One of the most rewarding elements of feeding people is eliciting a feeling of nostalgia amongst our clients. As we all know, a reminder of our childhood is always something that brings joy and depth to eating beyond just the flavors themselves. What better way to do that than to recreate a sweet treat that combines an old ice cream truck favorite, diner interaction, and a little whimsy? We give you the build your own Choco Taco dessert experience!

Choco Taco Action Station Set Up (more…)

January 28, 2020

More Than Weddings

January 28, 2020

More Than Weddings

At Independence Grove, we are proud of our reputation as one of the premier wedding venues in the Chicagoland area. Set amidst 1,100-acre nature preserve featuring, our breathtaking views and serene event spaces create a desirable wedding destination which is unlike anything in the area. And because we are a Catering by Michaels company—the exclusive caterer and event management partner for Independence Grove Forest Preserve—we can blend contemporary menus with our stunning indoor and outdoor spaces to provide a feeling and experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Our dedicated, caring staff has the experience and understanding to bring a dream wedding to life.

These highlights have earned us praise—and awards—as a premier wedding venue.

And these highlights, amenities, and people also make Independence Grove an exquisite choice for other events as well!


December 31, 2019

Top Five Seasons At Independence Grove

December 31, 2019

Top Five Seasons At Independence Grove

It’s no secret we embrace the natural surroundings which make up Independence Grove. Whether it’s a gorgeous blanket of winter snow or the smiling sun of summer, we love the ever-changing seasons.

Here is a list—in no particular order—of the top five seasons at Independence Grove:


Winter events at Independence Grove, ChicagoThis is a sleeper entry into the list! When people think of an outdoor venue, they tend to believe winter is the least accommodating season. However, when it comes to quiet beauty, the snow-covered grounds of Independence Grove are a sight to behold.

And the best part? You and your guests can behold them from the inviting surroundings of Audubon Hall. Our wall of windows overlooking the grounds is a perfect backdrop for a winter wedding or a corporate meeting. And what better time than winter to take advantage of our oversized fireplace?


October 30, 2019

Holidays at Independence Grove

October 30, 2019

Holidays at Independence Grove

When we look out over the beautiful landscape of Independence Grove and see the trees turning, we know the extended holiday season is upon us.

We love the holidays and know they are a special time of year: the blaze of autumn for Thanksgiving, the blanket of snow and glow of lights for Christmas and Hanukah, the sparkle of a new year.

Independence Grove Native Garden in Fall

It is also a time for family, friends, community, and celebration.

Naturally, we love warm weather events and outdoor weddings. But we get equally excited about being a part of your holiday festivities! Not only is Independence Grove an outstanding venue for magical winter weddings, but we are also the perfect destination for corporate parties and retreats, extended family gatherings, and other cold-weather events.

The Venue

We are proud of our crown jewel of an event space, Audubon Hall. It’s a 19,000 square foot space with banquet rooms, event spaces, and a classroom. The cedar, stone, and glass structure is the perfect complement to the preserves natural resources. This spacious venue with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the lake makes for a memorable wedding, bar mitzvah, holiday party, or corporate meeting.

And for that cozy, welcoming touch, you and your guests will enjoy the warmth and glow from our fireplace.

Winter Wedding at Independence Grove

The Food

When you book an event at Audubon Hall, you get stunning views of natural beauty, outstanding service. But that’s not all. You also get award-winning gourmet cuisine from Catering by Michaels. Events at Independence Grove is a Catering by Michaels company and is the exclusive caterer and event management partner for Independence Grove Forest Preserve, one of the forest preserves of Lake County. Our combined experiences mean you can be confident that your event will be remarkable.


October 15, 2019

Employee Spotlight: Marta Mardosz

October 15, 2019

Employee Spotlight: Marta Mardosz

At Events at Independence Grove, a Catering by Michaels company, we know that we wouldn’t be where we are without our amazing team. To celebrate the wonderful people who work at this company, we regularly feature their stories on our blog.

We sat down with our Event Coordinator, Marta Mardosz, to learn a little bit more about her life at work (and outside of it).

Here’s what she had to say:

Q. What did you do before working at Events at Independence Grove?

A. I was working at Soldier Field at Aramark and I was the Supervisor in the Suites department.

Q. How did you first get involved withEvents at Independence Grove? Which other roles have you had in the company?

A. I was tired of having a seasonal job and was looking for something more permanent. I came across Catering by Michaels’ website and noticed that they were looking for an Assistant Event Producer at their exclusive venue, Independence Grove.

So that’s where I started in April of 2016. I was promoted to the role of Event Coordinator after about a year of working at Catering by Michaels, in June 2017.

Q. Tell me about your position? What does that look like on a daily basis, and in general?

A. I stay busy on a daily basis!

On weekdays, I take care of corporate meetings. On the weekends, I’m at functions such as weddings, baby showers, and memorials.

During the week, for the most part, I work on events going on that week and meet with couples for weddings. Sometimes we have to push those meetings to the weekend and sometimes the meetings are virtual — via Zoom or Facetime.

We’re good at accommodating for any customer need!

Q. What’s the best part of your job?

A. Knowing that during a couple’s special day, we can be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Getting married is a very intimate experience. Being a part of it makes it special.

Being able to help them, seeing them happy, and being a part of it is so rewarding.

We take care of everything from the venue to catering. Many times, the couple’s vendors will reach out directly to us instead of going through the couple because of our ties to the venue. This helps us take that stress off them to let them enjoy their special day.

Seeing them happy because they don’t have to worry about anything else is very rewarding.

Q. What’s the hardest part of your job?

A. Helping people plan memorials is always tough because people are in an emotional state and it’s hard to know how best to comfort them.

Miscommunication is also a major drag to the process. If for some reason the client doesn’t provide us with all the information we need (e.g. the budget), it becomes very difficult to do our best work.

The job requires my attention round the clock. So I have to make adjustments to accommodate all these daily activities.

I also have to take complete control over my own food cravings to avoid gaining too much weight!

Q. What are your favorite things to do in Chicago?

A. I love going to concerts. I grew up in a house full of music and I love that there are so many venues here.

I also love going to museums — especially the Shedd Aquarium.

Another great thing about Chicago is that every night new restaurants are opening up. I want to explore them all!

Q. What are some of your hobbies outside of work?

A. Reading books and listening to music. I used to run a lot — working on getting back into that!

Q. What’s your favorite book?

A. Crime books, especially by Scandinavian authors. I could read them over and over again. But my favorite book ever is Pride and Prejudice.

Q. Do you have any pets?

A. Yes! Two cats.

Q. Favorite vacation you’ve ever been on?

A. Paris. I was there years ago and still remember everything like it was yesterday. Ever since, I’ve always wanted to go back. It’s beautiful.

Q. How does sustainability fit into your daily life (outside of Catering by Michaels)?

A. My thought is the less plastic, the better.

In general, I try to minimize waste — especially when it comes to food. I don’t use plastic, instead focusing on reusable glass. Biodegradable stuff is necessary for disposables.

This same mindset also extends to buying clothes. I don’t like buying new stuff if I can help it.


August 20, 2019

The Experience of Outdoor Weddings at Independence Grove

August 20, 2019

The Experience of Outdoor Weddings at Independence Grove

There are several decisions that go into planning a wedding, and one of the biggest ones is deciding on the wedding venue.

To be sure, finding the perfect wedding venue isn’t easy! While it’s important to choose a venue that is meaningful to the couple, other aspects such as budget, logistics, and availability should also be considered.

The venue you choose for your wedding sets the tone for your event, whether you choose an indoor or outdoor venue. Both have their pros and cons, but thankfully, a venue like Independence Grove offers the best of both worlds.

Why You Should Have an Outdoor Wedding Ceremony

An indoor wedding may be practical, but weather permitting holding an outdoor wedding can be a great option. No matter the season, an outdoor wedding will always look beautiful.

Here’s why:

  • The outdoors provide a gorgeous backdrop for weddings. Humans can build beautiful things, but nothing beats the beauty of nature. Whether in a garden, by the beach, or along a lake, there’s no need to go overboard on decorations because the view is enough. Imagine having your ceremony in the North Patio, with the South Bay in the background. After the ceremony, guests can proceed to have cocktails by the lake, while the couple is having their photos taken by the forest preserve. There’s a covering outside of the main building so that you can still hold cocktails even if it’s drizzling outside.
  • Enough space. Whether you’re having a large or intimate wedding, an outdoor wedding provides enough space to accommodate your wedding guests.
  • Better wedding photos. Photographers cannot emphasize enough how natural lighting is the best for photography. It adds a soft warmth that makes photographs come out looking magical.

Outdoor wedding ceremony in the Native Garden

Outdoor wedding by the lake in Chicago


May 21, 2019

Summer is in Full Swing at Independence Grove

May 21, 2019

Summer is in Full Swing at Independence Grove

The Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Lake County wasn’t always the beautiful 1100-acre botanical garden and recreation space that you may know it as today.

In fact, when Catering by Michaels was first given an opportunity to partner with Independence Grove in 1990, it was still a cement quarry. At the time, Catering by Michaels itself was a relatively young company, having been established only 5 years prior. At the time, we passed up on the opportunity to partner with Lake County Forest Preserves.

But when things are meant to be, they always find their way back to you.

When the development for Independence Grove was finally starting to come together, we were doing a lot of catering for a day camp event. It just so happened that one of the parents was a representative for the Lake County Forest Preserves, who loved our food so much that we were offered a 10-year exclusive partnership deal, which we accepted!

When development for Independence Grove was completed in 2001, we opened our office at the visitor center in January, and hosted our first event in March of the same year.

Summer Events at Independence Grove

Since then, several events, both corporate and social, have been hosted on the event grounds.

Did you know that our grounds are a favorite tourist attraction in Lake County, ranking just behind Six Flags and Great Wolf Lodge (formerly Key Lime Cove), with lots of outdoor activities and attractions, perfect for the warm weather?

This summer, the Independence Grove is hosting a series of outdoor concerts every Tuesday at 7:30pm.

De Hurricane Raggae Band kicks off the concert series, starting June 18. Other bands to look forward to include Rockin’ Fenderskirts, Adam Ezra Group, The North 41, and Rico.

Click here for entertainment schedules and additional details.

The Cafe at Independence Grove

The summer concert series coincides with the reopening of The Cafe at Independence Grove, which closed for the winter season and resumes operations on May 24, 2019. The cafe, which is conveniently located near the beach, offers spectacular views of the water and marina. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a snack after the shows or to refuel after participating in outdoor activities around the preserve.


March 25, 2019

The Relationship Between Catering by Michaels & Independence Grove

March 25, 2019

The Relationship Between Catering by Michaels & Independence Grove

Did you know that Catering by Michaels isn’t just a catering company — we’re also the proud owners of a popular event venue in Libertyville, IL?

The relationship between Independence Grove and Catering by Micheals goes back as far as 1990, when we were first presented with a partnership opportunity. At the time, Independence Grove wasn’t the gorgeous forest preserve it is today — it was still a cement quarry that definitely wasn’t a public hangout!

When we were offered the opportunity to partner up with the Lake County Forest Preserve, we were still quite new as a company — having been initially founded just a few years earlier, in 1985. Knowing that we still too young to justify the big risk involved in this opportunity, we turned it down.

The cement quarry was still in operation for a few more years after this but Independence Grove was starting to come together around it. Looking back, we don’t regret the decision to initially pass on the opportunity as this development took longer than initial estimates. The building that we now operate in began construction on the Visitors Center. This second contact happened as the result of our catering efforts at a beautiful local day camp that hired us to book and cater weekend corporate picnics. The LCFPD representative who we eventually closed a 10 year partnership agreement with was a parent to one of the young employees at the day camp who couldn’t stop talking about our success there and how much they loved our food! How’s that for serendipitous?

In 1999, we began the sales effort to promote the Visitors Center for weekend weddings, mitzvahs and whatever else came along. We did not have a model, but a drawing, floor plan and menus worked, and it was not a “difficult sell”. The venue was completed in 2001 and we opened our office there in January 2001 and hosted our first event in March 2001.


What’s better than one Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah?

A two-in-one B’nai Mitzvah celebrating two young adults coming of age! For twins Dillon (girl) and Zach (boy), their Black and Neon B’nai Mitzvah in Audubon Hall was featured on PartySlate and sure to be remembered for years to come.

All photos captured and provided by North Shore Photography.


August 2, 2018

North Bay Pavilion Waterfront Weddings

August 2, 2018

North Bay Pavilion Waterfront Weddings

Events at Independence Grove makes for a beautiful wedding venue for those looking to tie the knot in Chicagoland.

For inspiration to plan your special day, let’s take a look at two beautiful outdoor weddings we hosted recently at North Bay Pavilion:

John & Denise’s Wedding

In perfect wedding tradition, John and Denise  joined their friends and family together for a beautiful evening of celebration. A short ceremony was held by the lake, followed by cocktails, a buffet dinner, delicious desserts, and of course—dancing. Not to distract from the natural allure of the outdoor setting, their simple and traditional elements set the tone and mood for this fun and lovely wedding. Their dinner choices were Catering by Michaels’ take on their favorites:  seafood for her and steak for him!  The North Bay Pavilion was honored to be a part of their journey toward the next chapter of their lives together.

Here are some gorgeous shots from Michael Delott Photography:

Lakeside wedding ceremony Independence Grove