As a fiber arts vendor, I'm finding that the days of vendor dinners and vendor perks are gone. The last few years it's been more like "here's your booth in the furthest corner we could find and if you want heat or air conditioning, there's an extra fee." With few exceptions, the "thank you" attitude is gone and the "give us money, more money" attitude reigns supreme. That's why you will find that I am not going to be attending some of the events this year that I have in the past. Vendors are used, abused, and just flat out unappreciated.
The Georgia FiberFest, however, is completely different. I've become personally involved with the promotion of this event because this is one show that is built around expanding and nurturing the fiber arts community with a genuine sincerity. Sure, there's money to be made from every angle, but this event is about bringing people with a love of handcraft together to learn new things, meet new people, and just have a really, really good time!
On that note, every year, the organizers of the Georgia FiberFest, Sharon Bogenshutz and Karen Cross, arrange for a catered dinner for the participants of the event that tops any fiber event that I know I have ever attended (and that certainly includes Stitches South and all its many questionably coordinated after-hours events). The dinner always includes a speaker with whom everyone, no matter their crafty preferences, can relate and benefit. This year, as I've mentioned in a previous post, the speaker is Pam Powers. You can go to the Georgia FiberFest website and find out all about her or read my previous post or make a visit to her Revelry pages. But, to be honest, that's not what this post is about. This post is about food, because when you go to an event like this one, an event that is out-of-town for pretty much everyone who attends, vendors and visitors alike, there's always that issue about food. We are all comfortable with what's local where we live, but throw an out-of-town trip into the mix and, well, sometimes the most adventurous thing about your journey is finding a place to eat that doesn't turn your stomach. I hate going somewhere, spending an uncomfortable amount of money for food, and then it turns out to be gross, you know? Last year, the night before a show, I stopped at what I recall now as a sketchy little Chinese restaurant off the highway, you know how one does, just to get something quick that's a change from fast food. There was so much MSG in that food that the overnight and following day result was a sickness so intense that I am sure that I very nearly didn't survive that dining experience. I don't like to dine out when I travel.
That's one of the reasons why I like this event so much. They make it possible for you to eat food that won't kill you dead. Not only are there great restaurants within walking distance of the convention center, but Sharon and Karen have consistently made the effort every year to provide a catered meal to alleviate some of that anxiety about where and what to eat. The food is always fabulous! This year I expect it to be no different. They've stepped away from the traditional venue catering (even though it was pretty fabulous last year!) and hired their own chef. By that, I do not mean that they hired their own executive chef from a corporate catering company. Nay, nay! They've hired a chef out of his own restaurant to cater a very complex dinner for us (and by "us" I mean anyone who wants to make a reservation and have a seat).
Chef Keating's restaurant, Epic, is rated with 5 stars on Yelp.com, and is considered to be the best dining experience in Columbus. But we aren't eating in his restaurant. Nay, nay! We are dining at the RiverMill Event Center. Not only do we have the best chef in Columbus catering for us, but he is doing it in an historic building with a riverfront vista. I'm told that Chef Keating, his wife, and staff have bent over backward to accommodate our wishes for the Georgia FiberFest. You don't get that at any ol' fiber festival.
To make your reservations, go to the Georgia FiberFest website or click here: dinner. The dinner may seem a bit pricey, but it's really only about $5 more than last year and did I mention it includes a top-notch speaker? As well, there are menu options for gluten-free and vegetarian diners. If you live somewhere like Atlanta, you know that it's going to cost you that much just to walk in the door to an event like this, let alone pay the valet to park your car, but the other perk is that you don't even have to drive! Sharon and Karen have hired a shuttle so that you can park at the Convention Center and be chauffeured to and from the dinner.
Oh, but that's not the best part. The BEST part is that there are PRIZES!! Every year, the vendors donate items from their booths, and before the dinner concludes, MANY, MANY lucky diners go home with some really superb gifts. I will be donating a few goodies from my own shop, and you will certainly want a chance to win those!
Alright, so now I'm off to dye an insane amount of yarn for a custom order, but I hope that you will explore the dinner option because, well, I'm going to be there in the company of some of the best handcrafters in the South, and we would love to share a meal with you!