August 4, 2012

Dear Dad:

I have had a ton of top ten moments. I had a top list for our Southern Food Road Trip this year (another blog, don’t worry). But this is the top list of them all. It is my top ten life moments and experiences to date. It is the times and things that I will no matter what (hopefully) ever, ever forget. These are the moments that made me who I am today (in no particular order):

  1. Going to Guadeloupe. I was pissed about this trip. Me, about to turn thirteen. All I wanted for my birthday was new clothes but no you loaded me and Michele up with a 50ish old “guardian” for two weeks to Guadeloupe. WHAT? That was probably the coolest trip I have ever been on and only wish I had gone on more. The waterfalls, my first champagne (no age limit on drinking, not that it mattered), Madonna on my tape set, first boy crush, the bull in the field, the clubs and dancing to disco and the clear, clear water. Seriously! Wow, and thanks!
  2. Having my two little boys. Both pregnancies were totally different. One a week late and the other planned to the t. One with a six-week maternity leave, the other with an hour. One ended with food from Ken Vedrinski, the other with whatever the hospital was serving after I had watched Food Network for eight hours while in labor. Both ending with tears, amazingness, love, tears and the most precious things I will ever, ever imagine. I loved every minute of it and am so blessed with the family I have.
  3. Raising the Hunley. That was beyond incredible. It was because of you that I was even there. And not just there. On the phone with The Today Show producers for two hours hoping for an interview. We were bumped after it all, but that was their loss. Being in one of two boats right there as they pulled up that submarine was surreal. It was magical. And even though fireworks did not go off at that very moment, it felt like they did.
  4. The SIIS Road Trip. This year “Southern Food Road Trip” with friends and colleagues Randi Weinstein and Sara Donahue is one I will never forget. It was probably the most fun I have had 10+ days in a row. The two of them were the perfect traveling companions and we had the adventure of a lifetime. From Atlanta with cabbie Mike, to Nashville honky tonking it, the Garage Bar in Birmingham, to the square in Oxford, and Memphis in May hanging with Peg Leg Porker. It was a trip of all trips and I cannot wait until next year.
  5. Theyka and Jermaine Husser’s wedding. This wedding from start to finish was one of the most unique weddings I have ever been to. It was my first wedding where events started one or two hours after they were scheduled to. I have to admit a dry bachelor party, rehearsal dinner and reception were a first as well. But I felt so special and loved strutting down the aisle to Barry White. I did have to get rid of the hot pink rhinestone shoes, but I admit the plaid pink dress was a favorite. Love you guys for having me a part.
  6. Any of our Amtrak train rides always provided good memories, I mean stories. The people you meet…the people you meet. Especially in the bar cart. The year you, me, Jacques and Jack went to New Orleans, well that was just f-ing awesome. We were drunk before leaving the station and managed to stay that way the entire trip. Jack had to be “escorted” from the station to the hotel and that was a continued theme for us all the entire trip. I loved meeting Maurice Bessinger (or so they said), and getting in fights with Carolina fans opposed to LSU.
  7. Any of the Aquarium exhibit openings. There were several I organized with my partner in crime Ashley Gunnin, but I am most proud of the last one I did before leaving there. Amazon’s opening was not just an opening, it was a spectacle. I tried to get Jeff Probst from Survivor for event but settled with a torch run through the streets of Charleston with a dozen or so local celebrities. The final runner, Mayor Riley ended the race in Liberty Square to light the main torch. He was greeted with thousands of area school kids dressed in Amazon animal costumes that they made for the celebration. We had bands, dance troops, local dignitaries, media from all over the state and more. It was one of the largest events I executed at once, and turned out perfectly. What a way to leave a place!
  8. World Cup Soccer, circa 1994. This experience prepared me for what I do today. Being selected as one of two interns for the position, I got to experience so much when USA last hosted the event. It is the Olympics of soccer and was really my first international large-scale event. Being Striker the Mascot (in a grocery store), serving as an assistant to Andrew Shue, waving to a helicopter camera crew on City Hall in Orlando for ABC’s Good Morning America, and planning many social happy hours for the staff and planning committees, they were all pinch me moments.
  9. The Festival. Seriously if you had told me that nine years ago, I would be running one of the top culinary festivals in the country, I would have laughed and maybe doubted. I just can’t believe it sometimes. What started out in my Home Team office, then in my house, then in a Board members space (thanks Rick and Linn), then to a classroom at Trident’s Palmer Campus, to where we are today. Seven full-time staff members, 85 events in one weekend, almost $9 million in annual economic impact, and an event that helped spur three back to back James Beard winners in the city. The most memorable and important moments of it all has been the friends I have made, the experiences I have had. I love Charleston and what better way to spend my life than promoting the people, places and things that make it so special. We are so lucky to have the chefs, restaurant owners, beverage professionals, service professionals, taste makers, artisans and farmers, non-profit organizations, companies that service, architecture and history, hotel owners, politicians, volunteers, media and writers that we do….you name you, I love and appreciate them all! You make my life that much better and I live for the next year to celebrate and promote it again!
  10. The best is yet to come.

So sure, I will have some more top moments but I am lucky for all those top moments that made me me.



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