Monday, August 16, 2010

My CannonFest post, or "A funny thing happened on the way to the cookout"

About 5 weeks ago, Matt Wagner from The Cannon and I were mulling over something (electronically, of course), and we started percolating the notion of a late summer, pre-training camp Columbus Blue Jackets blogger gathering to build up the names/faces recognition, get our hockey fixes and blow off whatever household chores we could avoid - at least for an afternoon.

Problem was, there seemed to be a bunch of new CBJ blogs popping up every week.  And they were pretty good ones, too, like The Green Seat View.  My blog's not even a year old yet, and Matt's contributions to The Cannon started less than six months ago.  So why would we want to create a gathering that could potentially overlook some of the very bloggers who we wanted to gather?  For that matter, why would we want to overlook the diehard CBJ fans who enrich our work as bloggers and social media hounds?

CannonFest 001
Photo courtesy of Matt Wagner
Out of that dialogue, CannonFest was created.  Matt engaged the Jacket Backers while I brought Greg May (of Full Mental Jackets and owner of the Buffalo Wild Wings in Grandview) into the loop.  We decided on a date, developed coupons for a promotion or three and came up with a handful of giveaways.  Player signed pucks, glossies, t-shirts.  Media guides.  An incredible team-signed wooden bar sign. And, of course, the beer tower.

Our fellow bloggers (the ones listed in the right-hand column, as well as others whose work needs to be highlighted there) wholeheartedly embraced the idea of CannonFest.  If they weren't blogging about it (or posting promotional graphics on their sites), they were Tweeting about it.  Or putting Facebook event listings up.  And, by and large, they immediately RSVP'd in the affirmative.  There was a groundswell of interest in a big ol' puck talk gathering.  Who knew?

And the momentum kept building.  And building.  And building.  You could see it on Twitter, where people were posting about how excited they were for CannonFest and encouraging their friends to attend.  Those who couldn't make it were outright apologizing and agonizing over not being able to join in.

Photo courtesy of The View from 210
Matt, Greg, Jessica Jones and Dave Yatsco from the Jacket Backers showed up an hour early to set up the room for CannonFest.  Greg seized on the bubble hockey photo that I used in a promotional graphic and had a machine installed at Buffalo Wild Wings (stroke of genius, if you ask me...the kids - and some adults - loved it).  The Jacket Backers took up their positions on the back wall (by the power outlets) while Matt and I manned the front table to welcome everyone and encourage the wearing of nametags.  It's not like many of us knew each other!

I vividly remember telling Matt with about 30 minutes until the 2PM start that I was expecting 20 to 30 attendees.  We had 25 RSVP's on the Facebook event page, and I figured some wouldn't show while others who didn't RSVP would show up.  Man, I could not be more wrong.  No one kept an official headcount, but Matt estimated that roughly 100 people packed into the BWW's bar for CannonFest, a figure I wouldn't doubt.  100 people.  On a Sunday afternoon in mid-August.  For a sport that didn't even start training camp for a month.  For an event with no promotional budget and only social media to get the word out.  Unbelievable.

In the mix were a few luminaries as well, as the Columbus Blue Jackets answered our invitation with special guests Larry Hoepfner, Executive Vice President of Business Operations, Todd Sharrock, Vice President of Public Relations and Rachel Mayfield, the CBJ's premium account executive.  We were thrilled to have all three guests, and I enjoyed picking up on the bits and pieces of institutional knowledge that such an event allows.  (And, yeah, they even smacked down my third jersey speculation with a chuckle and a smile.  No hard feelings, not in the least.)

Mark from The View from 210 and Matt had their cameras at the ready and grabbed some great photos that captured the laid back, friendly vibe of the event.  Here is a small sampling:

Photo courtesy of The View from 210
Photo courtesy of Matt Wagner
Photo courtesy of Matt Wagner
Photo courtesy of The View from 210
The photos of the day, captured this classic image of one lucky CBJ fan hoisting their newly-won Blue Jackets-themed beer tower:

Photo courtesy of Matt Wagner
And you can't win the prize without a celebratory kiss:

Photo courtesy of The View from 210
What a prize!

Of course, Skraut's new CBJ fan video debuted to rave reviews.  It was such a great contribution to the day that it already got its own post.

All in all, a great afternoon of CBJ hockey talk.  New friends made, new members for the Jacket Backers.  And in the middle of August, no less!

For more port-mortem feedback, check out these CannonFest posts from my fellow bloggers:
There's already talk of "What next?" or "CannonFest 2" -- I have no idea what the future holds for this community of CBJ fan bloggers and friends, but we'll sure have a lot of fun making it happen.

Thanks to everyone who joined in the festivities.  While a long way from a blogger cookout, CannonFest sure was a good time!


  1. hola, it was a great time!
    thanks for organizing everything :)

    Please add @martinihockey 's bluejackets blog for great content and good fun.

  2. Had a great time was wonderful meeting all the bloggers and great fans of our beloved Blue jackets.

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