Disclaimer: I was provided admittance to the Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo in Schaumburg, Illinois this past Saturday, April 12th at no cost to me to facilitate this post on The Eclectic Element. All opinions and expressions below are 100% mine and mine alone unless otherwise stated.
Recently, this past weekend in fact, my nutritionist-to-be friend and I set out on an epic roadtrip adventure early Saturday morning to head into Schaumburg, Illinois for this year's 2014 Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo! Thankfully I had the foresight to knock myself out with a Benadryl induced coma the night before to achieve some amount of sleep before getting up at a pre-destined time of 5:45 am to start the ritual of getting ready.
7:15 am rolled around, she picked me up, and we were off!
Illinois tolls will break you and your wallet before you know it.
Anywho, we arrived and
The Omission Beer booth was where the blogger meet and greet would be taking place at 10:00 am, so as soon as my friend was safely checked in and eagerly off to listen to the first speaker of the day, I got my official I'm-a-legit-important-person badge and I was off to seek out the booth so I wouldn't be late!
Of course I ended up being way early so I wandered around a little bit scanning my surroundings and finally sat down at the table provided for us bloggers and waited. Slowly my fellow bloggy people started arriving until it was time to learn about Omission's gluten free beer and their gluten extraction process.
After the blogger meet and greet was over, we all set off in our respective directions to check out the nearly 5 to 6 rows of gluten free, allergen free companies that came to spread awareness of their name, their individual stories, and, of course, their goodies!
Wandering around and talking to a lot of these companies from the small mom-and-pop operations to the big well-known and trusted brands, I found, aside from the physical products they offered to sample, I enjoyed the stories the most.
What was the idea or initial concept that got them started? Was it a simple need in their personal lives for something gluten or allergen free? Or did they see a growing market for gluten or allergen free products and decide to venture into the entrepreneurial world? The stories that answered these questions and the stories that explained how these companies went from initial idea to standing, talking to me that day is what intrigued me and what captured my attention the most.
Whenever there's an event like this one that brings together bloggers from all over, you know you're most likely going to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. I'm lucky that I got to do both this time around!
I made plans on reuniting with Ashley Sears of Crunchy Frugalista whom I had met at last year's BlogHer. We had so much fun then that I couldn't wait until we met up and hung out again! Below you can see we all had a blast at the expo, especially at the Enjoy Life's photo booth...
Then I ran into my new bloggy bff Andrea Joy of Lazy Gluten Free when perusing the Red Apple Lipstick booth. We bonded over our mutual love of the lipstick shade Berry Blast and it was an instant bond for life!
Oh, and who can forget chillin' with the GFAF Expo Yogi of GoPicnic! What's a conference or expo without at least one mascot running around?
There were row after row, booth after booth of delectable gluten and allergen free goodies ranging from sauces to soups, candy to baked goods (oh, so many baked goods), to energy bars, subscription services, authors, and even pretty cosmetics.
Sadly we weren't able to experience both days at the expo so there were many booths we weren't able visit but that didn't stop us from hitting as many as we could between the time we got there and the time the expo closed at 3pm!
There were a great deal of products that my family and I buy on a regular basis, which I will say was so exciting to see in person. Instead of being star-struck by a celebrity I was star-struck by foods!
I would say a good majority of the expo's booths were food or beverage related and of the food and beverages available, there was a LOT of baked goods and sweets. Brownies, candy, pie, ice cream, and cookies...so many cookies.
Just a few of my favorites were Red Apple Lipstick, Ethel's Edibles, Coconut Bliss, Elyse Wagner, and Ardenne Farm!
Fabulous known and newly discovered companies. Delicious gluten and allergen free products. Connecting with friends. Broken camera (sad panda Kayla).
All in all, this was a tremendous experience for myself and my nutritionist friend and I'm so happy that I was healthy enough to actually make it! I was worried when I initially filled out the form to be an official GFAF Expo blogger that I wouldn't be able to make it since it was a good month in advance, but thankfully the universe graciously allowed me this fantastic experience.
Of course following this epic adventure I payed dearly and am still paying but it was SO worth it!
For those of you who attended this year's Chicago Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo and would love to borrow some of the pictures I took, please feel free to contact me through my email and I'll send you the un-watermarked, un-edited photos. All I ask is for credit and a do-follow link :)
And for those people who want to see more of the pictures I took, send me a friend request on Facebook to check out the full album in all its glory!