I’ve got a little story to tell. See, there was this wedding…
A few months before Midwest FurFest, moryssa asked if takaza and I would provide assistance at her and wolfbrotherjoe‘s wedding…which was five days after the convention. If it were anyone else, we problem would have politely declined, but Misti is a dear friend and we were flattered and pleased to provide any help we could. Plans were made, and we had a nice dinner with the bride and groom to discuss the details. Because the rehearsal dinner was unfortunately the day before the wedding (which is to say, Thanksgiving), we had to miss out on that. Neither Dan nor I felt 100% secure in our knowledge of how things were supposed to go, but we figured it would be pretty easy – get a quick briefing on who needed to be where and when, then make sure that happened.
The venue was outside of Madison, Wisconsin, in a lovely barn that had been refurbished for these types of events. The dinner was to be served in the nicely-decorated shop which adjoined the building. It was a great set-up, and perfect for the intimate (100-person) wedding they had in mind. The rough plan (as I recall) was that the “First Look” would be at 4 PM, followed by pictures, then the wedding would take place at 5 PM. This would be followed by a cocktail hour, then dinner, then dancing for the rest of the evening.
Dan and I drove up to Madison (with a side-trip by Prime Outlets Kenosha to pick up some last-minute accessories from Casual Male – yeah, an outlet mall on Black Friday. Oy!). We arrived at our hotel at around 1 PM, got dressed, and headed over to the barn at 2 PM. We were the first ones there, which gave us a chance to inspect the facilities and admire the setup and decorating that the wedding party had done the night before. The wedding party arrived bit by bit over the next hour and a half, and Dan mostly made sure everyone was happy and moving along while I chatted with friends.
The first sign things were a bit askew was when the bride asked where the DJ was. Theoretically, he should have arrived in Madison at 11 AM and been at the barn shortly after. There was no sign of him. At 3:50 PM, Dan pulled me aside and we agreed that I would make the 30 minute round trip back to our hotel to pick up my laptop (and our complete 40 GB MP3 library) just in case. I got back at 4:30 and there was still no DJ. It looked like it was going to be me. I got a very quick briefing from Misti: she handed me a flash drive with the music for the ceremony, what cues there would be, and off I went. I worked with Dave, one of the barn owners, to get my laptop hooked into the barn sound system, and we were off and running. Dan did a great job making sure the wedding party entered at the right times, and I hit most of the cues properly (side note: it’s really hard to even be a pretend DJ when the only music players on your laptop are iTunes and VLC). The important thing is that the music was right for the bride and groom, and the ceremony went off without a hitch.
Once the ceremony was over, I was helping to put away the folding chairs to clear the floor for dancing when I got the next bit of exciting news, which had come in right before the ceremony started: The caterers thought the wedding was on Saturday, not Friday.
Here’s where I give huge props to Joe’s mother. She made the call that we would be serving pizzas, and that the caterer would pay for it. So be it! Fortunately, they had vegetable trays and various chips and dips available, so those went out. While everyone nibbled on those and chatted in the shop, we piped a slideshow of childhood pictures of Misti and Joe through my laptop a few times, then commenced to work with Dave to make his sound system do things it was never designed for. He produced a 16-channel mixer he hadn’t used much and Dan plugged my laptop and his iPad into it and got everything ready for the dance (through a bit of trial and error), then Dave went off to pick up 30 pizzas.
Dan and I went over to the shop and as soon as the pizzas arrived it was a mad rush to clear the appetizers off and get the pizzas out. Dan and I worked to get people up to serve themselves pizza in an orderly fashion, sending folks table by table (wedding party first, of course). When the first batch of 14 pizzas ran out, we cleared the table, asked everyone’s patience, and when Dave showed up with the other 16 pizzas we got those out as well. Dave’s wife Betsy was invaluable during all this, providing plates and helping move empty boxes and such.
Once it looked like everyone had had their fill of pizza, it was back to the barn and Dan started the dance music. He hit the requested songs (First Dance, Father/Daughter, Mother/Son) and the usual Bouquet Toss and Garter Toss, then he started creating playlists on the fly. I provided some suggestions on tempos and songs, trying to keep the flow going. I think we did a passable job, though if we had time to prepare it would have been a lot better 🙂 The laptop/iPad combination worked well, and he did a decent job of keeping people on the dance floor, which I’ll count as a win. We wrapped up at about 10:15 PM, helped with a bit of the cleanup, and headed back to the hotel.
In the end, I think we had a blast. It wasn’t what we had signed up for, but by the end of the evening, there was an infectious kind of “let’s put on a show!” feel that made things feel less uptight and everyone a lot more willing to enjoy themselves. I do worry a bit about the DJ, since no one was able to reach him and he is a mutual friend; if anyone has heard from him, please let me know. But at the end of the day, Joe was happy, Misti was happy, and the bride and groom’s families seemed happy. I think that counts as a win! As for Dan and me, anyone who knows us knows that this is the kind of insanity we thrive on, and I’m so glad that we were able to help out and make Misti and Joe’s special day not only memorable but enjoyable as well. Congratulations to you both! I’ll throw in an endorsement for Badger Farms as well – Dave and Betsy are incredibly nice folks. They were great to work with, and when things started to go pear-shaped, they jumped in and were a phenomenal help.
We slept in on Saturday morning, then took our time driving home. We picked up Buddy from Dan’s mom’s place and crashed once we got home. Our plans for today? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! And it’s glorious 🙂
My, it’s been quiet here lately, hasn’t it?
Most of you probably know why. For the last eleven (!) years I have been a staff member for Midwest FurFest. After serving as chairman for the last two years, this year I moved into the position of Hotel Liaison while my husband takaza took over as chairman. Now, being Hotel Liaison is no picnic anyway, but this was our first year at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and that introduced all kinds of new complexities – learning how to use the function space, establishing lines of communication, negotiating contracts and expenses, and a slew of other duties. Hotel Liaison is one of the few 12-months-a-year jobs with the convention (most department heads’ duties kick in maybe 4-6 months before the con) and in the final month before the convention I was easily spending 20-30 hours per week on convention-related tasks. Thus the lack of updating.
So. The convention happened. How did it go?
It. Was. Amazing. All of that planning and hard work was worth it. Everything came together extremely well, and when unforeseen hotel issues came up we were able to recover seamlessly and gracefully with no disruption visible to the convention attendees. As for the convention itself, it was a spectacular success. We set an attendance record for us (2,285) and all of the feedback I’ve seen has been almost uniformly positive. Our last year at the Westin was not a good one, and I think that adversely affected our attendance. This year really turned that around. In my experience, conventions can advertise all over, hand out flyers, sit at tables and promote the con, but what will really make you or break you is word of mouth. The word of mouth for MFF after this year is so strongly positive, I think we’re going to see a very strong year next year.
There is absolutely no way I can write a con report – it all went by too fast and there’s just too much. I do want to thank a few folks, though:
- Mirko and Gir, my Hotel Liaison staff. You guys made the con enjoyable for me, and I hope you found the experience as rewarding as I did. I know you had little direction or idea of what you were getting into before the con started, but to be fair I had no clue either 🙂 Special thanks for Gir for stepping in on relatively short notice to help out!
- Although I don’t know if she’ll ever read this, Jen Calderon, our Convention Services Manager at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare did an absolutely sterling job keeping the myriad details in order. She put up with my frequent emails, responded quickly and effectively to inquiries before the con and especially at the con, and showed truly remarkable patience and attention to detail. Every convention should be fortunate to have someone as talented as Jen to work with!
- Perro, RB, and CharlesBear, who provided invaluable support, advice, and communication before and during the convention.
- The many, many MFF staffers who were great to work with, and who made my job easier in the planning stages of the convention.
- And especially Dan, my dear husband. He was Hotel Liaison before me, and was an invaluable source of information. We spent a lot of time figuring the fine line between providing advice and micromanagement, but once I put my ego away and listened to his very sound suggestions, we were both better off for it. I will continue to be grateful for his support, his knowledge, and his love.
(If I forgot to mention you specifically, I assure you that it isn’t because I hate you, it’s more that my brains are still a little scrambled 🙂
So that’s it. I wish I could say that I’ve got a bunch of downtime ahead. I have today off, at least, but after this I go back to work for a day, then we’re hosting Thanksgiving for friends at our place. We are providing coordination assistance for Misti and Joe’s wedding on Friday, but then I’ll have the weekend to collapse. Oh, and Dan’s birthday is December 1st – locals, keep an eye out for an announcement of a fun outing for that coming up! And now that the con is over, we can start making plans for Christmas, and Wuffmeet is right after that! Oh my, I need a nap…
Anyway, I do hope to return to update this journal a bit more often now that I have a little more available time. We’ll see how that goes!
In case anyone is wondering, I am still around and still reading LiveJournal. Unfortunately, preparations for Midwest FurFest are eating all my creative energy and time, so I don’t foresee any substantial post (or maybe any posts at all) until after the con, which is in two weeks (ACK!). I still have a write-up of September’s trip to Montreal to post, and reminders of upcoming gatherings as well. Keep an eye out!
Only two weeks left! In the meantime you can read about the TOP TEN THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT MIDWEST FURFEST.
Number 8 is the cool stuff that Shiny Sponsors and Sponsors will receive. As most of us know, every attendee gets a nifty souvenir con book, a copy of our acclaimed Restaurant and Services Guide, a Pocket Program, and a convention badge. Sponsors get all of this, as well as a complimentary Midwest FurFest 2010 T-shirt, a collectible cloisonne‚ pin, a special surprise gift, and the crowning touch, the Saturday Sponsor Brunch! This year we are back at a Hyatt Regency, and with this comes the return of the Hyatt’s famous Regency Brunch, featuring omelets made to order, smoked salmon, freshly-carved roast beef, French toast, and much more.
And then there’s Shiny Sponsors. Last year’s Anniversary Sponsorships were quite popular, and we have decided to continue the tradition. Shiny Sponsors get everything that attendees and Sponsors receive, plus a Midwest FurFest 2010 polo shirt, a few tokens of our esteem (hint: they go well with this year’s convention theme!) and a cocktail hour in Ventana’s, at the very top of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, on Friday evening. They’ll be able to enjoy the sunset over O’Hare Airport and admire the Chicago skyline while chatting with our Guests of Honor and their fellow Shiny Sponsors.
All levels of membership are still available! You can register online until Sunday, November 14, or you can register at the door. Attendee memberships are $40.00, Sponsorships are $120.00, and Shiny Sponsorships are $250.00. For more information and to register, see our website at http://www.furfest.org/registration
We’re going to take a break for the weekend, but next week we’ll continue out countdown of the Top Ten Things You Blah Blah Blah, Have a great weekend!