PART 1 of this two part blog entry covered the trip down to EGGtoberfest XVI including the trip, the venue, the hotel and the Meet and Greet on the first night. I went into some of this background information, because I am guessing EGGtoberfest will return to this same venue next year. This blog entry will cover the main event EGGtoberfest XVI on Saturday October 12, 2013. Like PART 1, I have divided this entry into categories so that you can jump around to particular area of interest to you. I have also tried to include some background information to help out any of you who plan to attend next year for the first time. I am hardly an expert yet myself, but I did learn some things worth sharing.
Background: The way this events work is there are about 300 Cooks, 2 per Egg, cooking on 150 Large Big Green Eggs for 3,000 plus Tasters. The BGE company provides new Large Big Green Eggs for use by the Cooks along with a Plate Setter, Grill Gripper, Ash Tool, Fire Starters & Charcoal. The Cooks, who pay around $60 for their tickets, bring their own food. The Tasters pay $40 for their tickets and just bring an appetite. The Cooks are allowed to arrive early and get started before the gates open to the Tasters at 9:00AM. The event runs from 9:00AM-5:00PM. The Eggs are shut down at 3:00PM to allow them to cool down before they are distributed to folks who have pre-purchased these once-used Eggs at a reduced price. The Tasters can vote for the best recipe and there are prizes and bragging rights associated with this. There is also a large tent set up which serves as a company store, which is said to have all of the current Eggcesories available for purchase. Another even larger tent hosted the folks from Dizzy Pig Spices, who have partnered with the BGE Company to produce a line of BGE branded spices. They were serving up food off of many BGEs and answering questions. In the same area as these two tents was a smaller tent which could hold around 75 people that served as a stage for cooking demos. The Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen, a catering trailer with an Egg built in was parked on site. In the area housing the Cook’s tents, there was also a very small stage for the musical entertainment. There were also soft drink/water stations located in several places as well as beer stations. More on much of this below.
Originally the first EGGtoberfest was a way for the company to thank their loyal users in the Atlanta area. Less than 100 people attended the first one. Sixteen years later some of that original spirit remains, but the EGGtoberfest is also a brilliant marketing device for the company. One of the things you hear all of the time is the best way to sell someone a BGE is to cook them some food on it. So the BGE company gives some of their biggest fans and best cooks the tools to basically help the cooks sell the Eggs for them. These cooks aren’t given talking points to help sell the Eggs. They are there because they love what they can do with their BGEs. They just naturally evangelize the products and are unofficial unpaid sales people for the BGE. The Tasters mingle with all of the other Tasters and also evangelize the Egg. You can’t buy that type of loyalty and enthusiasm and the BGE company both rewards it and uses it at the same time. Several times while I was sitting at a cooling/rest tent enjoying a drink, I’d strike up a conversation with a fellow Egghead only to have someone new to the Egg or a potential buyer jump in with questions. Dealers often have their own local Eggfests or send potential buyers to regional Eggfests. I saw this in action myself. I ran into 6 different couples and one wife, all there to evaluate the BGE. In the case of the wife, her husband wanted an Egg and paid for her ticket. Everyone (myself included) were telling them how great the Egg was. All of the people I talked to loved what they tasted and heard. They ALL said they were going to buy Eggs when they got back home. All and all it is a brilliant marketing event that is a Win on several levels for all of the parties involved.
Saturday dawned with a forecast of sunny with highs in the low 80’s and not too humid. I lucked out because all four days of our Atlanta stay had this kind of weather. Because we were near a mountain there were some low hanging clouds/fog around early in the morning. The clouds had pretty much burned off by 9:00 AM when EGGtoberfest was scheduled to start. There were two different routes to get there and I was surprised to find the route that looked shorter, actually took more time. I am not sure of the reason for that, perhaps the speed limits. But a hotel employee assured me this was the case. When I made an iMap on my iPad sure enough, the “shorter route” took 20 minutes, while the “longer” route took about 15 minutes. Things were very well organized: Once you got to within a mile of the site there were police stationed at the various road intersections. When you got to the Yellow Daisy Festival Parking Lot (the site) there were BGE employees directing you to where they wanted you to park. The parking lot was huge, with half of it serving to park cars and the other half to hold EGGtoberfest itself. There was extra room in back of the EGGtoberfest portion of the site, so it looks like there is more than enough future growth potential. The area for EGGtoberfest was fenced off on four sides with a gate in the middle of the side facing the parking lot. I arrived around 8:45 and found the line already stretched from the entry gate to one corner of the long fence, then around the corner and half way down the length of the second side. The gate opened on time at 9:00AM and here was one area where they might want to work to make things a little smoother. At the Meet and Greet the night before, attendees were given green wristbands which we were told not to lose because they would be used for EGGtoberfest. At the gate several employees were checking to see if people had wrist bands or tickets, and then they were sending them through to a tent 50 feet (15 m) ahead where 6-8 employees were checking ID’s and tickets or wrist bands. There was some confusion here about whether people with wrist bands needed to have their photo IDs checked again. In these times I understand the need for security at an event like this drawing thousands of people. But, next year whatever procedures are in place should be communicated to all parties concerned BEFORE the show starts, not when the gates first open. After getting checked in you headed slightly behind and to the left to a tent where you picked up your EGGtoberfest T-Shirt and Swag Bag. Your wrist band got rubber stamped twice to show you had received your goodies.
The Swag Bag: The EGGtoberfest XVI T-shirt was well made and an attractive keepsake of the event. The Swag Bag was a BGE branded, black, insulated cooler bag. There was a chamber on top to hold the small plastic bricks you can buy at the supermarket to store in your freezer and then put in a cooler (or this bag) when you go out. In the bottom chamber were some more BGE branded products. In the list below I will use a letter to key them into the pictures just below the list.
a) EGGtoberfest T-Shirt
b) Cooler Bag
c) BGE refrigerator magnet
d) BGE shaped wall mounted green metal bottle opener
e) Metal BGE bottle opener for a keychain (are we seeing a reoccurring theme here?)
f) Package of BGE shaped citronella candles
g) BGE foam glass holder (glass not included)
h) Current edition of BGE Lifestyle magazine
i) Current edition of BGE Lifestyle magazine
- Vote sheet for best cook/recipe (not shown)
- Site map / list of speakers for the Demo Stage tent (not shown)
- Drink tickets (not shown See TIP 1 below)
Not a bad haul at all!! I have mentioned several times in both EGGtoberfest blog entries that the origins were a way for the BGE Company to thank it’s loyal users. When you look at the T-Shirt and the Swag Bag and add in food and drinks, and classes, $40 for a Tasters ticket is not unreasonable at all. I am not silly enough to think the BGE Company is taking a loss on this, but I am guessing they are probably breaking even or turning a slight profit. When you factor in all of the positive PR and good will they get out of this event I am sure it is a Win for everyone.
EGGtoberfest Tip 1:
If you are like many people, you will want to head straight back to your car with your Swag Bag. You can leave it there, rather than carry it around all day. Be sure to look inside for the drink tickets which buy your beer, soda or water.
No mention was made of the drink tickets being rather well hidden inside when I picked up my swag bag. The only reason I knew was I saw someone pulling apart their swag bag while I waited in line for mine.
EGGtoberfest Tip 2:
If you plan a visit to the company store and actually intend to buy something, you might want to go right away and then you can make 1 trip to your car to leave the Swag Bag and EGGcessories. Plus I have no idea how much stock they have out there at the company store.
I did intend to buy some items and my next stop was the company store.
This is a quick big picture overview of the layout. The site was divided into left and right halves separated by a wide center aisle which could accommodate two way vehicle traffic as well as people walking on either side. Once past the Check-in and Swag Tents you headed down this wide center aisle. A little ways down on the left was the entrance to the cooking area tents. Just inside the gate was the stage for the musicians. To the right of the wide center aisle was an open area that appeared to be used for staging and for parking vehicles of some of the event workers/exhibitors. Next came the Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen, catering trailer serving food cooked on the built in BGE. Beyond the Happy Belly trailer going off to the right was a wide aisle extending along one side of the long tent housing the Dizzy Pig folks. There was another wide aisle leading off to the right which extended along the other side of the Dizzy Pig tent. The aisle served the BGE Comapny Store across from the Dizzy Pig Tent. At the end of this aisle was the tent that housed the Demo Stage tent for the cooking demos.
EGGtoberfest Tip 3:
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring a hat, sunglasses & sunblock. Remember you are spending the entire time on a huge asphalt parking lot with zero trees for shade. To mention another type of grill, I felt like I was on a George Foreman Grill where I was getting cooked on both sides. You’ve got the direct sun coming from above and this in turn heats up the asphalt and you get that heat from below you. There are Cooling/Rest tents spread out around the site, typically near the drink
Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen:
On the way to the BGE Company Store I passed the Happy Belly Food Trailer, which has been around Atlanta for over 5 years now. It was the brainchild of a husband and wife team who had 30 years of combined experience in the hospitality industry. They were frustrated trying to find a healthy meal when they were out and about. A food truck allows them to go where the people are, such as EGGtoberfest, and offer up a healthy alternative to typical restaurant fare. They work with top chefs to prepare locally grown organic food. They were the first food truck in the world to have a BGE in it’s Kitchen. They use it just like the rest of us for grilling, smoking and baking. The vehicle they had at EGGtoberfest was not the truck, but a large trailer which had been towed to the place using a heavy duty BGE branded pickup truck. This green truck was about the first thing you see as you left the Swag Tent. You passed by this truck on your way to the Dizzy Pig, BGE Store & Demo tents.
BGE Company Store:
My first stop of the day after the Swag Bag tent was the BGE Company Store. It was housed in a large tent which I am guessing was about 50’ x 24’ (7.6 x 15.2 M) long with the front entrance at the very back near the Demo Tent. If you walked straight thru the tent after coming in the front entrance, there was a rear entrance that led to a raised deck with half a dozen or so Eggs located on it. Just inside this rear entrance was a display holding Eggzilla, the one of a kind 4’ (1.3 m) diameter Egg intended for show only. It turns out there was enough interest in Eggzilla from restaurant owners that the company eventually developed the 2XL, which was also seen at the show. The Eggzilla display had a Mini BGE on the table in front of it. The mini looked like an acorn compared to Eggzilla. The BBQ guru folks had a display to the left of the rear entrance where they were showing their pit controllers. I believe this may have been why at least some of those BGEs were out on that raised back porch.
The store was laid out like pretty much like any other store, except the floor was asphalt and the walls and roof were tent material. They did seem to have every item in their line, although there were several disappointments for me. The first was I wanted to get a BGE branded jacket, which they did not have. When the employees thought about it some more, they didn’t remember any coming into the store at this fall. They are not in the latest BGE Lifestyle magazine and don’t seem to be on the website, so I am guessing they have been discontinued. My second disappointment was the pricing. While I thought there was a chance there might be slight discounts offered with that large of an audience on site, the reality was just the opposite. Most items seemed to be 15-20 percent more. At first I started thinking negative thoughts about the BGE Company taking advantage of their users. I came around quickly to a new way of thinking. I now feel the higher prices reflect the cost of bringing all of those items to a remote site, setting them up, and then having to repack and return whatever wasn’t sold. So I really believe they were covering their costs, as opposed to gouging their loyal fans. My dealer carries a reasonable amount of Eggcessories, but this was the motherlode. It was fun going around and seeing all the items you’ve seen in BGE Lifestyle magazine in the flesh. It was nice being able to pick them up and handle them and judge the quality with your own two hands. In the end I picked up several small items that would not weigh much and not take up much room in my luggage. They were all items that I could not just walk in and buy from my local dealer.
EGGtoberfest Tip 4:
The company store at Eggtoberfest is not the place to go for bargains. Only plan on using it for items you can’t get locally at your own dealer. You may break even since the $5 or $10 more you pay at the store may be offset by the cost of shipping if you order it online. If you are flying and not driving, then it might make sense to look at the item here in person and then order it online when you get home. You may incur addition baggage charges that aren’t cheap.
The Demo Tent was located just outside the entrance to the BGE Company Store. This actually proved to be handy several times during the demo I went to. There was a BGE employee standing in the background and several times he rushed into the Company Store to grab a utensil or Eggcessory needed to help with the demo. The tent was about 20’ x 20‘ (6 x 6 m) square. There were folding chairs set up and the tent could hold about 75 people with room for more people standing around the perimeter of the tent. The guest lecturers were miked with a wireless mic so they could be heard by everyone in the area. At the front was an L-Shaped work table with a LBGE behind it. The tables were covered with BGE green colored table cloths and there were bags of BGE brand lump charcoal standing across the front of the table. Dr BBQ joked it was so we didn’t have to see his legs (he was wearing shorts). I must admit being impressed by BGE the marketing people. At the EGGtoberfest site and back at the hotel they set up some displays which highlighted their brand without being too in your face.
I attended the first demo cook of the day given by Ray Lampe, Dr. BBQ. He has written about a half dozen cookbooks and serves as a chef/spokesperson for Big Green Egg. I had actually met him last spring at the NewEGGlandfest and had spent all told an hour off and on through out the day talking to him. I was very surprised to find he actually remembered meeting me and asked several follow up questions from our spring discussion. He made tortillas with grilled sausages and grilled salsa using local ingredients such as fresh peaches. It was a great demo, he explained some of the background items you don’t always hear about in a cooking demo. At the same time he kept things light and focussed. I was also impressed several times when he stopped to discuss food safety related items. At the end the audience got to sample what he had made and it was excellent. The heat of the grill really brought out the sweetness of the peaches, I was also happy to hear Dr. BBQ say that he is working on his next book and it is all about making pork chops.
At the end of his demo Dr. BBQ mentioned he would be spending the rest of the day at the Dizzy Pig Tent where he would be cooking on the 2XL. I did stop by and listened as various people, including myself, asked him abut his impressions about the 2XL. He basically felt like it worked just like any other Big Green Egg. He was surprised by the amount of food he was able to get on it, but once again he stressed that other than that it didn’t seem different than any other Egg. It really was amazing when he lifted the lid to turn the food and you saw all that fit on there. I think one difference is, for small things like chicken wings you may need to hire one or more assistants to help you get the job done in a timely manner.
The Cooking Area: As I mentioned earlier the Cook’s tents were located to the left of the wide main center aisle. This area was fenced off from the center aisle. I am sure this was to control access to this area independently from the rest of the site. You passed through a wide gate and once onside the gate you passed by the stage where musicians played most of the day. The cooking tents were arranged in long parallel rows like street in a subdivision. Some of the cooks grouped themselves together in “zones” based on geography or friendships or membership in grilling teams. Others just went with the flow and went where ever there was room. The Cooks are assigned a 10‘x10’ (3’ x 3’) spot that comes with 2 folding tables, a Large Big Green Egg with the Nest (rolling cart), Plate Setter, Grill Gripper, Ash Tool, Box of Fire Starters and a bag of charcoal. More charcoal is available if needed. The Cooks supply their own popup tent, food, coolers, additional cooking utensils. chairs etc.
EGGtoberfest Tip 5:
The best time to eat would seem to be mid morning between 10:00 AM and 11:00AM. I could see some of the lines from the Demo Tent. You could get food pretty much from any cooking tent you wanted. There were some lines but they were short. By the time I got out at 11:00 AM, the lines were getting quite long to the point where I didn’t want to stand in many of them. By the time the early afternoon rolled around man cooks were running out of food. I left around 1:45, but during the time I was there, 10:00 AM to 11:00AM were the best time to get food.
The Cooks made a wide variety of fare and it truly shows the versatility of the Big Green Egg. The recipes are supposed to be original recipes and the Cooks need to submit the recipes they plan to make ahead of time. The BGE company prints up copies of the recipes with the Cooks name and the Booth Number on it. The Tasters can take copies of the recipe and they can refer to the booth number when they vote for the recipe. Most of the booths feature a chalkboard or menu board of some sort where they list the recipes they will be making and the time when the next round of food will be coming off their Egg. It really was quite a sight seeing that many Big Green Eggs in one place and it was also amazing to see that many Eggheads all in one place.
The food is typically served in small appetizer sized portions 1” x 1” (2.5 cm x 2.5 cm) to 2”x2” (5 cm x 5 cm), served on cocktail napkins, cup cake liners or small paper plates. You are not going to get a normal brownie sized serving. More likely it will be the size of a brownie quartered. You won’t get a normal slice of pizza, the pizza will be cut into squares. This is the only practical way to let as many people as possible get a chance to try the food. Most of the time you will need to visit the booth when the food is scheduled to be coming of their Egg, or to be safe 5 minutes or so beforehand. Many of the booths have some signage showing what they are serving and the schedule for food coming of the Egg
EGGtoberfest Tip 6:
As mentioned above, the food is served in appetizer-sized portions. You may be picking up several types of food at a given booth, plus plastic utensils, your drink etc. Unless you have more than 2 hands, this may get very unwieldy. There is a solution you may want to bring with you. There are plastic trays made just for this purpose. I actually had one in my possession, but didn’t think to bring it. I got my version of this handy item in the Swag Bag from the NewEgglandfest. It seems like many folks who had these trays got theirs at some sort of cooking event similar to an Eggfest. A few folks had bought versions of these trays online. No matter the source one of these trays would be a very handy thing to have.
My long time virtual friend Craig Dyal and his wife Elle, both of whom I met for the first time in the flesh at the Meet and Greet, had a booth at the show. I checked in to see how they were making out and more importantly get to sample Craig’s Jalamango Lime chicken wings. Craig went by the handle dyal_sc on the BBQ Bible message board and that is his handle now on the Egghead forum. Craig was had a reputation as the wing king and I was really looking forward to trying one of his wing creations in person, as opposed to drooling over pictures of them. I was lucky enough to happen to turn up 5 minutes before a fresh batch was coming off the Egg. I say fresh as if some of these wings sat around for a while too. Not the case. People were lining up for these tasty sweet and spicy wings and they were gone as soon as they came off the Egg. I loved the flavor and the way they were stealth spicy. At first they didn’t seem super spicy and after a short time your mouth was all tingly. Nicely done. In late morning they switched over from wings to cookies. I made it back in the early afternoon to sample the cookies. Just like in the morning, the cookies were gone as soon as they came off the Egg. Shortly after I left the booth, Craig was interviewed and appears on the BGE EGGtoberfest video. The clip shows the line and Craig was finishing up the last batch of cookies, so there were going to be some folks who missed out.
One area where things could have been better was the beer lines. They were long, long enough that I went to the soda tent when I might have preferred a beer. Part of it was there were multiple soda/water tents and only one beer area. There were cooling/rest tents located near the soda/water tents. Spending some time in there was fun too. I met folks from around the country and around the world. There were also quite a few folks who were there kicking the tires thinking of buying an Egg for their use. They asked the existing users lots of questions and all of the ones I met said they were going to pull the trigger. There is a lot of work behind throwing this festival every year, but it seems to be a huge Win Win for the company.
The Large Big Green Eggs sold off at the end of the festival are another great marketing idea. It isn’t a bad deal at all: These once used Eggs are sold at a price of $750. So you get a Large BGE ($850) with the Nest ($150) (rolling cart), Plate Setter ($70), Grill Gripper ($15), Ash Tool ($17), Box of Fire Starters ($8) and a 10# bag of charcoal ($10). This is quite a good price considering these items new go for $1,120. I’m going by prices found in my area, your mileage may vary. Using my prices, that is a savings of 33%. This once used Egg still has the warrantee, so this is a great way to get in the door and save some money in the process. Once again I am sure the BGE Company isn’t losing money on this and they are getting 150 new users who are going to go out and use and evangelize their product. Plus these Eggs were used to make food for other potential Egg buyers. I find this such a great marketing idea on so many levels. If you can’t make it down to Atlanta, there are many regional Eggfests where they also sell off the used Eggs. Typically this is something you need to reserve in advance and they do go fast.
Trip Home: The trip home was uneventful and low key, which was my goal in the first place. Columbus Day was a holiday back home, but not in Georgia. So by having an early afternoon flight I got to relax in the hotel during the morning and drive into Atlanta late morning, after the morning rush hour was over. When I got home it was evening rush hour, but it was a holiday. Even if it was a work day, my travel direction was opposite the normal rush hour flow. Once again the contrasts in airports was amazing. Atlanta is like an unending mall with an airport inside. In Atlanta you need to make a long walk or take a subway like train to get where you are going. At Manchester airport, I walked off the jetway into the terminal, walked another 30’ (9 m) to an escalator down to baggage claim. After getting off the escalator you walked another 20’ (6 m) and I were at the baggage belt. Total time once off the plane: 1 minute. The baggage belt was so close to our plane we could all easily see them taking the baggage off the plane.
The convenience continued after you grabbed your bags. The shuttle to the parking lot was sitting right outside the baggage belt. While waiting for the shuttle to pull out, the driver rattled off a list of services the parking lot provided. They went around and filmed the parking lot every night and digitized the license plates and indexed them with the parking space numbers. This allowed them to find your car for you and tell you how many nights you had been there should you forget where you parked or lose your ticket. If your battery died, you could flag down a shuttle bus driver and they would radio for a service truck to come out and give you are free jump start. Leaving the airport I took the new airport access road that gets you to the Everett Turnpike directly and shaving many miles off the old way. This access road actually parallels the Everett turnpike for nearly a mile so it can join the Everett Turnpike BEYOND the last toll booth. The people involved with expanding Manchester airport, and making it a viable alternative to Logan Airport in Boston, have done a great job. If there is a regional airport trying to vie with a larger airport in your area you should give the new younger competitor a shot. You may be in for a very pleasant experience.
The End: I had a wonderful time and I know it won’t be the last trip to EGGtoberfest. There is something there for everyone, great food, great learning experience, great folks = great fun.
PART 1 of this blog covers the lead up to EGGtoberfest XVI, the Venue & the Friday night Meet and Greet.
RELATED BLOG ENTRIES:
EGGTOBERFEST XVI - Part 1
EGGTOBERFEST XVI - 0.15 SECONDS OF FAME
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