Thanks for all of your kind words and well wishes in regards to my car accident. This past week has pretty much been a nightmare, but I’m taking it day by day and hanging in there. I’d rather talk about happier things around here, so I’m finally going to write about the 2015 Blend Retreat. (Warning- it’s a long one!!)
This year’s Blend Retreat happened over three weeks ago, so I guess it’s about time I wrote a little something about it! I had every intention of writing a detailed re-cap of the weekend’s events within a few days of it being over, but there’s that whole catching up with the full-time job thing. Speaking of full-time job – have you tried our newest flavor (Carrot Spice)? It’s SO good- probably my favorite flavor of the bunch! And, Blend attendees were among the first to get to try it! But I’ll get to that later.
The Blend Retreat was held at Chautauqua Park in Boulder Colorado from May 15-17th and was sponsored by the amazing folks at Quest Nutrition. I was really excited about the retreat being back at Chautauqua (where it began in 2012) because it’s such an incredible place (and only a 20 minute drive away from me!). We secured the location in May 2014, so this year’s retreat was a long time in the making. Lindsay and Janetha are the other two organizers of the event, but neither live in Colorado. Since I live close to the event location, one of my main tasks was to meet with the lodging and catering staff members and figure out the logistics of having 100 people on site for the weekend. There was a lot of driving back and forth,
millions hundreds of phone calls/emails back and forth, and it was pretty exciting to see it all come together. I’ve never planned an event this big before, and I was definitely involved in a lot of different tasks than I was in 2014 (when it was in Park City, and I was pretty useless after surgery!).
Here’s one thing that I’ve learned about being on the Blend planning team for the last two years: it’s pretty much like having a second full-time job. Well, that’s not completely true. Up until the month or two before, it’s like having another part-time job. But, in the weeks leading up to the event, it definitely takes up all of your free time (and it’s a labor of love!). I keep questioning myself as to if I’m going to still be involved for the next year, and the pros seem to always outweigh the cons. In the end, we have successfully created an awesome, memorable weekend for 100 people to enjoy (and I’m pretty proud of that!).
Anyway, I could spend hours writing about all of the details that went into planning the Blend Retreat (and maybe I will- in a future post), but let’s get on with the good stuff, shall we? As I said above, my two partners-in-crime live outside of Colorado. Lindsay drove in with her family (from North Carolina!) the weekend before Blend to rent a place in Boulder for a few weeks. Janetha, Marshall and their adorable son Fox drove in on Wednesday and stayed with Greg and me. On Thursday, the three of us met up to wrap up all of the last-minute details before the big weekend. We stopped by Bhakti Chai to pick up (the best ever) yoga mats for everyone attending and were invited to take a tour of Justin’s headquarters. I’ve met Justin several times at various natural foods events and he is sincerely one of the nicest people I’ve ever spoken to. He’s such a great success story in the natural foods industry, and it’s always great to talk to him and get advice!
Don’t Justin and Lindsay look like they could be brother and sister?
We spent the rest of the day running back and forth to Chautauqua, printing various things and then eventually, it came time to stuff the swag bags! I had been involved in the swag bag stuffing night in 2013 and 2014, and to put it nicely- it’s been the worst part of the planning each time. This was mostly due to the fact that we had everything shipped to one location and just kept it in boxes until it was time to stuff the bags. Since everything was shipped to my house this year, it was a lot easier to just open items as they arrived and put them in an organized manner. Not having to open boxes (which sometimes contain many smaller boxes of products!) saved us tons of time, and swag bag stuffing was a breeze!
Friday morning was spent driving back and forth to Chautauqua a few more times and setting everything up. Among all of the chaos, we also had a crazy hail storm come through! I didn’t let it faze me though- Colorado weather is so crazy and can change any minute. Luckily, by the time registration started in the afternoon, the sun had come out and the sky was blue and clear of any storm clouds! We set up our registration table and greeted the attendees.
I love registration. It’s so great to see friends for the first time since the last retreat and everyone is so excited! We also had our expo room open, which will filled with elaborate table set-ups from some of our (awesome) sponsors: Bhakti Chai, 34 Degrees, The Epic Seed, Earth Balance, Arctic Zero, Quest Nutrition, Adora, Love Grown Foods, WB Kitchen, Wellcoin and Nestfresh.
General Mills, our trail run sponsor, also set up a “make your own trail mix station.” I loved this idea and so did the attendees!
After the trail run and Friday expo, we had a couple of hours to relax before the cocktail hour (which I am so glad we planned!). A group of us relaxed in my cottage for a bit and then went our separate ways to get dressed up for dinner.
The cocktail hour was sponsored by 34 Degrees, Sizzlefish and WANU (formerly FLUROwater). WANU had created a few signature cocktails, which were offered along with beer and wine (and other cocktails) at the bar. There were passed hors d’oeuvres featuring pieces of Sizzlefish salmon on 34 Degrees crackers, soy-glazed salmon on cedar planks and a fruit and cheese station with 34 Degrees crackers.
The cocktail hour led into dinner, which was FANTASTIC. I’m really mad that I didn’t get a photo of the beautiful spread! I will say that of every Blend Retreat so far, it was above and beyond the best dinner that has been served to our group. During dinner, our official sponsors, Quest Nutrition, gave a fantastic speech and told attendees about the Instagram contests they were holding throughout the weekend (which included giving away a year’s supply of Quest products!).
The meal ended with a make-your-own sundae bar, sponsored by Arctic Zero. Both the original and new flavors were featured (I had the Salted Caramel flavor- which was delicious!). It was the perfect end to a great night!
Saturday morning began bright and early with bootcamp sponsored by Gnarly Nutrition. I was not familiar with the brand prior to Blend, but am now a big fan of their grass-fed whey protein! Taylor led the group in a butt-kicking bootcamp out on the Chautauqua lawn.
Directly after bootcamp, breakfast was served! The Saturday breakfast was sponsored by Justins, Love Grown and FlapJacked! I was really excited about this meal, because we (FlapJacked) introduced our newest flavor: Carrot Spice!
This meal was incredible! I took a little bit of everything: FlapJacked pancakes (with Justin’s Maple Almond Butter on top), bacon, eggs, banana bread, fruit and a bowl of Love Grown Mighty Flakes on the side.
The wonderful sponsors all spoke during the meal, including the lovely Maureen from Love Grown Foods, Jennifer and David- the owners of FlapJacked (my bosses!) and one very special guest- Justin Gold, owner of Justins!
(He came directly from a mountain bike ride in Boulder!)
Shortly after breakfast was our group hike, sponsored by Detour Bar. I had spent a good deal of time figuring out a good route to take such a large group on that wasn’t too difficult and provided beautiful views along the way. We hiked along the Mesa Trail, and it was perfect! And (thankfully)- the weather cooperated.
After the hike, we headed back to the expo room. Our snack sponsor, Earth Balance, had set up a table filled with delicious treats right outside of the expo room (which was a GREAT way to greet our hungry hikers!). They offered various snacks such as vegan puffs and PB Popps (which were a clear favorite of the attendees!). The expo room remained open until 2:30 pm, so that everyone could speak with the various sponsors and taste samples of the products.
The snack break and Saturday expo were the last sponsored activity of the day. We purposely leave the afternoon and evening open so that attendees have free time to explore the town. Lindsay, Janetha and I spent a little bit of time cleaning things up and then went out to enjoy Boulder. I won’t go into too many details, but it was a FUN night and a great chance to unwind!
The final morning of Blend began with one of the activities that I was most excited about: yoga sponsored by Bhakti Chai! This was the first year that we’ve offered yoga as an activity during Blend, and it fit in perfectly! Bhakti Chai was absolutely the best yoga sponsor we could have asked for. They sent the very talented Shannon Paige to lead out group through a beautiful practice (with the Flat Irons as a backdrop!).
After yoga, we headed directly to breakfast. The Sunday breakfast had four sponsors! Goodbelly, The Epic Seed, Barbara’s and Baobest put together a fantastic meal! I enjoyed Greek yogurt (with fruit and chia), GoodBelly probiotic drinks, Baobab muffin, Barbara’s granola bars, puffins cereal, frittata and bacon.
I have to say- I am blown away by how delicious the food was this year. The sponsors definitely provided some great products- but the catering staff at Chautauqua was simply outstanding. We ended breakfast with a round of shots.
The final event of Blend Retreat is one that people look forward to the most- the closing ceremony and raffle! The closing ceremony was sponsored by NestFresh eggs (who I was already a big fan of- and now I like them even more!). We raffled off various prizes that were donated by our sponsors (which included things like $50 Whole Foods gift cards, packages filled with products and swag and even a BlendTec Blender!). The best part is, every single attendee wins a prize!
The very last item of business was the group photo:
Unfortunately, a number of attendees had to leave to catch flights before this photo was taken. We will be re-thinking our timing for the photo for next year.
Overall, this year was a HUGE success. It was a LOT OF WORK, but everything seemed to come together seamlessly. I’m so grateful for the FANTASTIC sponsors and each of the ladies who attended- all of YOU make this whole thing possible. And a BIG, SPECIAL, INCREDIBLE thanks to Quest Nutrition- the best official sponsor we could have EVER asked for!!
Oh yeah… check out the swag from this year:
Not bad, eh?
As for next year… that’s being decided right now. We have a location in mind, and I promise it will be made public as soon as things are decided.