What happens at Cookie Con comes right on back home with you! After thirty years in education, I have enjoyed my share of conferences and somebody else's share, too. Of course teachers go to exotic places like universities and stay in broken down dorms that students refuse to live in and have all manner of riveting break out sessions on Differentiated Instruction, Data Disaggregation, and Positive Behavior Management. Cookie Con revolutionized the way I will view every conference I attend until I die.
Last weekend, cookiers from all over the planet came together in Indianapolis to share our passion for cookies. There was a Sugar Show for decorated cookies (more like a Cookie Louvre if you ask me), a cookie tasting event, a vanilla sniffing event, card trading, button swapping, cookie cutter trading, cookie sharing, shopping, classes, demonstrations and shenanigans.
The tasting was really cool. Everybody got a tray and took one cookie of each variety and sampled the various flavors and textures. Most people had a favorite flavor picked out (even though Cookie Nip was not even in the mix) and most discovered a couple of new varieties they liked. I think one was made of cardboard, tree bark and baby food or something like that and it seemed a little healthy. I don't have an opinion on that cookie.
The people who are the biggest names in the industry were there and they were so nice they would just sit down and drink coffee and talk about cookies like they were regular girlfriends. Ann Clark was just giving away cookie cutters at her booth. If they have blogs and books, we tend to think they have Food Network kitchens with a staff of helpers to clean up the mess but you know what? They are wives, moms, teachers, and entrepreneurs. They have children who need to get to music lessons and they supervise homework. They are the nicest regular people you will ever meet with mad cookie skills.
Then, there were vendors! This was the most exciting thing to me because I was one. And, because I love to shop! Every chance I got I raced off to meet the other vendors and purchase some of their wares. I have to admit that the vendors really surprised me. I thought they might look at each other as competitors fighting for the same dollars, but you know what? They were kind to each other. Several of the vendors responded to my questions in the weeks leading up to Cookie Con and tried to help me understand what to expect. Then when we arrived, they introduced themselves and offered us tools or hooks or anything they had that we might have forgotten. Several retailers came to check out Cookie Nip and took cases back home to their stores with them. We met just as many people who want to sell Cookie Nip in their online stores. Everyone supported everyone and I was relieved to know that help was available from the seasoned vendors if we just asked. There were dozens of booths with stencils, glitter, sprinkles, cookie cutters, airbrush machines, and flavors. Everything you need to make gorgeous cookies was there in the Marriot ballroom.
Okay, the most exciting thing to me was the Sugar Show. There were three categories, Autumn, Television and Anything Goes. Every ticket holder voted for their favorite in each category and the top three in each category were given prizes. The artists were so honored because it means a lot to be chosen by the people rather than a panel of sniffy judges. Each of the teachers awarded one prize in the cookie show as did two vendors, Ann Clark and Cookie Nip! I walked through there dozens of times taking photos and videos and trying to figure out how I could choose JUST ONE. Every cookie there was beautiful. And every one had been carefully handled by the artist even if TSA handled them like some kind of ox. There were a few that got broken and vendors and attendees tried to help the artist piece them back together with frosting and sprinkles. Everyone I teach knows that I call work of this magnitude a size 24 bikini (Just because it can be made, doesn't mean it SHOULD). In my world a cookie needs to be delicious first, adorable second, and reproducible dozens of times. These works of art looked like they were inspired by Michelangelo and executed by Leonardo Da Vinci. Nobody will ever eat them. It seems a shame that they didn't create these visions on canvas but there is a time and a place for cookies that take hours to create and that place is Cookie Con. Sometimes we just need to see what CAN be done even if we will never do it ourselves. At the end of the day, I had to choose one among the masterpieces. I chose number 131, a cute little retro car pulling a trailer full of baking supplies home from Cookie Con. It was beautifully rendered and it looked like it should be a cookie.
When I awarded the Cookie Nip prize to Kristy Johnson, she was thrilled and honored. We gave her a Best of Sugar Show Cookie Nip rolling pin and a cookie jar with an apron, t-shirt, cookie Nip, cookie cutters, piping bags and couplers.
Among all the people I met, I have a new friend from Ohio. Her name is Pauline Lenz. As I was waiting to leave, it occurred to me that I don't know a thing about her cookies but I learned an awful lot about her grandson, Kinser and the disease he is fighting and that her cookies are used to spread awareness. I know about the causes she champions and her anti-bullying campaign. I know that she loves Cookie Nip and purchased a GALLON. She attended classes and shopped the vendors but she spent the entire conference spreading love and smiles and stickers about being nice. If not for cookies, I would not know and love Pauline.
There were some killer door prizes like Kitchen Aid mixers, big gift certificates to certain stores, handmade kitchen trays, Pico projectors, dehydrators, and air brush machines. The more you participated, the more tickets you had for chances to win those things.
I didn't get to go in any of the classes because I didn't have a ticket and I had a booth to operate but we did have a couple of Cookie School instructors who were lottery winners and got their tickets on the first night. Our youngest instructor is only 15 and she showed out with her great skills, going from class to class, meeting the industry professionals and showing them how talented she was. We were all so proud of Rebekah Thompson.
The event was crowded but organized. There was plenty to do, plenty to learn and plenty to purchase. It was the nicest crowd of people I ever met.
The only unfortunate thing I can think of is that the hotel across the street was hosting a convention of bulked up buff people from the health and fitness industry and they were tipping hospitality staff in protein powder so naturally, the cookiers got the best end of that deal.
It is not possible to give you a play by play of all of the wonderful elements that made the event so special but I will tell you this. Cookie Con happens again in March and it will be held in Reno. Start saving and planning NOW. Last time the convention sold out in the first hour and crashed the website. If those of you strategic enough to get a spot in Cookie School set your cap for Cookie Con, some of us will get in the next round. How much fun would it be to have a big group from The Cookie School attending together? Who's in?