Tis the season! While there were no large conventions in December (it's really not a good month for them - and for good reason!), there were a number of holiday events I had the opportunity to participate in. As I never got the chance to do individual write-ups for each of them, lets spend a few paragraphs to chat about the Dammit Liz Holiday Special, the Child's Play Dinner Auction, and Epic Foods.
The Dammit Liz Holiday Special
Ah, the Dammit Liz Holiday Special--full of familiar faces, great music, good laughs and light-up dinosaurs. I've been helping out with Dammit Liz shows as one of her Darnit Interns for a while now, and it's something I really love being a part of. I wasn't able to contribute as much as I wanted to this year, but I'm hoping to be involved in a larger capacity in the future.
Dammit Liz Productions is run by its namesake, Liz Smith, who stumbled onto a mild celebrity status as an event coordinator by working with people like Wil Wheaton and Paul and Storm. Now organizing fun, nerdy events is her full-time gig. She specializes in variety shows like this one, which featured such acts as Kyle Stevens (the frontman of Kirby Krackle), the Doubleclicks (favorites of mine!), and The Super Guitar Bros. Also featured was Joseph Schrimshaw, a presentation by the women behind #VandalEyes, the puzzle-making styling of Mike Selinker, and surprise performance by a Puppet Improv Troup!
This year at her holiday show, I was able to contribute by providing set pieces on the stage (namely, the Christmas-Tree center-stage!), and by organizing the toy drive. The Christmas Tree belongs to my family - we delayed putting it up for a couple days in order to utilize it for the Holiday Special. I was able to get it to and from the venue by tapping my favorite resource for little helper elves - my little brother and his truck. It was actually really pleasant have my little brother and sister there to help tuck the tree back into it's box during tear-down.
I organized the toy drive by researching and narrowing down local charities, and after contacting a couple we chose Wellspring Family Services as the recipient of our gifts. I would highly recommend working with them in the future. Josh, their Donor Relations Director, was a proactive contact and great to work with. I decorated a cardboard box as a collection box, and my job during the show itself was to hang out near the box and hand out raffle tickets in exchange for donated toys. Afterwards, I tasked my little brother (again!) with bringing the toys to Wellspring during their business hours.
Now, we didn't get as much toy donations as we were hoping. The reason being - and by far my biggest take-away lesson from all this - was we didn't market the toy drive nearly as much as we needed to. In my opinion, we needed to have made sure the toy drive was a part of nearly all of our marketing communications, blog posts, tweets. It won't be as bad next year, of course. Dammit Liz Productions get a TON of repeat attendees, so the people who were here this year are likely to remember to bring a toy next year!
Child's Play Dinner Auction
The Child's Play Dinner Auction is an annual charity event that raises money for Child's Play by inviting the largest local names in the game industry, feeding them a nice meal and then proceeding to pit their wallets against each other in a battle for the best gaming-related item lots in existence.
I have been volunteering at this event since it's inception in 2004, and each time helping out in a different, small way. They need volunteers to set-up the event, for registration, for watching the lots during the silent auction, for processing transactions and retrieving the lots for the winners, and other small tasks that need to be done.
I was a late addition this year, and wasn't able to commit to arriving until 4pm (doors open at 6.) So, I was given the task of co-running the Coat Check with another Enforcer who goes by the name of CortanaV. The first thing we did was to arrange our station: we requested and had stations put up around the area, and added one more coat rack (which is great that we did, because we end up using all of them!). Then, we split our duties: Cortana would accept the coats and present guests their ticket, and I would hang the coat up. We ended up being a little understaffed - we were swamped!
A strange thing happened after our coat check station got overly busy: I experienced this sort of tunnel vision. My life for about ten minutes there was coat--> hanger--> rack--> repeat, and this tunnel vision was bad enough that I didn't realize how backed up the line for the coat check was
getting. Luckily, other extremely reliable volunteers saw what was happening, and sent a handful of extra bodies from registration across the lobby. With a team of two now a team of five or six, we were able to actually keep up the demand for hanging up coats.
Picking up the coats at the end of the evening was much easier - I sent out the call for any extra hands to come to coat check, so we started out staffed with a good amount of people. Also, the
organizers introduced a new part of the dinner - a sort of after-hours reception with live music (The Doubleclicks - I LOVE THEM) which meant more people stayed into the evening longer. So, there was no rush to pick up coats, but more of a steady stream over an hour or two.
This may seem like a small, somewhat insignificant aspect of the overall Child's Play Dinner Auction, but I have always found that it's the little details that tend to be important the day of the event if you want things to go smoothly. So, as always, I have tucked away the lessons learned and reinforced through working coat check, and will be better prepared in the future for a similar need.
There is an event that happens once a year for the past several years, and has developed into traditional Holiday gathering for the Enforcer community. (As a reminder - the Enforcers are the volunteers of PAX.) It is put on by a good friend of mine, UberBeth, who spends the week leading up to it making an (amazing) holiday feast for about 100 of her closest friends. The day of the event has a volunteer kitchen staff of about five friends who work to prepare the dinner to serve it buffet-style by early-evening
There's turkey and ham, lasagna, mashed potatoes, potato salad, stuffing, candied yams, fruits and vegetables, and many, many pies. It's a ton of really good food, served in good company. I spent a lot of my time there playing games and catching up with a ton of old friends.
This event used to be held in people's houses -but it outgrew itself very quickly. Finding a venue for an event like this is tough, because most event venues require you to either use their internal catering (and to purchase a minimum amount in food and beverages), or to use the catering companies they have partnered with. This event is entirely about Beth cooking food for her friends, though - so it's all about finding a venue that both has a kitchen and would allow us to use it.
So, for the past two years we have been renting the Doric Masonic Lodge in Fremont. It's just the right size for us (it can fit over 100 people in its main room, banquet-style, with a buffet table) and
has the added bonus that one of the Masons there is also an Enforcer.
My role in this event itself was minimal - I stepped in at the last minute to create signage for the food that lists allergens and whether something was vegetarian or vegan, as well as some various other signage around the lodge. The materials for these were scavenged from my parent's house -- making nice-looking signs is significantly easier when your mother has a fully-stocked craft room.
The Doubleclicks weren't at this one. :( (BUT THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN TOTALLY WELCOME.)
So, while these three events were all that happened in December - the interesting thing to note was that they all happened within 6 days of each other! The Holiday Special took place on Monday the 2nd, the Dinner Auction on Thursday the 5th, and Epic Foods on Saturday the 7th.
The next big events I have are scheduled in March - I will see you then!