In May , The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference celebrates 25 years of service. A talented and dedicated staff works diligently and passionately to make The Penn Stater an award-winning establishment. Judith Karaky has been at The Penn Stater team for 22 years, with the last 13 as general manager. She tells us the inside scoop of game days, commencement and their conferences. Read on!

Over the years, Karaky has become familiar with the ins and outs of various seasons in hotel and conference planning. Gratefully, other than a slower winter from December to February and a lag at the end of August, The Penn Stater has built steady and consistent business. The versatile conference venue has clients booking rooms and halls for conferences and stand-alone catering events and hotel guests flood in for football weekends, commencement ceremonies and other local events.

Karaky admits that monthly trends are always changing. Months that were previously slow now see good business, such as the shift they’ve seen in the months of July and March over the last five years. Aside from the unpredictable winter season and the deep breath of late August, Karaky and staff stay busy, especially on their big-ticket weekends, namely football and May Commencement.

“We’re always preparing for what’s incoming,” Karaky says. “It’s just amplified for those busy weekends.”

In preparation of their busy months and weekends, Karaky stresses the importance of strong communication among the staff, having all their ducks in a row, and then expecting the unexpected. The staff is trained to know what kind of situations they may encounter. If they’re asked a question they don’t know the answer to, they’ll take ownership of it and find out who does.

“As much as you can have nailed down, it makes dealing with changes that much easier. Everyone knows their role and what they’re doing and that it may change,” Karaky says. “The staff has a genuine willingness to help and enjoyment of the job.”

When the hotel is fully booked, all hands are on deck and the crowds start rolling in, The Penn Stater handles some impressive volume. Housekeeping will go through 2,500 bath towels over May Commencement weekend. The restaurant will go through approximately 3,100 eggs, 300 pounds of chicken wings and 400 pounds of hamburger. The shuttle will log over 1,000 miles. And that’s just in one fully booked weekend.

While the amount of food, number of rooms and volume of towels for a fully booked weekend remain constant, the air in the hotel shifts with each event. May Commencement means that hundreds of families are on their own strict schedule. The hotel puts on clear instructions for shuttle use, reviews the schedule, makes appropriate timing recommendations and provides whatever everything they can to ensure families can stay on schedule. Photos are snapped at every corner, and stress and emotions run high, especially before ceremonies. When compared to Blue and White weekend, full of laid-back guests with little agenda, the difference in the atmosphere is obvious.

The Penn Stater hosts a variety of individual guests and conferences throughout the year. Conference groups are often repeat clients, who are anchors for the business. Government groups, educational groups, state associations, regional groups, energy groups, local businesses and more all make their way through The Penn Stater throughout the year. Thanks to several competent and veteran event planners who average over 17 years on staff, the repeat customers often work with the same team members.

“I’m always so impressed, because no matter how many times a group has been there, the staff haven’t lost their desire to continually improve the groups experience each year,” Karaky says.

Staff members all have their own way of making sure to note anything that could have gone better, and the following year, they make sure it does while noting any new hiccups. It’s an evolving process that allows groups to have the best experience possible each year.

Another benefit to the regular businesses of conferences means the staff at The Penn Stater get a front-row seat to trends in the business. Lately, Karaky notes the rise in technology-use of groups onsite. Wi-fi and audio-visual technology are in high demand to allow for video streaming and even upgrades to the check-in process. Recently, Karaky saw a group using mobile-to-mobile check-in for lunches rather than a standard ticket issued at check-in or registration. Meetings can be recorded or live-streamed and the video conferencing tool Zoom is in common use.

The Penn Stater continues to be a respected establishment in and outside of the State College area. In the last two years it was voted one of the best hotels in State College, Best of the East by Meetings Today and achieved a Certificate of Excellence with Trip Advisor. If history is any indication, those won’t be its final accolade.