I had such a fabulous time at ICES in Reno, I hardly know where to start with my coverage. I packed so much in to the 5 1/2 days I was there, met so many people, saw so many things. I guess I should start at the beginning. I'd been planning my trip to ICES since last year, I wanted to be sure I could wring the most fun possible out of my visit. I would have liked to have stayed longer, but I had my family & staff to consider. The ICES convention was held at the Hotel Grand Sierra in Reno. The size of the hotel is beyond our imagination in NZ, this hotel had room for 1300 conference attendees, vendors, demonstrators and yet we still did not dominate the number of people in the hotel. The resort boasts many restaraunts, shops, a bowling alley, cinema and so much more. It is definitely a great place for families. it is essentially a casino - but the size of which I've never seen anything like (I've never been to Las Vegas however)
I didn't manage to get a photo of the exterior of hotel, darn near impossible due to it's size, so here's my postcard from the hotel gift shop - I'm sending it to you all!.
This was the view from my hotel suite window. For me, the price of just over $100 per night for a luxury suite, with marbled bathroom and butlers pantry was a bargain. In the city itself - everything is rather brown in apperance but Reno is in the middle of the desert. Some days the view was a little hazy, I was told this was due to wild fires burning over the ranges in California.
The ICES Convention itself, was organised by the ICES show committee and an army of volunteers who did an amazing job.Each show, a show cake is designed and displayed for the length of the convention, this years cake was made by Roland & Marsha Winbeckler (more about Roland to come in future posts)
The theme for this years ICES convention was the "Old West". Roland hand sculpted the figurines of the time using modelling chocolate and fondant. The gorgeous saloon girl is the spitting image of Marsha - and during the awards banquet night Marsha posed in her costume next to the cake for people to take photos. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me. The Bald eagle on top of the cake is life sized and has 1000 feathers. Generous donations were made from Satin Ice, Choco-pan, Deseret Designs, Earlene's cakes, Ck Products and A-J Winbeckler Ent, to allow this cake to be made.
During the course of the convention, I saw many non ICES members staring at the cake in disbelief. It sure was a work of art. The picture above and below is from our show magazine and copyrighted to ICES - it was darn near impossible to take a photo of this cake!
To many of the cake decorators delight, one of the shops within the hotel was "Candy Barrell" - I really like Salt Water taffy and we don't get it here in NZ, they had every flavour imaginable
I always thought a huckleberry was a fictional thing (until I was proved wrong)
I struggled to get the "cupcake flavour" in this candy - but it was still tasty. There is no SALT taste to salt water taffy by the way.
It is hard to imagine looking at these photos below, but this is a photo in the Grand Crystal ballroom, I couldn't get a wide enough photo in any one direction, this is breakfast for 1300 ICES members, I don't think many locations in NZ could cope with setting out breakfast for 1300 people and get them all fed simultaneously - the hotel can be proud of their kitchen and servers, they pulled it off effortlessly, as though they do it every day (I think they actually do mutiple times per week)
During my stay, I was lucky to make some firm friends, that I will stay in contact with for years to come. I arrived in Reno on Wednesday afternoon and took the hotel's shuttle from the airport arriving mid afternoon. By the time I got my bags dumped in my room, it was straight off to the first timers orientation. We received a run down of all ICES offers during the convention and were also treated to a free tiara mould from Carol Scott, who did a lovely demo using it for us. Once the orientation finished, I popped up to registration. It was whilst I was standing in line, I met my new friends Lori and Linda. They had travelled by car from Modesto California. In just a few minutes we were firm friends. I mentioned to them I was intending to head over to "The Biggest Little Cake Shoppe" during my stay - Lori was very quick to offer me a ride the following day - and Lori, Linda & I teamed up for many such jaunts over the course of the days following.
It was fun to visit "The Biggest Little Cake Shoppe" - it was my first visit to a cake supplies store in the USA. I discovered not everything is easy in the USA - just because they can have items shipped across country (where as we are stuck importing most things). Due to their soaring desert summer temperatures, they have to order all of their chocolate based products prior to summer - IMAGINE! having to predict how much chocolate you might use for a 3-6 month period. I had a blast shopping here and got a great selection of discontinued Wilton novelty cake pans (which you'll fin are on the Kiwicakes website now)
Deb & Diana were awesome I saw a lot of them over the course of ICES, coincidentally I even had seats next to Deb in some of the demos. On the last night, they treated me out to dinner. When they asked where I like to go, I said please take me somewhere outside the hotel (honestly you could live inside that huge hotel for a month and never need to go outside) They took me to Ruby River for an awesome steak dinner (and a margarita or two)
We had to race back from dinner to make the ICES - "Night of sharing", but they made a point of driving me down through the city and under the "Biggest Little City" arch. It's just like people say a mini Vegas - with everything lit up like a Christmas Tree.