GoWest Canada 2.0

That moment when you realize it’s time to head back to Edmonton and partake in GoWest 2019 for their second annual conference for event planners! Brent and Arlene launched GoWest Canada in 2018 to create a place in which event planners and suppliers could connect and learn in Western Canada, as most larger events are held in Eastern Canada. Ashley attended GoWest 2018 and they put on a fantastic inaugural year, and we were sure to be a part of 2019.

2018 was a success with over 350 attendees, exceeding Brent and Arlene’s expectations. And you know what? They kicked it up a notch with over 500 attendees in 2019. That’s a 42% increase – WOWZA! And boy did they not disappoint attendees. They nailed all aspects and even Ashley felt like she wasn’t super missing out, while she went back to Vancouver with bronchitis – thank you Instagram!

A is out, K is up!

I was pretty stoked to be attending my very first out of town conference in Edmonton, AB for GoWest 2019! However, this being my first big show I’ve attended, I was nervous but knew Ashley had done this before, so was glad to have some guidance. Ashley flew in one day earlier than I, and wound up completely unable to attend any events, due to a bronchitis infection, so it was just me. Fantastic!

After I landed Monday afternoon, and saw Ash waiting for her plane, I headed to downtown Edmonton to get ready to attend the social event. While Ash was sitting waiting for her plane to take off, she noticed our trade show stuff wasn’t delivered – insert panic here. Back into an Uber and off to FedEx where they had the shipment ready for me to pickup. Crisis averted. Barely.  We should’ve known as soon as Ashley was sick and fully unable to attend the event, bad things were going to happen 😉

I finally made it to the social event around 7:30 PM. Just in time to taste some of the amazing fare they had to offer, and boy was I hungry after the day I had. Including but not limited to: – An East Coast Maritime Table with crab legs, prawns, crab cakes and much more, dirty safron infused rice with clams, shrimp and mussels,tomahawk steak being shaved off as we came through, a creamy cheesy pasta with shaved black truffle and two dessert tables. I had a chance, in my meager 30 minutes, to meet and chat with some of the ILEA ladies from the Edmonton Chapter who were such a hoot! Among other things not work related, we chatted about the shadow/text wall invert 720 Productions had set up that would project inspirational text as your shadow behind you. They even invited me back to a restaurant  of which I can’t for the life of me remember the name of, a bit further out for a few drinks, but I had my heart set on the CRAFT beer market.

I’m glad I declined the invitation because I was met with an open bar at CRAFT which was very welcome after the earlier near disaster with our trade show materials. The venue was perfect for a larger crowd. I ran into Julia from University of New Brunswick, whom Ashley was supposed to meet up with. They both attend the annual CUCCOA conference which happens this fall, so at least they’ll still get to catch up this year. We had a chat about work, life and how we felt bad that Ashley was missing out on free booze. Servers were also walking around with Hors d’oeuvres, all of which were also very good. I also met and had a long chat with a gentleman who does events from The Westin Calgary and we had a chat about the conundrum that was Fyre Festival, as I had watched the documentary on the way to Edmonton. I found it to be a fitting topic of conversation at a conference for leaders in the events industry, he hadn’t heard about it yet, but got a kick out of the story. Nearing the end of my night at CRAFT they were auctioning off things donated to the event one of which was a 4 night stay at a luxury hotel in Whitehorse. I ended up chatting with Coralie and Heather from the Yukon Convention Bureau. They were both very sweet and taught me a lot about our sometimes-forgotten province to the north. Once I found out Heather was from Cape Breton I was ecstatic as my dad is from Cape Breton as well.  Around 10:30 I packed it in and decided to head back to the hotel.

The morning of the Trade-Show portion of GoWest I woke up at 5:30 am, got in a great workout followed by a sauna at the Westin. Feeling like a million bucks, I ubered my two boxes of materials over to the Convention Centre and began to set up. Booth setup only took about 40-45 minutes, leaving me time to walk around for a bit. While I was waiting for everyone to show up I decided to indulge in some of the food that was set out for convention goers and exhibitors. There was a donut / pretzel wall which was brilliant; pirogi, onions and rice; and my favourite – mini eggs benny hash skillets. OH. MY. GAWD. they were amazeballs! Food and beverage at events never ceases to amaze me!

I didn’t get much of a chance to walk around the entire show room for too long, but among my favourite booths that I saw, was a company who was recording and producing peoples’ elevator business pitches and creating them into little commercials for people on the spot. The walls of their booth were full LED screens, and they had a full audio/visual team there helping out. Purdy’s chocolates had a large booth set up teaching people how to make liqueur infused truffles, which seemed to be a favourite for most of the people I spoke with. There was also a booth setup with VR headsets to give people a little glance into the world of Virtual Reality, I think VR has a huge potential to be big in the events industry in the future, its just about finding the perfect application to keep your event-goers engaged with eachother as well as enjoying the VR experience. After about 4 cups of coffee, 2 eggs benny hash’s and a donut, 12:30 pm rolled around pretty quick so I had to make my exit, to go and check out at the Westin. They were very accommodating and held my bags for me at the front desk while I went and packed up our booth. I slyly rolled our 50 lb box along with our 25 lb banner out of the conference centre on a flat bed, across the street to the Westin to be shipped and then brought the flat bed back.

Thus concludes my adventures at GoWest. With an 8 hour wait before my flight, and considering how much I enjoyed CRAFT beer market the night before, I decided to head back and relax with a few beers while doing a bit of planning for my vacation in Mexico in the following weeks. All followed up by the movie Glass at the theatre at Edmonton City Centre.

I think it’s worth mentioning that on the flights there AND back I had all three seats to myself, it was nice. I mean, how often does that happen? #score

I’m looking very forward to GoWest 2020 after seeing the amazing work Brent and Arlene did this year. Whatever will they have up their sleeves for the 2020 event? We can’t wait to find out.

And yes, we are going to put Ashley in a bubble before next year’s show to ensure no infections and she does actually attend. In the meantime, you can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. She will be at the CMEExpo in Toronto in August, CUCCOA in Calgary, AB this September and back to GoWest in early 2020. As for me, i’ll be at GoWest next year, and other local BC events throughout the rest of 2019!

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Lover of all things food, tech and fitness. I’m in the mountains or on a lake as much as I can be. On the weekends you’ll catch me working on projects, enjoying a beer and/or tripping somewhere in our beautiful province, not in any particular order. Favourite quote: “To appreciate the sun, you gotta know what rain is.” – J Cole