Tuesday, November 12, 2013

FABlogCon 2013 - FABlogCon City

I had the great privilege to attend the inaugural Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, in Las Vegas, NV, last weekend!  It was such a amazing experience and I'm not sure how to cover it all, but I will give it a try.

FABlogCon City
Base image from IconShock.com
I was thinking about the conference and as I was drifting off to sleep, the song "We Built This City" popped into my head.  If you're not familiar with the Starship hit from the 80s, you can find it on YouTube.  The main chorus includes, "We built this city on rock and roll."  This community has been building and growing over the years, and Jenny and Homa "built" a city in which our virtual community was able to live for a few days.  Sometimes we might feel like The Sims, interacting online, but we're obviously real people and this gave us a 3D space to inhabit.  These industrious city planners found a location with safe food (no easy task!), entertainment, education, and accommodations.  When I was there, I felt like I was living in a custom-made world, where I could walk down the lane and visit all of the members of this bustling city...There were product and service providers ("stores"), book authors ("the library"), information powerhouses ("school teachers"), even doctors - all of whose skills and offerings were tailored to our specific communities needs and wants.  There were different neighborhoods - the Gluten-Free Garden, the Anaphylaxis Atrium...OK, I'm totally making those up, but I feel that FABlogCon City was fairly well represented and there was warmth, compassion and understanding among the neighbors.    

As people moved into FABlogCon City, they were met with quite the welcome wagon!  Aside from the Welcome Packet, they were handed not one, but two bags of swag!  When I was handing out those goodies, I felt like the Swag Fairy!  Whole Foods wasn't an event sponsor, but they graciously provided bags for the event.  Elyse Hahne (Live Learn {through} Everyday Life) and Sharon Wong were kind enough to lend me photos of their swag, as I didn't manage to get any - oops!  One entire bag was stuffed with tasty Try-Mes from Gold Presenting Sponsor - Enjoy Life Foods!
Las Vegas Whole Foods Market Reusable Bag
Las Vegas reusable bag - Yes!
A WHOLE bag of Enjoy Life Foods goodies!
Photo Credit: Elyse Hahne (Thanks for lending me a pic, Elyse!)
Look at all this loot!
Photo Credit: Sharon Wong (Thank you so much, Sharon!)
Speaking of sponsors, HUGE thanks go to Sanofi US, for being the Platinum Presenting Sponsor for the event, making the event possible.
Sanofi US logo
Many thanks for helping make this event possible!
It takes the generous support of a great many sponsors to make the building of such a "city" possible.  Here are those "FABlogCon City Boosters":
FABlogCon 2013 Sponsors
The event kicked off with a Welcome Party.  We were reminded of why many of us do what we do, as Jenny read a list of names of those we lost to food allergies, this year.  Jenny gave a speech, thanking everyone for sharing in her vision and marveling at the life everyone breathed into her dreams for a conference, such as this...Next, she introduced Nevada Senator Debbie Smith, who spoke about the process of getting Stock Epinephrine legislation passed, with the help of an organized and supportive group of people, including Caroline Moassessi of Grateful Foodie.  She told the crowd that SIX lives have already been saved, since the legislation was enacted.  The Senator was presented with flowers and "Thank You" cards from the local schoolchildren.
Senator Debbie Smith - Nevada
Senator Debbie Smith of Nevada
with Jenny Sprague
Next up was Dr. Eric Edwards, co-inventor (along with twin brother Evan) of the Auvi-Q epinephrine injector.  He gave an inspiring speech, noting that the assembly of passionate, dedicated individuals could bring about great change.

The evening was whirlwind of hugging, chatting and picture-taking (see slideshow at the end of this post).  I was pretty exhausted by the end of the party, being 2 hours out of my time zone (I am a sleepyhead, these days!)

I was so excited to have Jennifer Roberge, of The Eczema Company and Itchy Little World, as my roommate!  We're been friends online (she lives in Montreal, Canada and I live in Texas) and it was great to be able to meet her, in person.  Getting to just sit and talk to her, like besties on vacation, was wonderful.  
Jennifer Roberge, Selena Bluntzer
Jennifer Roberge & Selena Bluntzer - Roomies!
(Sessions will be covered in a separate blog post.  It's a lot to cover!) 

The second night we had the Wine & Sign Cocktail Party.  I packed some of my books and was happy to have them signed by the authors.  There were some books that I didn't have room for in my luggage and I was bummed.  It was another great evening, whiling the hours away, getting to soak up as much as I could of those I could manage to visit.

The final night allowed a spot of time to take Elizabeth Goldenberg (Onespot Allergy / EpiCenter Medical) and Jennifer Roberge to see "The Strip".  I was also happy that Lacy Wade (Making it Milk Free) and Sarah Hoskinson (Don't Feed My Monkeys) could join us.  We ate dinner at the Aria Buffet and then popped over to The Bellagio for a brief and lucrative stop at the roulette table for myself and Sarah!  It was a great ending to the trip.
Sarah, Lacy, Selena, Elizabeth, Jennifer
On Tuesday morning, I got to share a cab to the airport with Jennifer, and get just a little more time with her, which was great.  It was a simultaneously energizing, yet completely exhausting trip and I loved it!

Many heartfelt thanks to Jenny and Homa, for taking the helm and building us this "city" for us to commune and collaborate in, with others who share a common understanding.

Jenny Sprague, Homa Woodrum

Now, for the photo slideshow!