Location: Janesville, Wisconsin
Type of Venue: Off-site, botanical gardens
Capacity: More than 7,000 guests
Nearby Accommodations: Cobblestone Hotel and Suites, Janesville
As visitors stroll along a zig-zagging bridge in the Japanese gardens at the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin, the calm waters below reflect more than just the vibrant colors of the award-winning landscaping; they provide a simple yet symbolic tool that encourages visitors to reflect on their own paths as they journey through life.
With more than 20 acres containing 26 different garden styles, each teeming with growth and thriving in the continental Wisconsin climate, it’s hard to imagine that roughly three decades ago, the grounds were once filled with nothing more than sand and gravel. In 1988, this plot was covered in debris and used as storage for the Janesville Parks Department. It wasn’t until Robert Yahr, a retired orthodontist, took interest in the land that the roots of what would become the Rotary Botanical Gardens began to form.
With the help of the two Rotary Clubs in Janesville, countless volunteers and generous support and donations from locals, the Rotary Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1991. More than 800 truckloads of topsoil were hauled in to provide a fertile environment for the gardens to grow, and since its inception, the garden has nearly doubled in size and won countless awards for landscape design.
More than 100,000 visitors make their way through the gardens each year, where beautiful backdrops inspire memorable moments. Along with countless outdoor spaces — groups can rent out the entire 20 acres if they choose — the Rotary Botanical Gardens offers an indoor atrium for receptions and a large indoor meeting space that can be divided into four individual venues for meetings and small events. The garden regularly plays host to business meetings, retirement parties, training sessions, banquets, memorials, holiday parties and more. The serene setting provides a peaceful and beautiful place to gather while inspiring teambuilding and creativity among meeting and event attendees.
The Rotary Botanical Gardens features one large space that can be divided into four smaller meeting rooms. The large room can seat up to 200 guests for banquets or more in a theater-style configuration. The venue also offers a large Atrium that is available for presentations, buffets, receptions and even expo-style displays. Other options include a small boardroom with seating for 10 guests and two educational rooms for children’s events and gardening projects. Events can also take place among the 20 acres and 26 distinctive gardens, where the Sunken Garden, the Rose Garden and the Gazebo can each seat 250 people.
The events team at the Rotary Botanical Gardens provides a list of recommended caterers, but groups can select their own providing they comply with the garden’s local health department guidelines. Alcohol is available and offered solely by the licensed bartending staff at the Rotary Botanical Gardens. The staff is equipped to offer beer, wine and hard liquor from the standard bar and can special order specific products and labels on request. Guests can enjoy their alcoholic drinks on the patio during events and even in the fenced-in gardens when they are reserved for a private event.
Meeting and events guests are given complimentary access to the full 20 acres and 26 distinctive gardens, but the garden team will also work with groups to provide entertainment of their choice during the rental period. The sky is the limit when it comes to finding ways to entertain guests at the gardens so long as nothing compromises the integrity of the gardens. Before or after events, guests are free to tour the Gift Gallery, which acts as an art gallery of sorts, and features work by Marsha Mood. Mood’s photography spans the seasons at the Rotary Botanical Gardens and makes a great keepsake for guests to remember their garden experience long after returning home.
The events team at the Rotary Botanical Gardens will work with planners to customize layouts based on the group’s needs, offering options for handicapped-accessible meetings and events. Groups will have access to the garden’s sound systems and wireless microphones, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, projection screens, LCD projectors, dry erase boards, flip charts and easels. Restroom facilities are conveniently located throughout the property, and guests booking the atrium will have access to breathtaking views of the gardens while enjoying use of the coatroom and gift shop. Groups will need to contract with a rental service to arrange for chairs, podiums and tables in the outdoor spaces.