forward, with the High South Weddings publication doing all the things they’re doing for our area, we are separate entities that will now be working alongside one another to build a stronger presentation for our brides and our community.”

Tuesday night’s meeting included a champagne toast to the new identity of High South Event Professionals and its collaboration with High South Weddings. In celebration of the progress the two ventures are making together for the greater community, Ketchie offered up prizes for HSEP members in the room.

Local jazz performer Maureen Renihan entered the raffle and took home a prize, and Grandfather Vineyards Marketing Coordinator Nicole Winder claimed one after an fun hula hoop contest.

In closing, Ketchie expressed his gratitude to the hardworking people at HSEP who keep the wedding and events world not only running but flourishing in “the High South.”

“It has been really interesting getting to know you folks involved with the wedding industry. I didn’t realize how much money it brings to the area and how many people it brings to hotels and restaurants,” Ketchie said. “I think it’s something that’s kind of off the radar, so we want to impress to people what you guys do, what you bring to the area and just how much it really means to the High Country.

“You work really hard to make weddings happen here in the area and we hope that High South Weddings will reflect that. We’ll make sure the magazine gets into the hands of the people who will say, ‘Let’s go to the mountains and get married.’”


The organization is working to transition its website and online directory to suit its new identity as High South Event Professionals. In the meantime, check them out on Facebook to learn more or get involved.

Want to know more about High South Weddings? Click here to read about this new publication and watch our promo video.


The following HSEP members serve on the association’s board of directors:

  • President: Elizabeth Hempfling, Events by Elizabeth Ashley
  • Vice President: Meris Gantt, The Whole Shebang
  • Secretary: Jo Ann Hallmark, Hallmark Cakes
  • Site Chair: Denise Lovin, White Fence Farm
  • Expo Chair: Abbie Hanchey, Leatherwood Mountains Resort
  • Membership Chair: Fuschia Moss

The existing High South Event Professionals membership includes the following local businesses:

  • A & J Rental
  • A Bushel and a Peck
  • Air Haven Limousine
  • AMB
  • Appalachian Carriage Inc.
  • Art of Living
  • Authentic Exposure
  • Bandana’s Catering Co
  • Banner Elk Winery
  • Beautiful Bride on Location
  • Best Western Mountain Lodge
  • Blowing Rock Ale House Brewing
  • Blowing Rock Brewing
  • Boone Photo Booth
  • Boone Rent-All & Parties Too!
  • Brambella
  • Cakes by Rita
  • Callista Designs
  • Camp Sky Ranch
  • Casa Rustica of Boone Inc.
  • CeCe Hampton Event Planning & Design
  • Changes Salon
  • Chetola Resort
  • Christina Banner Cakes
  • Cornucopia
  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Crystal’s Cakes
  • Daniel Boone Native Gardens
  • Danny Whittington
  • Day of Your Dreams
  • Desi’s Floral & Design Studio
  • Did Someone Day Party?
  • DigitalDJs
  • Divine Treasures Wedding Cinematography
  • DJ Grooves Entertainment
  • Elk River Ink
  • Ellen Gwin Photography
  • Emily Angle Photography
  • Enchanted Wedding Aisles
  • Events by Elizabeth Ashley & Elizabeth Hempfling
  • Exclusively Honeymoons by Gateway to Vacations
  • Fletcher and Fletcher Photography
  • Foscoe Rentals
  • Freeman & Jackson Photography
  • Frugal Gourmet
  • Fuschia Moss Floral Design
  • Gadabouts Catering
  • GiftySong
  • Grandfather Vineyard/Winery
  • Green Park Inn
  • Hallmark Cakes
  • Haynes Event Productions
  • High Country Boomers
  • High Country Home Builders
  • High Country Ministers
  • High Country Photo Booth
  • Hound Ears
  • In His Service Productions
  • Indulge
  • Jean Moree Photography
  • Jonathan Burton Photography
  • Joy Davis Photography
  • Katie Langley Photography, Inc.
  • LA Style by Clynda – Hair Design
  • Leatherwood Mountains
  • Lonnie’s Photography
  • Love it Forever Photography
  • Lynne Townsend Photography
  • Mast Farm Inn
  • Matt Powell Productions
  • Maureen Renihan & Friends
  • Meadowbrook Inn
  • Michelle Hrin Photography
  • Millefleurs Floral Design
  • Miss Match Rentals
  • Mountain Laurels
  • Mountain Mystic Spray Tanning
  • Mountain Peak Sound
  • Mountain Stretch Limo
  • New Age Productions
  • Old World Galleries Inc.
  • On the Windfall
  • Papercuts
  • Philosophy Flowers
  • Pixels on Paper
  • Premiere Special Event Services
  • Prospect Hill B&B
  • Reids Catering Company
  • Reverand Martha E. Powell
  • River House Inn
  • Shady Grove Garden & Nursery
  • Sharla Bance Makeup Artistry
  • Shaybrey Florals
  • Smithmore Castle
  • Snow in July
  • Sound Technique
  • Sound Traveler
  • South’s Clothier
  • Stick Boy Bread
  • Story*Spark Films, LLC
  • Sugar Hollow Retreat
  • Sugar Mountain
  • Summit Strings
  • Summit Trail Solarium (ASU)
  • Sweet Tooth Bakery
  • The Bitter Pear Florist
  • The Elegant Event
  • The Gamekeeper
  • The Lucky Strikes Band
  • The Pedalin’ Pig
  • The Rock
  • The Spa and Salon at Banner Elk
  • The Taylor House Inn
  • The Whole Shebang
  • Tiptons BBQ
  • Twickenham House
  • Ugga Mugga Bakery
  • Upper Barn
  • VISIO Photography
  • Watauga Lake Winery
  • Wayfaring Wonderer
  • Westglow Resort & Spa
  • White Fence Farm