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Sweet, Sweet Molasses Blues
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 3:08 pm    Post subject: Sweet, Sweet Molasses Blues Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

Recently I attended just my second out-of-town blues dancing event -- Sweet Molasses Blues (SMB). It was a fantastic weekend. Workshops basically on time, dances were well attended, DJs were phenomenal and the band was great (until they got drunk, more on that later). Meanwhile, many great new friends were made! The essence of a perfect travel weekend.

SMB is a workshop weekend with 3 main dances (w/late nights). This is the 2nd, aptly named "We're going to need a bigger jar." John, a large man with a bald head, was lead organizer and near as I can tell he did a fabulous job of managing the event. Having hosted so many events of mine own, I know that is credit to him AND his staff. Attendees included [former] MN's and Chicagoans Ben, Mattia, Jamison, Sara, John, and Ruby to name a few. Instructors this year included:

* Damon Stone & Heidi Fite
* Joshua Boroff & Devona Cartier
* Tina Davis & Don West
* Ogden Sawyer & Amanda Gruhl
* Shawn Hershey
* Julie Brown
* Gui Cavalcanti & Jenn Martinez

It's a fairly tight line up! While I wish I had attended more classes, I had a great time meeting new friends.

While I took 3 of 4 classes on Saturday, Sunday I spent with my host, her guests and several nearby houses having a substantially enjoyable brunch. We spent the morning afternoon making foods, eating foods, browsing the onlines, singing songs, and finally watching a great game of Olympic Gold Medal Hockey.

Old friends Tim, Khrysti, and Terri were there along with all sorts of new friends in Danielle, Sara, Emily, Adam, Carrie, Emelio, Lissa, Allena, Claudia, Patrick and few more that escape me momentarily. One of the fantastic things about exchanges and workshop weekends is the opportunity to meet fantastic people. While I said before that I wish'd I had taken more classes, I don't feel bad about it as I thoroughly enjoyed the company I was in. Later we went to their Blues Jam at a local bar and then watched "The Imposters" at Tim and Khrysti's "Bad Good Movie Night". (It was cool, I recommend it.)

In Summary,

Workshops and Exchanges are great for so many reasons. The dance we do is called a "social dance" for good reason. A good event provides opportunity and balance between dancing/learning/competitions and good social interaction. It cannot be micromanaged, and social interaction cannot be guaranteed, it is very dependent on the attendees and hosts. SMB was structured with a good balance between dance and socialization, while I was fortunate enough to be in a particularly social home. By not attending as many classes, I converted the event from a workshop weekend for me to more of an exchange. I was very happy with that. Events are about the dance, the people, and the fun. SMB Delivered on all three and I definitely recommend it in the future.

~ Shawn

P.S. 2011? Yea, That's gonna be Sweet Molasses Blues Shout!, so I'm likely to be back!

P.P.S. Most photo credits go to Ben Hejkal Photography.
From the Other Side - An Organizer's Notes
There were only four marks that I have to make on event organizing:

1. Homestay Announcements
2. Drunken Musicians
3. Internal Communications
4. Customer Survey

1. The homestay announcements came out a full 5 days before the event. For my own part, I was already working in Reno at that time and I had a few special circumstances to negotiate with my host and fellow guests. When I finally got to act on my notice, it was but 4 days before the event, and three days before resolution. While that certainly was enough time, it only worked out because Danielle is so awesome. Homestay should have notifications released 11-14 days beforehand to give guests and hosts the opportunity to make special accommodations as needed.
Homestay is a challenging nut to crack, I always recommend out-sourcing it to someone who does nothing else for the event and give them strict timelines to meet. Closing housing 14 days out is a must, but then again so is keeping a reserve home for any late registrations that need/want late-date homestay, as annoying as that is to deal with, the emergency house makes it tolerable.
2. The band was pretty good, mixed a bit loud for my tastes, but good. Until their last set! Somehow, they got pretty damn drunk and instead of singing the lead vocalist was just yelling into the microphone. I napped through the entire third set and struggled to avoid a head from the grating noise that bellowed throughout the building.
3. On Friday I had dropped off fliers for North Star Blues and Midwest Lindyfest on the flier table. The flier table was absolutely packed with fliers. Saturday, however, none of the fliers were to be found! During the dance that night I did some investigation. I was sent from one person to the other to the other until I got to one fellow who told me that the fliers might have been packed up with Boston Swing Central who runs their Friday Night Blues dance of which was part of SMB. Interestingly enough, after a few more people, I would up asking Tim about them and he did pack them up.
The moral about internal communications from that story is that the organizing team should be available to answer difficult queries like that and the volunteer staff should know where to send people with challenging questions. Your guests should not be the ones running around trying to find answers, that is the job of staff and volunteers.
4. They ran a customer survey after the event. The survey was emailed to registered attendees a few days following the event. I think this is something that every event should do. Kudos. Normally events tend to only hear of the good and only rumors of the bad (unless its really bad, like, say, the 55 degree Barn at NSB!). The survey provides a direct means to relay constructive feedback to the organizers in an anonymous, helpful manner. I know it is scary to hear what people really think, but it's absolutely necessary for growth! Way to go SMB!
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