After a COVID-19-related delay, event space opens at Wildlife Sanctuary

By Greg Seubert
Waupaca County Post

GREEN BAY – For nearly 90 years, the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary has made a name for itself as the home of Wisconsin’s second largest wildlife rehabilitation program – caring for more than 6,000 orphaned and injured animals annually.

After a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sanctuary is making a new name for itself as well – the area’s newest wedding and reception venue.

“They had this great idea to bring the event space out here,” Billi Jo Baneck, the sanctuary’s event planner, said. that and really show people what we have out here. ”

Baneck said while coronavirus kept the space – located at 1660 East Shore Dr. on Green Bay’s east side – from being available earlier, it’s ready to go now and the sanctuary is hitting the ground running.

“It’s nice that we can ease into it without having back-to-back bookings,” she said. “While it’s still a secret, we can test the waters and see what we need to tweak. I don’t think it’s going to stay a secret for very long. ”

Baneck said the pandemic took a toll on weddings and receptions in 2020 and 2021.

“A lot of people postponed and canceled,” she said. “Wedding venues all over are booked two and three years out. The nice thing right now is we have the availability because nobody really knows about us yet.”

Billi Jo Baneck, event coordinator for the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, is pictured in the facility’s new banquet and event space. Greg Seubert Photo

Year-round option
The venue, Baneck said, is available for weddings and receptions year-round.

“It’s heated, it’s air conditioned,” she said. “We have a lot of people looking at winter weddings and this is a great place to do it because you can see winter, but you don’t have to be out in it. ”

Weather, Baneck said, is not a problem, especially if a wedding and reception are held in the same place.
“That’s the nice thing about doing the ceremony and reception inside if you choose to,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about the weather, but yet you have the gorgeous scenery for it. You can take pictures right outside. It’s a one-stop shop for your photo opportunities over by the waterfall. It’s a gorgeous space inside and out to have a complete event. ”

Baneck said she plans to attend as many of the venue’s events as she can.

“I plan to be on the scene for as many as possible,” she said. “Either I, or my staff, will check in, and we do have a maintenance person on-scene if something should happen. Otherwise, this space is kind of theirs. ”

Baneck said the sanctuary’s event space is a blank slate for folks to do whatever they want.

“You can do an indoor ceremony or an outdoor ceremony,” she said. “We have tables and chairs, but you can (also) bring in your own tables and chairs. We have a full caterers’ kitchen that you have access to. You can bring in whatever caterer you want or make your own food. You can bring in a bartender service if you want or you can bartend yourself. You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you want. ”

Baneck said the staff at the sanctuary go a bit above and beyond what other park venues might offer.
“We’re out there to work with you and your caterers to make sure we’re coordinating those times,” she said. “If you have a certain layout that you want based on your guest numbers, we set up your tables and chairs For you. We give you a little bit of a head start on your day, and then you can come in and make it pretty. I think that’s our best quality. You’re not set in the ways of,’This is how this venue runs.’You can be creative with it. ”

Baneck said the venue hosted its first wedding and reception in May and expects bookings to increase once the word gets out.

“Once people see that this place exists and how beautiful it is, I really think we’re going to start filling the calendar,” she said. “There are quite a few venues in the Green Bay area, but what you’re getting for your money out here is well worth it. To get an open space that has air conditioning and running water, you’re getting quite the bang for your buck. ”

A special place
Baneck said the sanctuary itself has a special place in many people’s hearts, for a lot of reasons.

“When you have wolves howling just up the trail here, it’s neat to be part of that,” she said. “A lot of people are coming out here to book this place because they went on their first date here, they got engaged here. or they had their senior pictures taken here. ”

Baneck said the space can help their experiences here full circle.

“It’s nice that we have a venue where they can have these events now,” she said.

Baneck said she is available to give tours of the venue, and can be reached at [email protected]at (920) 448-3308 or through the wildlife sanctuary’s Facebook page.

“I try to post different open hours that I’ll be out here,” she said. “If I happen to be out here for a few hours on a Saturday, feel free to stop in.”

Baneck said, so far, she has booked about six receptions for 2022.

“I’m actually surprised with the number of people still booking for 2022,” she said. “We have five or six now this year, and that’s without doing a lot of advertising. As we get going, the hope is that we start. filling our calendar. ”

Baneck said the banquet and event space can also be rented for meetings, holiday parties, showers and other events.

“The people who have seen it so far have really fallen in love with it,” she said. “I really think we’ll get something special going out here.”

Leave a Comment