Tuesday, June 25, 2013

So I Went To This Vegan Conference... (The post in which I FINALLY review VidaVeganCon 2013)

As most of you know by now, there was this incredibly wonderful Vegan Bloggers Conference held last month, in Portland, Oregon. Full of FABULOUS vegan food, bloggers, cookbook authors, celebrities, doughnuts and fun!!

That's right, the SECOND of it's kind, VidaVeganCon II (Or VidaVeganCon 2013, as it's affectionately known on every hashtag, social networking site, Instagram and search engine across the Interwebs) was held OVER A MONTH AGO and I am just now blogging about it. (This is long and wordy - beware!)

From the first, I was pretty certain I wouldn't be able to attend. I cannot get time off work easily and NEVER on the day before a holiday weekend. I am a single Mom supporting TWO kids in college this year, going back to school myself and so dreadfully low on funds that buying a tank of gas makes me hyperventilate in a serious way. And of course, the conference sold out w-a-y before I could form a plan. (I know, how sad.) Blahblahblahwhine.

Then!! My employer decided the Friday before Memorial day would be a Holiday.
My college professor decided to reschedule our final for a different day. Things were looking up!
THEN, the wonderful conference organizers asked me if I wanted to volunteer at the conference - work my way through the weekend, so to speak.
AND, Shaun, the fabulous guy in my life, agreed to volunteer with me AND find us a reasonable place to stay.

All of a sudden I WAS going to my second VidaVeganCon and I was more excited than you can imagine! A whole weekend all things vegan. With fellow writers. And people whom I hoped that rubbing shoulders with, would transfer some awesomeness to me...
Fabulous as the conference was (if in doubt, just Google one of the million bloggers out there who has written so eloquently about it) volunteering was a tremendously rewarding experience that I wouldn't have traded for anything.

First day, we arrived at the conference site (The BEAUTIFUL Portland Art Museum) to find the organisers Jess, Michelle and Janessa busy and, well, super-organised.
They had Shaun and I assigned to HAND OUT THE SWAG BAGS!
Seriously? Best assignment EVER!
See all those bags? Acres of them, it seemed. It was like playing Vegan Santa Claus!!

And don't let the picture fool you. These bags were HUGE! Packed to the brim with any vegan goodie you can imagine! Every single person, without fail, said "Oh WOW, this thing is HEAVY!" (we warned you!) as we checked their name off the (somehow, accidentally UN-alphabetized) list and handed them their bag. They WERE heavy!

Thank you for being so patient, my dear blogger friends.
All 300+ of you!
YES! I recognised you and knew your names, even when I looked at you blankly and asked you how to spell it... for the third time...
I loved the reactions as each person dug into their bag to see what treasures it held! I loved greeting old friends and meeting new ones as everyone signed in.

That afternoon workshops started, and we were assigned to assist with them. *gulp* Assist? Me? PANIC-ANXIETY-PANIC!
But I needn't have worried. Everything went smoothly.

The first class, "IPhone Photography" was taught by the completely FABULOUS Isa Chandra Moskowitz (yes, I'm name dropping like that). My alarm over "assisting" subsided, aside from a quick hunt for an iPhone cable (which terrified me, convinced I would be Isa-blacklisted forever) - but she handled it calmly, like the pro she is, entertaining and amusing attendees so they had no idea we assistants were scrambling behind the scenes. The needed cable wondrously appeared, (because Isa's just magic that way), the show went on without a hitch...
What a FUN, informative class too! I've been practicing ever since. I was even bequeathed a treasured "swatch" - fabric that was used as a backdrop for photos in Isa's latest book.
It's so pretty. I have to resist using it in EVERY picture.

Shaun and I continued to assist through the afternoon with equally memorable and fantastic workshops by Hannah Kaminsky, Fran Costigan (yes, more name dropping!) and others.
We had a BLAST!
We got to attend classes, listen to great speakers, learn all the great tips and ideas, assist the presenters, meet more bloggers, work our tails off here and there and everywhere ... annnnnnnnd unfortunately, upset a number of you when the museum staff put an end to our over-crowding the classrooms...
We didn't mind letting overflow sit on the floor, YOU didn't mind either, but apparently the Fire Marshall has a thing about clear pathways and all that...
Tip for next time? Get to class early.
Don't yell at the anxiety-ridden assistant when they sadly inform you the class is full.
Have a back-up plan.

Later that night we went to dinner at Blossoming Lotus with my friend and fellow-Seattle-area blogger Bethany, as well as others she invited along - the fabulous folks who write A to Vegan and one DEEELIGHTFUL half of The Gay Vegans.

I took a few moments to photo-bomb my friends Julie Hasson and Gail Davis at another table too! The restaurant was FULL of famous vegan sorts! I could have photo-bombed all night, but this picture happens to be one of my favorites from the entire weekend!
Naturally, dinner was AMAZING too.
The whole weekend was.

Saturday and Sunday continued along the same lines.
Meeting and RE-meeting blogger friends I've become acquainted with through their cookbooks, online AND in real life. Assisting with workshops.

And the very important-sounding assignment of: "Running the Information Desk".
Which would have been no work at all, if everyone had actually READ the beautiful program and directory that I'm sure the conference organisers spent MANY hours writing and filling with information. Just sayin'...
Every question I answered was "in the book" but you still made me feel important asking questions I could answer, so thanks for that!

I can't even BEGIN to touch on the many things I learned in workshops, the delicious food, the many vendors who had the BEST samples, the many photo ops with friends and people I'm in awe of ...and whatever else I'm forgetting!

I can't reiterate enough how MUCH work the organisers put into this event, and I want to thank them, yet again, for allowing Shaun and I the PRIVILEGE of helping them out in at least a small way.
If you get the chance to attend the next VidaVeganCon, wherever it's held, DO IT! Don't hesitate, it'll sell out FAST! Don't balk at the price. In fact, pay them double! It's worth it! No matter what sacrifices you have to make, it's worth EVERY moment and every penny.