John and I attended the First Annual LA Cookie Con in Pasadena last weekend. We were invited as bloggers with the promise of lots of freebies, networking opportunities, and cake decorating sessions. We love Pasadena and normally go there 3 – 4 times a year, so we decided to make a weekend of it. We drove down on Saturday afternoon and checked into the Westin which was just lovely. Our room was on the 12th floor so we had a commanding view of the valley and surrounding mountains.
We set off on a leisurely walk towards Old Town. We wandered through the gardens and fountains behind our hotel, then on to City Hall where we saw several wedding parties with professional photographers, Quinceañeras, and even a model. After taking some photos ourselves, we continued on to Paseo Colorado for some antiques shopping before walking across the street to the Convention Center to see where we needed to be for the conference the next morning. We walked down Colorado Street and settled on dinner at Il Fornaio. Then we had a lovely dessert at Hello Gelato! It was so beautiful on our walk back to the hotel.
The next morning is when the chaos began. Despite the short walk from out hotel, we decided to drive because we thought we would have lots of stuff to carry back (that was only our first misconception of the day). We emerged from the parking structure to the end of a long line, so we got in it. I quickly realized that most of the people in line in ahead of us had bags and programs. I thought they’d walk through and hand them out. But soon, someone came back to the line to say we had to be in another line that all of the people ahead of us had already waited in. Without belaboring the point, we stood in 3 lines, as VIPs, before we were finally admitted. We arrived at 9:30 because they had a special breakfast planned for bloggers from 10 – 11 that we wanted to attend. Needless to say, the VIP lounge was not a lounge, just some curtained off booths, and the breakfast was never served. It was impossible to network because it was like being on a people mover – we were just pushed along. The few exhibitors I did hand my card to just looked at me queerly.
That was the VIP area – the rest wasn’t any better. There were far too many people to even try to take photos. Most of the exhibitors were caterers trying to generate business. Others were selling things. Most were not courting bloggers with the exception of Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs who are a great company that I featured here. The best part of the layout was the kids’ section that was relatively spacious with great snacks, face painting, and games.
After an hour and a half of standing in line, trying to navigate too many people in too-narrow aisles and too-small booths and having consumed too-small samples of nothing very interesting, we left with not much in our bags and no breakfast in our bellies. Surprisingly, we noticed they were charging for t-shirts on the way out. I never had the chance to meet up with my fellow blogger friends because it was impossible to find anyone in the chaos.
I was, at least, surprised to receive an e-mail message from the coordinator that acknowledged most of our concerns and promised to rectify them with a 2-day event next year. I really hope they make the changes they’ve promised but we aren’t planning to attend the 2nd Annual LA Cookie Con next year.