“What?! There’s a convention for cookie decorators?” Is often the response we get when we tell people we have attended the greatest show on earth. This year’s CookieCon in Louisville, KY did not disappoint. Cookie artists from around the world gathered for 4 days of learning, sharing, networking, shopping and fun. Where else will you find 1,000 friends in one location all willing to discuss the various states of royal icing?
The fun begins at registration when you are handed the best swag bag ever filled with cookie cutters, stencils, sprinkles, tools and so much more! CookieCon sponsors are amazing, generous and approachable–seriously approachable. All the industry rock stars show up, mingle and pose for photos. We still love it after all these years.
Georganne Bell of @lilaloa (Lie-Luh Low-Uh) is an icon in the industry. She travels throughout the country teaching, inspiring and encouraging cookiers. As expected, she was a fabulous keynote speaker. Her theme was You are Enough – wherever you are in your cookie journey continue to thrive and don’t give up. Here she is at her book signing for the Cookie Companion.
CookieCon offers dozens of add-on-classes over a two day period prior to the start of the conference. If you are lucky enough to get a convention ticket through the lottery, you are eligible to take add on classes. There are endless options for classes from beginning to advanced skill level. They run from half-day to all-day classes depending on the theme. We always split up to take classes and then regroup to share what we’ve learned. This year we chose Island Princess with Jeanette Durham and Laurie Thompson of @Blysscookies, and Bright Eyes & Loose Lips with Liz Joy of @Inspiredtotaste. We are thrilled with the outcome. Just look at these colors!
The sugar show is a true highlight of CookieCon. All attendees are invited and encouraged to enter and compete for over $5,000 in cash prizes. Months ahead of the conference, the categories are announced to give attendees plenty of time to plan and create their entries. This years themes included:
- Home Sweet Home – Creating cookies that represent your hometown. This is a special category to view because it hi-lights where attendees come from all over the county and the world.
- All in a Day’s Work – What’s your dream job? What is your occupation outside of making cookies?
- Anything Goes – This category is wide open! The only restriction is it must be family friendly. Fair enough!
- Mystery Shape – Each year a mystery shape is revealed and decorated at CookieCon. The cookies are provided for you. The hi-light is that you have every single product available on the market at your disposal to decorate this cookie. More on this later in “open decorating.”
- Derby Hats! – Since Louisville is the home of the Kentucky Derby, Derby hats are a natural category. This collaborative category is unjudged, but a personal favorite this year to see the fun, colorful and crazy creative cookies on display.
Classes are held on Friday at CookieCon. You rotate through a track of 6 different classes to learn unique and specialized skills. These 6 accomplished instructors offer fast track skills based learning. Topics include everything from how to make puffy royal icing for cookies, how to package and present cookies, photography and social media outreach, how to take a home based business to a brick and mortar success, applying fondant techniques to cookies, and more!
An added bonus is the extensive access to all the instructors. In addition to the core classes, they offer break out sessions during Open Decorating (more on this shortly). We arrive at CookieCon with a list of questions every year and always walk away with answers that help us enhance our business…this year all our questions were about blogging!
Open Decorating and Breakouts
Imagine walking in to a grand ball room filled with every single tool in the industry available at your disposal. Premade icing, cookies, tips, airbrushes, stencils, projectors and more are provided. Grab as many cookies as you like to practice your new skills, including the mystery shape so you can submit your entry. There are tables everywhere to sit and be creative for hours on end. Additionally, there are breakout sessions surrounding the room where experts are available to teach how to use all of these tools and techniques. We helped with a “how to paint on royal icing” session this year. The room is a bit overwhelming, but you have to jump in and go for it!
Yes, there are cookies to eat at CookieCon. Check out this years recipes from volunteers willing to make and transport 1,000 samples for everyone to taste. So many flavor combinations! http://www.cookiecon.net/tasting2020.pdf
Sight Seeing in Louisville!
We couldn’t leave Derby City without checking out some of the sights while we were there:
- Of course our first stop was to the home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs. We couldn’t get over the sheer magnitude of the race track! Although there were no horses on the premise, we thoroughly enjoyed our historical walking tour as well as the barn & backside tour.
- Next up was a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. As soon as we stepped into the factory, the smell of smokey wood perfumed the air. It was fascinating to see how wooden bats are made – from a wooden block to a smooth work of art. We could only think of wooden rolling pins being made in the same manner.
- Bon Appetit Magazine calls Louisville “One of the the best foodie small towns in America.” Naturally we had to test out this theory. After 4 days of research, we totally agree and wish we had more time to explore Louisville’s creative cuisine. Our favorite dish had to be warm olives with pickled lemon and radish from the Butchertown Grocery.
- Lastly, we couldn’t skip out on booze in a city known for a spirit! The city’s craft cocktail scene is alive and diverse from big bars in historic hotels to speakeasies tucked away unseen. We started off with some classics including Mint Juleps, Whiskey Sours, Sidecars, and Old Fashions and then graduated to straight bourbon tasting. We both left the city as true bourbon fans.
No matter how you say it, Louisville is great! Let us know if you have any questions! We’d love to share more about our CookieCon experience.