Today was the last day for Chicago Spring Fling, and have been surprised on a number of occasions. Some people were exactly like what I was expecting and some nearly brought a tear to my eye with their generosity and warmth.
Friday was the first day of Chicago Spring Fling and the attendees were greeted with open arms by the Chicago Botanic Garden. I wasn't able to make that event because I was waiting for some packages to arrive in time for me to hand the items to the garden bloggers. During the day Denise Corkery of the Chicago Botanic Garden sent me email updates about the group when they had been picked up by the private shuttle and while they visited the gardens. They created a page just for attendees of Chicago Spring Fling and posted a group photo they took of most of the group.
That morning I got an unexpected surprise from Sue Markgraf of GreenMark Public Relations. Just a couple of days prior she had heard of Spring Fling and arranged for Colleen Lockovitch to be available to answer questions garden bloggers may have while visiting the Lurie garden. Colleen Lockovitch is the director and horticulturist of the Lurie garden and I'm deeply disappointed I didn't get a chance to meet her but I'm glad many of our visitors got a chance to do so.
Free Hug Friday
I arrived at the site of the dinner/reception as the group was leaving the Lurie and set out to fill the gift bags. I was waiting for some packages to arrive last minute so I missed out on earlier festivities, but the reaction of several garden blogger to the gift items we got made it all worthwhile. Since I was late I was prepared to do all the giftbag work by myself, so I was pleasantly surprised when Diane, Beth Botts & Monica got to work and helped move the gift items from boxes into the gift bags. You don't expect guests to show up ready to work- so a big thanks goes out to them.
Lainey & Fallon from Edelman Public Relations were also early arrivals & guests who went to work putting together the gift bags full of gardening items. They were there to represent The Scotts Miracle Gro company and the GroGood campaign, who sponsored Chicago Spring Fling, to raise awareness about growing food this year for the needy. I'd met Lainey before when I was invited to attend the dedication ceremony of a new community garden in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Before the reception started and garden bloggers were let into the room, they approached me after seeing some name badges and made it known that they didn't have to be in attendance and would be ok with leaving if their presence would be a distraction or cause problems with some of the garden bloggers who have been pretty critical of the company they represent. Being sponsors and having paid, like everyone else, to dine-I insisted they stay and gave them the option of sitting together at a table or splitting up so they could talk to more people about the GroGood campaign and how important the issue is this year. They chose to sit together in a corner of the room at the table that typically gets filled w/strangers or your weird cousin at these kinds of events.
When all the bags were filled with gifts (thanks to the help of these wonderful folks) we let the garden bloggers into the room and they sat around and continued the conversations they were having from earlier in the day. Once everyone was seated I made my way to the tables and introduced myself. At the second table I stopped at I was greeted with a hug by Kylee and this nervous wreck just about lost it and started crying. When I finally got around to the table were Chris & Katie from GardenPunks were seated I was the recipient of yet another hug and I was having trouble holding it back so I had to cut that convo short and make it to my table before my mascara started running. One day when my mind isn't occupied we'll have to delve into the reason why Katie thought I'd been incarcerated before. Yeah, you read that right.
At the table for the misfits and randoms; Lainey, Fallon, myself (the weird cousin) and Garden Girl were joined by Ben Helphand of NeighborSpace who was there to tell the group about the organic community garden we would be visiting the next day. We had an awesome conversation about brands and the relationships they develop with bloggers and just how transparent bloggers should be when they form these relationships. I guess I've let television and my interaction with some "marketing" departments pollute my view of the industry and their connections to bloggers. We talked about several things but mostly our conversations revolved around blogging ethics, is there such a thing? Should there be such a thing? And what happens to a blog that becomes a dumping ground for giveaways and press releases. Hopefully the Chicago gardening ideas Ben & I talked about come to fruition and I can be a part of them or help in some way.
I'm particularly grateful that Beth Botts was a part of Chicago Spring Fling and made herself available to garden bloggers and shared the wealth of her gardening information and Chicago history. Beth, if you ever need a second pair of hands or help in some way with a project you're working on I owe you three days of helping in any way I can. Professor Jane S. Smith was there to sign copies of her book The Garden of Invention. It isn't every day that I get a chance to rub elbows with a Pulitzer Prize nominee so I was especially geeked that she was there, but I forgot to ask her to sign my book. Professor Smith volunteers at the Lincoln Park Conservatory so maybe I'll get a second chance to get that book signed in the near future.
Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors we were able to give away some awesome items. Our giftbags included:
Seeds and a couple of garden cook books from ReneesGarden.
Seeds and mouse pads from Botanical Interests.
Garden Gloves from EthelGloves for all the garden bloggers in attendance. They've also provided a coupon code for anyone who would like to order extra gloves. Just enter "BROWNTHUMB10" into the "Discount Code" field on any of the screens at checkout. The code is good through June 6 & 10% off your purchase. Just to be clear; I don't get anything from you using this coupon code, I think Angela just named it "BROWNTHUMB10" because when she made it up she and I were emailing each other a lot with arrangements for CSF so I guess it was easy to name it that.
A few $50.00 gift certificates from GardenShoesOnline.
A shirt, book and buttons from YouGrowGirl.
Troy-Bilt® was another sponsor of Chicago Spring Fling and as part of their sponsorship they each garden blogger a garden journal. They also generously gave away a Super Bronco ™ CRT garden tiller valued at over $600.00!!!!!
Chicago Honey Co-Op gave us enough lip balms to hand out to every attendee and a few personal beauty products made from their urban apiary here in Chicago. They also have a blog about the bee farm those products came from.
Proven Winners grew a Supertunia® Vista Silverberry for each of the participants. It has a wonderful scent and
Layanee was nice enough to get us gift certificates from www.Garden-Guys.com for free bags of organic fertilizer for every garden blogger. The same offer was then extended by her to the community garden we toured on Saturday. As a Chicagoan, I was really touched by that. Thank you Layanee and I'm sorry I never got around to talking about those.
Cindy also got us a few items from The Houston Chronicle. I'm sorry we couldn't use those bags but we already had one from one of our sponsors but I'll put mine to good use. And thank you very much for the poppy seeds, I love them even though I haven't sown a single one. They are one of my favorite flowers.
Leslie gave out hand made Christmas ornaments to commemorate the event and had one for everyone one.
Anneliese from CobraHead brought a long a few CobraHead garden tools that we were able to raffle off.
Garden Girl secured a $25.00 gift certificate from Gardens Alive that we raffled off.
On Sunday I learned that on Friday people were giving out "free hugs" at Millennium Park, I guess the universe knew it was one of those days.
"T" is for thank you, tipsy & Troy-Bilt
On Saturday we visited the Bayless urban/edible garden and I don't think my words could do the garden justice, so I'm going to make a photo post about Chicago Spring Fling and include that tour in there. Along with photos from the Ginkgo Organic Community Garden that grows food for the needy in Chicago.
A big thanks to the four wonderful women who blog at My Skinny Garden, Garden Girl, Lake Chicago Shores & Sweet Home And Garden. I appreciate your honesty, dedication, drive, selflessness and the respect you showed me and your fellow members of the organizing committee during the process. People who attended the event will never know just how much you put into this and every single little thing you helped arrange & every whim you indulged. That you all did so much without once having to make sure the spotlight was shining on you says a lot about the people who raised you, the people you've raised and the people you will raise in the future. They say that you're judged by the company you keep and I'd be honored if I could call you all my friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thanks to all the people who attended Chicago Spring Fling. When we started organizing this we didn't know the response would be so big. We thought the state of the economy would mean just a handful of people showing up and were surprised at just how many people turned out to spend time with friends and visit some gardens. We hope you got your money's worth, and then some.
Thank you to the Chicago Botanic Garden (Denise Corkery in particular) for being sponsors and making sure everything went well with the group visit.
A few people made it a point to personally approach me and thank me for being part of the committee that helped organize Chicago Spring Fling. If at that time you got the impression I didn't appreciate the gesture, I'd like you to know that wasn't the case. 1) I'm not good at meeting new people, 2) For as much as I run off at the keyboard I'm really bad at trying to make conversation. Being part of this has taught me that the words "thank you" have so much value--I hope to carry that with me in my personal life forever and I have you to thank for that.
We tried to make Saturday's dinner as easy as we could. We chose a restaurant close to the hotel so everyone could attend and make it back to the hotel at night, and we made the cost as reasonable as we could. Thinking we had planned for everything to go smoothly so people could linger and talk afterward and have all those conversations about blogging people were so sure they were going to want to have-we were so pleased with ourselves. At the end of the night some items that were not part of our dinner package had been ordered. Garden Girl made an announcement that people who had ordered them should figure out the cost of those items including the crazy tax we have in Chicago and the tip. That's when things threatened to get ugly and the grumbling started and some comments were made, some barely audible-- but we heard them. Barbara Hastings, who was there representing Troy-Bilt, perhaps sensed the coming frustration of one person doing math on a paper napkin and picked up the added cost that wasn't part of our agreement with the restaurant and saved the night. Thank you Barbara and thank you Troy-Bilt for all the support.
On Sunday, the last day, the last event for Chicago Spring Fling was a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory. Words don't do the place justice so I'll include pictures of that visit in another post.