Monday, August 15, 2011

CannonFest 2011: Coming of age

It's hard to describe the feeling, but bear with me as I try.

The CBJ's Todd Sharrock speaks to CBJ bloggers
just before CannonFest kicks off.
It's about 1:45PM.  Columbus Blue Jackets Vice President of Public Relations Todd Sharrock (with able support from Manager of Communications Ryan Holtmann and Executive Vice President of Business Operations Larry Hoepfner) has been holding court for about 30-40 minutes with CBJ bloggers.  He clues us in on a few things that the team has in the hopper for those of us who find joy in writing about the CBJ, listens to some of the thoughts that we offer, and wraps up.

Now, I'm standing in the corner, basking in the neon glow of the CBJ beer sign that Greg May rustled up for a marquee raffle item.  From my vantage point, I can't see the main entrance to the bar area at Buffalo Wild Wings.  So as we disperse, I finally get the opportunity to peek around the corner.

The room is already full.  15 minutes before the "advertised" CannonFest start time.

Photo courtesy of Chuck at The Cannon Report

My jaw drops.

All I can think about is Matt Wagner's email from over a year ago - the one generously offering to host a cookout for CBJ bloggers to build a little camaraderie and community.  And I was the idiot to say, "Why not open it up to the public?"  Which led to CannonFest 2010.

CannonFest 2010 had something like 100 people in attendance...and we probably had that many in the room BEFORE WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GET STARTED.  Appreciate that we organizers have zero idea how many people will show up.  We post the date, hype the event ad nauseum, show up and wonder if our efforts paid off.  We don't collect RSVPs.  We don't sell tickets.  We just say, "Come on down!"

Skraut intros his CBJ fan videos
The Jacket Backers were back, in literally in the same spot of B-Dub's bar, just like they had never left.  And they were even busier than last year, signing up members and selling raffle tickets.  The Arch City Army set up shop as well, and their ubiquitous scarves became more and more prevalent as the afternoon  wore on.

Rick Gethin took over on the mike, offered introductions of the CBJ brass and bloggers (I have to tell you, it was really weird to be introduced and notice so many people straining to see what this DBJ guy actually looked like!) and outlined the raffle.  Tom "Skraut" Larrow then took over, introducing his two CBJ fan videos:

"Kickstart My Heart"

"Call To Arms"

At which point, Mark Holland led a spontaneous, extended cheer of "Let's Go Jackets".  Whoa.  Talk about about enthusiasm.  

This was about 2:13-2:30.  And then we were into the "meet" of CannonFest, the mixing, mingling, wings, drinks, etc.  Mind you, people have been piling in throughout.  Rough estimates (again, all volunteer thing...we're not keeping precise count) suggest we probably tipped the scales over 200 people today.  

A few random, incomplete thoughts from running around the room...

* Talk about great people.  Everyone was so darned nice.  

* My partner-in-crime here on the DBJ blog, Gallos, made his appearance as well - along with his buddy Bill.  Here are our respective "CBJ sweaters" for the day:

The final appearance of the legendary Brassacek jersey, and...well, the Mirasty sweater.
(You didn't think we were going to show our faces on this blog, did you?  Hee hee...)

* If any sports editor, anywhere, is smart, they will snatch up Bart Logan yesterday.  This recent Ohio University journalism grad is bright, articulate, enthusiastic and knows more about sports on one pinky than I will have ever known.  I spent altogether too much time marveling at how Logan broke down the Blue Jackets power play from memory, and not only how the new CBJ acquisitions would help improve things but also improve the performance of the players around him.  I have nothing but admiration for this young man.  HIRE HIM, SOMEONE.  NOW.  Or kick yourself later.

* If I had to describe the "official" 2-4PM hours of CannonFest in one word, I'd use "whirlwind."  Wow.

* I finally got an opportunity to talk with my "without question" favorite CBJ blogger, Mary O'Malley from Fire That Cannon...and proceeded to gush over her work like a silly fanboy.  Like me, Mary's no wannabe reporter; she's a blogger and writes awesome stuff from the heart.  I always smile at her work, often laughing out loud as well.  We have such incredible and diverse talent in our blogging community, that's for sure!

The CBJ's Ryan Holtmann,living 
La Vida Irish.  I knew I liked him...
* Ryan Holtmann from the Blue Jackets is engaged (married?) to a fellow Notre Dame grad and has his photo on the ND Alumni Association "reunion" webpage. (That's Ryan, 2nd from left)  Well played, Ryan!  Go Irish!

* On the subject of CBJ staffers, I learned that Todd Sharrock is a huge English Premier League soccer fan.  This doesn't mean much to you until you learn that a LOT of the people in the CBJ fan community and on press row follow EPL (and European) soccer.  There's got to be something to this connection...

* One of my first tweets after getting home from CannonFest was about how the entire experience was both awesome and humbling.  It's awesome in that so many people show up to share the passion for NHL hockey in Columbus, just like me, and humbling in that so many people who I barely know, only know through Twitter handles or simply don't know at all are telling me that they read/enjoy this blog.  Believe me when I say that I wish I could have talked at length with everyone who went out of their way to offer such kind comments.  Too many people, too much commotion, not enough time for this event co-organizer...sigh.

ABC 6's Clay Hall not only anchors, he
shoots his own video!
* Greg May's wife has a sense of humor at least as good as his.  No wonder they've been happily married for over 20 years.  

* News media showed up!  To a fan/blogger hangout!  Mr.'s Arace and Reed from the Dispatch held court, Steph Greegor (and her wing-loving daughter) from The Other Paper and a fedora-adorned Lori Schmidt from 97.1 The Fan all joined in the fun.  Channels 6 (ABC) and 10 (CBS) sent cameras as well.

Here's the channel 6 coverage (It's somewhat may need to turn up the volume.):

* Rut roh - Someone forgot to tell HockeyJobu about CannonFest.

* It's been two CannonFests now, and I still have not had a bite to eat at either event while Greg keeps pushing these incredible food and drink promotions.  If there's a CannonFest 2012, my number one goal will be to correct this injustice.

Young and - ummm - not as young alike
enjoyed themselves at CannonFest
And, like that, it was 4PM.  And the room was still largely filled.  I now hear that the Jacket Backers raised almost $1,000 for Hockey Beats Down (cancer), and that they handed out 11 door prizes and 10 raffle prizes.  I had to bail, as Mrs. DBJ had to get on the road for work.

Which brings me to my last point.  When I got home, I learned that the Dark Blue Toddler's coping mechanism for being without Daddy for a few hours on a Sunday was to watch the PGA Championship on TV.  And wouldn't you know, DBT really likes watching golf.  That's it, I probably will have to bring him to CannonFest next year...gotta mold that young mind! (Golf?  GOLF?!)

So congratulations to my compadres in this year's excursion into Blue Jackets fan delerium: Matt Wagner, Rick Gethin, Greg May and Tom Larrow.  We did it!

That's it, folks - CannonFest 2011 is in the books.  Whereas the 2010 edition was a "What's to lose in trying?" event, the 2011 CannonFest had all the trappings of a serious team tradition in the making.  CannonFest has come of age and now appears to have a semi-permanent place on the CBJ fan calendar.  In fact, I hear scuttlebutt about CannonFest 2012 is flying already!

By the way, other bloggers are already piping in on CannonFest:
And while I will maintain as long as I am associated with CannonFest that the event should be by and for fans (and fans who blog!), I can't help but highlight departing Dispatch writer Tom Reed's Puck Rakers piece that comments on the team, its fans and the potential of both within the context of the CannonFest experience that he witnessed.  Please go read this one.

(Special thanks to Gallos for grabbing so many of the photos that graced this post!)


  1. I had a great time meeting and talking to everyone. Skraut's videos are great, very well-done. Looking forward to next year at the convention center!

  2. If this thing keeps getting bigger, we will need an arena to host the event. Nationwide or bust!

  3. If we are in Nationwide, who will provide the wings??!!

  4. I don't know... but there IS a Tim Horton's in there now!


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