Are you Ready for Cupcake Camp
by Angela Snowdon
April 5, 2009

Hi everyone,

I decided today, to share an experience that took place here in Ottawa, Sunday, March 29, 2009. CUPCAKE CAMP! I was fortunate to have been a part of this adventure, and as one of the two people (Mike being the other) on the "tasters" registration table, got to see things first-hand.

The first ever cupcake camp in Ottawa opened its doors to an overwhelming success. Within the first 15 minutes, for we tracked the numbers in 15 minute increments, we had 175 tasters registered. Shortly after, more people were lined up along the walls snaking into another room, and down the stairs almost to the front door of the Jack Purcell Community Centre - all for the love of cupcakes and a worthy cause These people were the "tasters", who for a mere $5.00 ( $2 for children and seniors) were able to come in and partake of wonderfully, creatively designed, and delightfully, delicious cupcakes. The room reached capacity within the first 15 minutes (250) and hence the line-ups. People were held back until those in the room were satiated, departed, and made room for those in the hall and stairwell. We had "cuppie" bouncers on the door for crowd control, and to make sure everyone had paid, and did not gorge themselves on cupcakes.

How did all this happen you might ask? A group of four "tweeters" (what they are called on "Twitter" - a social media communication tool) decided after hearing about it (it having already taken place in San Francisco last year, Pittsburgh this year, and Toronto in January), asked "why can't we do that"? And, so they took up the challenge and ran with it.

My son Andrew was one of the four, and he was to be the volunteer Co-ordinator (a job I had prepared him for as a child, by dragging him sometimes willingly, and sometimes not so willingly, to every event in the city in which I was involved in, or where I knew of people who were, and I was there to support them). That training paid off - even he said so. When your offspring tells you that what you did was good - savour the moment.

The bakers were of different stripes. Some bakers were professionals, some had small businesses, some operating out of their homes or on-line, and many were people who were caught up in the fun and were there to share their cupcakes for a good cause. How many cupcakes you ask? Would you believe some 3400+ cupcakes. Almost 100 bakers, 30 volunteers and some 450+ tasters, and that's not counting the media, and official and unofficial photographers. Not all cupcakes were of the sweet variety. There were vegan cupcakes, and cupcakes made with non-traditional ingredients such as bacon, meatloaf, or beets. There was something for everyone. This was not a place for those who were allergic to chocolate, nuts, or sugar, or those who had a fear of crowds, or people suffering from confined spaces - for the place was packed. It was hot, it was stuffy, and the energy in the room was electrifying. It was wonderful! Picture a mini rock concert with cupcakes as the performers taking centre stage.

The room was quiet in anticipation. The side door to the cupcake room opened, and several Cupcake baristas entered in 15 - 20 minutes intervals with trays full of delectable delights. As the first batches came through the doors you could hear the crowd cheering as if the rock band had made its appearance, on stage. One by one the cupcakes were described, and their photos ( professionally shot by Aram Faghfouri) flashed onto the back wall. Visions of cupcakes danced before the masses. Once the trays were placed on the tables it was every man, woman, and child for themselves.

Cupcakes strutted their stuff in the cupcake competition, where four judges had the overwhelming task of having to decide amongst all the cupcakes entered. The four judges chosen were: Gay Cook, Food columnist for the Ottawa Citizen newspaper; China Doll, Karaoke impresario and Shanghai restaurateur; Michael Bhardwaj of In Town and Out fame at CBC radio, and Giacomo Panico, reporter, CBC Ottawa Radio newsroom - both "foodies" in their own right. The four categories of competition were Best chocolate, Best decorated, Most unique and Best in show. Best in Show was a sassy Red Velvet cupcake stylishly dressed as a red leather purse. Not only did it knock your socks off with visual impact, but it tasted absolutely sinful; definitely a gift from the Gods.

The thing to note is that the Ottawa Cupcake Camp was the largest so far, beating out the much larger cities mentioned earlier. And, this was successful even though it was raining all day. In fact this was the Perfect day for this event.

So that you are able to share in this event, I've included several links to the various photo shoots and postings by attendees, below. This will serve as a memory for many, and a temptation to those who did not attend, to do so next year. Yes, I'll bet my "cuppies" that there will be a next year and I hope to not only volunteer again but also submit a few dozen of my own tasty morsels. Competition you say? You bet, I love competition.

I could go on, and on...and on... but I think I'll let you savour the many links below. I hear tell that Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and now Mumbai are taking up the challenge. And as my newsletter and musings travel to Asia, Australia, Afghanistan, South America, The US, The UK and Europe, and who knows where else they are forwarded to, you now have a heads up. What a wonderful inexpensive way to lift our spirits during this global recession, and do some good in the community. This is a real feel good event.

The four main people who pulled this together - on short notice I might add, and without corporate sponsorship, were Tanya, Ian, Nicole and Andrew; Ottawa cupcake movers and shakers. Stand up and take a bow. In a supporting role were the 30 volunteers, each with their own skill set that allowed them to come together and work and help pull everything off as smooth as Royal icing. Way to go guys. I know of volunteers, including myself, who are willing to do this again next year, if the organisers are. And, as a last thought. This was the perfect time of year to do it, for it raised spirits after a very long.....long........and still long - winter. It also raised $2000 net for Woman Alive in less than three hours. Congratulations on a job well done!

When Josephine said, "let them eat cake" she could never have imagined how many people would....... and enjoy it.




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