Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tasting The Town, Christmas Parades, & Victorian Festivals

Since last time we've finished a promotional campaign for the bakery. We started with a newspaper advertisement promoting "free cupcake day." Next was Taste of the Town, organized by the Chamber of Commerce (which the bakery had joined). I'd never even heard of this event. It's held in a local mall. It turns out to be a big social event. Businesses (mostly food establishments) set up booths in a local mall. People pay $15 to get in. In return they get to sample food from the various booths. They also had wine and beer (free with the entry fee). At the end there's a charity auction. The event was held on a Sunday evening. The ladies did a great job with the booth decoration. Before hand we had made a bunch of cookies and cake balls for samples. I set up a flat screen TV to run slides of some of the cakes we've sold. The event was well attended. A few people (I wasn't one of them) had really taken advantage of the beer and wine. One lady that showed up at our booth was uttering profanity, saying how good our product was, while she stuffed her pockets with samples. One of the Chamber of Commerce employees dropped by before the auction started to tell us that our booth had won the best of show award. It was great to be recognized. Nina was very happy. They called us out on stage to receive the award at the start of the auction.

Next up was the local Christmas parade. We decided to make a giant cupcake for the parade. I was in charge of building the support structure. It took me about a day to build. It was made out of wood. The central structure was 2x4s. Surrounding this was a series of octagons made out of smaller diameter wood which gave the cupcake its form. Plastic chicken wire was stapled to the outer frame. The plan was to paper mache the exterior. Things didn't go quite as planned. The bottom part of the cupcake sloped inwards, so the paper mache would fall off. Nina and Ms Gracia quickly came up with an alternate plan which ended up working quite well. The bottom part (the cup) was made out of a metal coated plastic insulation material, stapled to the frame. The top part (the icing) was made of flexible plastic tubes stuffed with paper then wrapped around the frame. Large purple Christmas tree ornaments were hung on the icing as sprinkles. One of Nina's friends drew a couple of logos for the sides. We threw a large bow on top. The cupcake had a maximum diameter of over six feet. The total height must have been around seven feet. The interior was lit up with a bright work light which gave the cupcake a glowing effect that looked really cool. We loaded up the cupcake at the front of a trailer (everyone got a kick out of seeing me walking the cupcake from the inside), decorated the trailer and my brother in law Jesse's truck, threw some blankets and kids wearing pajamas in the back half of the trailer, and called it good. A generator was loaded in the back of the pick-up to power all the lights and the outdoor speaker which was playing Christmas music. The parade was another big event. The were 120 floats. The route was packed with people. Nina and her mother in law were in front, carrying the bakery's banner. I was driving the truck, with my mom in the passenger's seat. The kids were in the back of the trailer, and a couple of other people were walking next to the trailer waving and throwing candy. Driving slowly down Texas City's main drag I could see the kid's eyes get big when they first saw the giant cupcake. Many asked if it was edible. We walked away with a trophy for the most original float.

The most recent event was Dickens On The Strand. This is a two day event held on Galveston Island, a 15 minute drive from Texas City. The event is located in the old part of Galveston (called the Strand), which is filled with buildings built during the 1800s. Several blocks are cordoned off to traffic. The idea is to create a Victorian England era atmosphere. People are walking around in top hats and elegant dresses, there are beggars dressed in rags, and police walking around with billy clubs. There are a variety of mini events held over the course of the festival, including a parade, Victorian bed races, magic shows, juggling shows, and puppet theaters. We had a booth set up to sell cake balls, cookies, and muffins. I was pretty familiar with this event, having attended on multiple occasions as a kid. Back then I played the part of a beggar / pick pocket. I remember being offered $20 to lie down in horse poop once (I did it). This time I played the part of a merchant, wearing a top hat, tie, and pants I'd picked up at Goodwill. Nina and her helpers were dressed as bakers while I drew in people by walking around with a plate of samples speaking in an English accent and occasionally saying funny things. One of Nina's helpers called me the "cake ball hustla." I had always liked Dickens because it was a chance to act in a role. Acting was something I've enjoyed in the past but haven't really pursued. Dickens was an outlet for it. I think people enjoyed my act. Some of them requested pictures with me. I have to say being a beggar was more fun than being a merchant, though I enjoyed both.

Although it was a lot of work the campaign and store front seems to have paid off. November sales were more than double the previous monthly sales record and Nina hired a third employee. I'm enjoying a short break now. I think Nina and her cohorts are planning some more events. I heard her say something about me dressing up as Santa and decorating the Buffalo as a sleigh.

Other than the bakery I've continued kayaking. I finished exploring Moses Lake. The eastern end, the last part I visited, proved to be the most interesting. It's a dense marshland of grass, with a maze of narrow channels (barely wide enough for the Pelican) and hidden lagoons. Many times I'd round a bend to discover a lagoon filled with waterfowl. Having seen all of Moses Lake I've moved north to explore the next bayou. My most recent solo trip was out of Dickenson Bayou. I headed out of the bayou into Galveston Bay, visiting an island made entirely out of sea shells. Most recently I took my nephew Cortez out on a trip with me. He really enjoyed it. The photo at the top is of Cortez on the Pelican in a backyard pool.

Nina's slacked off on her running. Between the bakery, kids, and a Thankgiving trip her family took she hasn't had a lot of time. We had worked up to a 40 minute run. We both forgot about the 5k run we were training for. Hopefully we'll have some time this week to get going again. I bought plane tickets to Oregon for the week after Christmas. I'll be there for six days. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone up there. Photos are here.

1 comment:

frank5a said...

Thanks for another good story Victorio!

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