Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bridal Fair 2009

In April my sister asked me to come home and help her with a Bridal Fair being held in our hometown. She has finally decided to take the dive and start making wedding cakes should the occasion come about. This was also her first official "advertisement" of her cake and cookie bouquet making for sale. Prior to this, all her business has been word of mouth only. A little bit scary, but exciting nonetheless. So, I spent about six weeks bombarding my poor guinea pig coworkers with cake experiments to obtain more feedback on the cake flavors my sister intended to sample at the Fair. Not that they complained any. Except maybe for the few extra pounds most of them were sure they were going to put on. Hey, totally not my fault. I asked for volunteers only. I never pried open their mouths and jammed the cakes down their throats! Anyhoo, out of the experiments I got a FABULOUS pina colada cake (used in the Luau Cake), a decent chocolate orange cake made better by further experimentation, and a, and I quote, "sexiest thing I've ever tasted" chocolate cake with raspberry cheese filling. I also found that Tres Leche cake, while rather yummy, is not a good cake for decorating. It's tough to decorate a cake that is basically wet, and sitting in a pool of liquid. But that's what the experiments were for.

Soon the weekend of the Fair arrived. I took the Friday before off, (since it was my sister's birthday), and Sweetpea and I rode home with my mom Thursday night, who was in town for a doctor's appointment. The plan was for my husband to come on Saturday so we would only have one car for the trip back. (Unfortunately my husband did not make it, since the roads ended up being closed for most of Saturday - surprise, surprise - but that's another story.) I helped my sister prepare Friday and into the wee hours of the morning Saturday morning. Unfortunately we had to be up early to set up at the Fair on Saturday morning, so staying up very late turned out to be a bad idea. Plus, it was quite some time after we got to the Fair venue before we were able to get any coffee. I'm such a bear in the morning without my daily coffee fix!! But sometimes that's just the way the cake crumbles. Here are the displays that she put together (I can't take credit, I just helped):

The cakes were actually cake dummies - MUCH easier to decorate. You can see the sample cakes behind the close up of the crystal cake. Which is a story all by itself. If you'll notice behind the red cake display there appears to be a kitchen area with an island. That's important, keep that in mind. When we got to the hotel where the Fair was being held, we were unhappy to find that the tables that were supposed to be set up for us weren't. My sister had requested one of the 20 foot tables. Instead there were two small, round tables set up. Not nearly enough space for everything we had to display. It took over half an hour to find the person in charge and get the mistake corrected, leaving us with little time to complete our set up. And when the appropriate people were located, and the mistake addressed, they acted like they had no clue why we could not set up two cake table displays, plus an area for business cards, pictures and information sign-up, plus an area for the samples AND an area for cutting the sample cakes, on two round banquet tables that would barely seat six people apiece. Gee, tough one to figure. After much debate, they agreed to change out our set up to what was actually requested.

So, after the problem was remedied, we still did not have a place to cut the sample cakes. Since they had set up our other tables to extend out in front of the kitchen area, we assumed that the island in that kitchen area would be free, and we could cut the cakes there. We placed the sample cakes and supplies on the island and grumpily went about setting up the rest of our display. Keep in mind that at this point, both my sister and I had been up for about 4 hours, with only about 4 hours of sleep and NO coffee. Not people who should probably be working a function where the sale of a product/services to the public is to take place. Soon, along comes a woman we had not seen before. We didn't know who this woman was, or what her position in the Fair was. As far as we knew, she was working somewhere in the Fair but was not one of the organizers. All of a sudden she said to me "You're going to have to clear off these cakes." She was referring to the sample cakes set up on the island. She was speaking directly to me, and did not see my sister standing behind her.

I just looked at her like she had demonstrated that she was a complete and total idiot, and said, "What?"

She said, "There is going to be a vendor set up in the kitchenette, so you will have to move these cakes." Excuse me? A vendor? Behind our booth? I just stood there looking at her like I was ready to murder her. Maybe not so far off, actually...

About that time my sister spoke up behind her, and said "Where exactly are we supposed to cut our sample cakes? We were told there would be room for that." The woman jumped as if my sister had punched her in the back of the head or something. She stood back to find my sister staring at her with the same murderous look on her face as I had. She mumbled something about getting us another table and scurried away as if she was running for her life. Ok, again, maybe not so far off.

We continued on with our set up until one of the organizers of the Fair appeared at our booth. She said she would bring another table for us to set up the cakes on, but that it would have to be behind our booth in order to not further block the vendor that would be set up in the kitchenette. Ok, fine, WHATEVER! My sister just told her to bring the table. It didn't occur to us at all that "behind our booth" meant dead center in front of the complimentary coffee bar offered by the hotel for their guests. Once the first person came to get coffee, and reached over our cakes in the process, I gritted my teeth and once again went after the organizers, informing them that THIS was NOT going to work and they needed to FIX IT NOW. It was only a few seconds before the contents of the entire coffee bar had been moved to a spare counter in the kitchenette.

Unfortunately all this nonsense put us incredibly behind in our set up, and we did not finish with the cutting of the sample cakes until half an hour after the Fair had begun. Luckily, traffic in the Fair was very light for the first hour or so. Unluckily, the total turnout was much less than we had anticipated, and the confirmed appointments my sister received far fewer than we had hoped. It is unlikely she will participate in this particular Fair next year, should they choose to have it. It doesn't seem worth the entrance fee. Though I must admit that once the beginning fiasco was straightened out, the Fair became very interesting. We had a few perplexing questions from Fair patrons that we just weren't sure how to answer. My favorites included: "So what is it your business does?" and "Do you make wedding cakes?" Nope, these decorated cakes and cake samples are just for show. We're actually a "make your own crystal and candles" business on a crusade to put Mikasa and Salt City Candles out of business.... Seriously? I mean come on people!

Just another demonstration of my belief that common sense is really not so common.

No comments: