My First Trade Show

Wed – July 14, The Flight to Chicago

I just got back from Chicago. I went there to exhibit at the ACCI Show. The show took place from July 16 – July 19. There were over 1400 exhibitors! I was surprised by how huge it was. There is no way you could have gone through the entire show in one day. I doubt you could even stop by all the booths during the three days the show ran.

I took my mother in-law, Nancy, with me to help out in the booth. Nancy does all the artwork for my stickers. We left on wednesday. Our flight went out of LAX, my father in-law was nice enough to drive us to the airport. We were able to check in all of our bags with no trouble. I ended up taking all of the stuff for our booth with us instead of shipping it out before hand. I did this mainly because I did not have everything all ready in time to be able to ship it. I was a bit worried that they would charge us extra for the very heavy bags, but they didn’t. We got in line at the check point for bags you are taking on the plane. I was surprised by the length of that line. When the lady in front of us went through the metal detector, it went off. She had long black hair that was up in a pony tail with a clip. She proceeded to take the clip off, along with the majority of her hair and put it on the belt for the x-ray machine! It is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. The security worker said, “I have seen a lot of things working here, but never anything like that!”. This same lady had scissors in her bag that she forgot about putting there and ended up being checked with a hand wand.

The flight from LAX to Denver went well. I got to try out my new pink mini-iPod on that flight. I love it! It is so cute and is so easy to use. I love that it is so small that I can easily put it in my purse. I saw some other people on the flight with the portable CD players. After using my mini-iPod, they all looked so big and clunky. And, mine has over 700 songs stored on it. No way you could bring all those CDs on a plane with you. We arrived in Denver just in time for lunch. There was a Quiznos near the gate our connecting flight was leaving, so we ate lunch there. When we went to get on the plane to Chicago, the gate agent made me gate check my carry-on bag. It wouldn’t fit in the little bag check thing they had by the gate. I was really mad about that. There were a bunch of other people he let on that flight with bags the exact same size as mine. I thought about just taking off the gate check ticket and bringing it on with me anyway. But I didn’t, I went ahead and left it for them to load in with the other checked baggage.

Our flight went by uneventfully and we made it to Chicago with no problems. We went to baggage claim to get our bags. My gate checked bag was one of the first to come out, then we get 3 of the other 4 bags we checked. We wait and wait for the other one to come out, all the while I am getting a bad feeling that it is not going to be there. Finally, the send out an empty crate signalling the end of the bags. One of my bags was not on that flight! Of course it had a bunch of stuff I needed for the show and also had my brush, toothbrush and shampoo. I had to go talk to the baggage agent and he said it would most likely come in on the next flight or the one after and they would bring it to me at the hotel. But if it had been loaded on the wrong flight, it would take a day or so to get to me. We left him all of our contact information and went to get our rental car.

I had gotten directions off of mapquest to get from the airport to the hotel. The only problem was that where we picked up the rental car did not match where the map started! We got all turned around and ended up going the wrong way. I stopped at a gas station and got a map and directions from the attendant there. Finally we got on the right freeway headed to our hotel. By this time it was rush hour and we hit a lot of traffic. Our route took us by downtown Chicago and stop and go traffic. We finally got to our hotel about three hours after our plane had landed. I called to check on my bag and was told that it had arrived and would be delivered to my hotel by 10 pm. I called home to let them know we had finally gotten there and we then headed out to dinner. We went to the Outback Steakhouse. It was so good!

We got back to the hotel around 9:30 and I called the front desk to ask about my bag. It hadn’t arrive yet. They said they would call me when it was delivered. I kept waiting and waiting for it to get there. 10:00 came and went and still no bag. Finally, around 11 pm, the bag had finally arrived. I went down to the lobby to get it. At last, I was able to brush my teeth and go to sleep.

Thu – July 15, Setting Up for the Show

We slept in on Thursday, finally getting up around 9:15 am. We had breakfast in the hotel, which turned out to be very expensive! A bowl of cereal and some fruit for $7.95! We will not be eating there again. We asked for directions to the convention center and headed out. We were able to find it with no problems. But did have some problems figuring out where to go to park. The parking structure ended up being across the street from the convention center. It cost $11 to park! I knew I could get a parking pass for the weekend and asked the lady who took our money for the parking how to get the pass. She said we had to buy it inside from the RES service people. We parked and proceeded to get all the bags out of the car. We had three very heavy bags. Two of the bags had wheels and we were able to attach the other one to one of the bags that did have wheels.

There was a sky bridge that connected the parking structure to the convention center. We would discover later that the sky bridge was the long way around. Not knowing this, we set off down the sky bridge. It seemed to take forever dragging those heavy bags! After a very long time, and with us both huffing and puffing, we finally got to the registration desk. We got our badge holders and went in to find our booth. The place is a mess! There are fork-lifts going all over and boxes stacked everywhere. We locate our booth and see that it is in a great location. It is on a corner of one of the main aisles. We got to our booth around 11 am.

The first things we did was get the banner stand set up. We needed a large area to lay down the material so we could get it all put together. The problem was that the only place we could do that was the aisle and fork-lifts kept coming through that area. We kept having to move it to let the fork-lifts pass by. It was not very easy to get the poles set up to the right length. They had to fit in the material just right and it took use quite a while to get the adjusted correctly. Once we had them all set up and the banner stand moved to the correct place we sat down to make some additional sample layouts.

I had brought four sets of pictures and all the paper and supplies needed to turn them into four layouts. Nancy worked with one set of pictures to create her first layout every. It turned out really cute! I got the other three layouts done while she was working on that one. Once we had the layouts done, we needed to put velcro on the backs of everything we wanted to put on the banner stand. We had a roll of the self-adhesive hook material to put on the back of everything we put on the banner stand. We put up sample layouts, die-cuts, stickers, wire beads and eyelet letters. We also had a company banner made that we put on the banner stand as well. Due to a problem with where they shipped that banner, we ended up having two of them. We decided to put the other one on the table, but needed to figure out how to attach it. We took a few pictures of the booth and headed out. We almost forgot to get the parking pass and had to go back in to the RES service center to buy it. It was almost 3 pm by the time we got to Baja Fresh to have lunch.

When we got back to the hotel, I called my friend Maury who had invited us over for dinner. I have been on an email list with Maury since Talia was a baby. Maury has a child, Rose, the same age as Talia. Maury gave me directions to her house and suggested we go and check out the Frank Lloyd Webber house in a neighborhood near hers. We got in the car and drove over to the Oak Park neighborhood to find the Frank Lloyd Webber house. We drove around a lot in that neighborhood and saw a bunch of gorgeous houses. We never did find the Frank Lloyd Webber house though. It was getting close to diner time, so we headed over to Maury’s house. Maury lives in a gorgeous house built in the 1800’s. The architecture was of the house was fascinating! We had a great time talking with Maury and her husband and kids. Maury is a fabulous cook and made us a wonderful meal. It was after 9:00 pm when we finally left her house. Once we got back to the hotel, we called home and then went to sleep.

Fri – July 16, The Show Starts

The clock radio woke me up at 6:30 am. I recognized the song on the radio from contemporary christian station I listen to back home that is called The Fish. After listening to the station for a bit, I found out it was also “The Fish”. I noted the channel so I could put the car radio on the same station. I took a shower and got ready and we left for breakfast.

We decided to eat breakfast at a little pancake place called Pancake Ecetera. There weren’t very many people there, so we were a bit worried when we got there that it wouldn’t be very good. The restuarant has a big scale model train that runs all the way around the place. It is suspended from the ceiling and had over 30 cars. Aidan would have really loved watching that train. We ordered our breakfast and were quickly served. The food was great!

After breakfast, we went next door to a White Hen (something or other) that seems to be similiar to the 7-11 type stores we have out here. We wanted to get safety pins to use to attach the second banner to the table cloth. We bought our safety pins and headed to the convention center. We got to the convention center and decided to walk across the street instead of going all the way around with the sky bridge. It turned out to be much, much faster that way.

We got to our booth and attached the banner with the safety pins. I then walked around a bit and looked at some other booths. I saw that a number of them had items attached to the curtains between the booths. I didn’t think that was allowed, but since other people had done it we decided to attach samples of each of our papers on the curtain on the side of our booth.

About the time we got set up, people started pouring in to visit the exhibits. Everyone that walked by our booth commented on how cute the layouts were. We had a bunch of people stop by and say “Thank you for making twin products! I can’t tell you how many people come into my store looking for twin stuff.” We wrote a number of orders and had a lot of people tell us they would be ordering from us later.

After the show we went to dinner with another manufacturer that I “meet” online and her husband and friend. By the time we got back to the hotel we were exhausted! We called home and then went to sleep.

Sat – July 17, The Second Day of the Show

We ate breakfast at the same pancake house and drove over to the convention center. We got to our booth and got ready for another day. There didn’t seem to be as many people there today as there were on Saturday. We wrote about twice as many orders today though. Nancy and I took turns walking around the show and got to see some of the other company’s booths. There were way to many booths there to see everything. (Did I mention there was 1400 booths?) I also stopped by to see some of the other manufacturers that I knew from my website. That night we went to dinner with the same people as the night before and also with someone else from the website that is starting up a business.

Sun – July 18, The Last Day of the Show

We woke up early to make the 7 am mass and then we once again ate at the pancake house and headed to the show. We spent some time walking around looking for stuff to bring back to the kids. We got some cute stuff – some bookmarks, doll pens and blinkies. We got a number of more orders today as well. The show ended earlier today and we got busy breaking down the booth. It was much easier to take down than it was to put up! We got it down and was out of there in about an hour. We went out to dinner at an Italian restuarant recommended by the person working at the hotel front desk. It was very good, but the portions were huge! We were able to relax and watch a bit of tv before going to sleep.

Mon – July 19, The Flight Home

We got up early and checked out of the hotel. We decided to drive to Krispy Kreme’s to pick up donuts for the drive to the airport. We asked for directions from the guy at the drive-thru window and proceeded to get lost following them. After getting directions from two different toll booth operators, we get headed in the right direction. We ended up going back to the airport a different way than we came, which ended up being much faster. We got all checked in for our flight and find out it has been oversold. They ask for people to volunteer to give up their seats, but I’m in no mood to be stuck in Chicago! We make it to Denver where our flight is delayed about an hour. We finally get to LAX and get our bags. One bag ended up coming out in the over sized area. My FIL, Ron, picked us up at the airport and drove us home. I was so happy to see my family. I really missed them while I was gone.

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