It Happened.

When I finally realized it could happen, within our budget, within our time frame. I got to work.

I created flyers, postcards, judging guidelines, tasting labels and signs, decorated donation jars. I made sure we had my emergency event supply kit, as well as a first aid kit. I organized the program and timing of contests. We made many trips to the local dollar store for supplies and décor.

We recruited family and friends to work. The weather cooperated; the vendors showed up. Two of Jeff’s friends came from Ohio with one of those humungous dancing windsocks, and set that up. (There’s a story about these two, I also have to tell.)

When it was time for our live interview, Jeff came and found me. Carting two folding chairs, he walked me over to the outdoor radio set-up. He looked around, and snapped his fingers. Lifting one in the air, Jeff observed another seat would be needed, but first. he had to go check on something.

He wandered away as quickly as a wanderer can, and never came back. So, that’s how I ended up at the tech board, fielding questions about things I wasn’t 100% sure about and providing information, alone.

I didn’t really mind, and had no trouble doing it by myself, but when I asked Jeff what had kept him away, he sheepishly admitted he just hadn’t liked how he’d sounded when we’d recorded a small pre-spot at the radio station studio.

For as loud and happy as Jeff was, he shied away from spotlights. He loved parties, and loved planning. He just preferred to be one of the crowd; in among the people, where the action was.

The hot sauce eating contest began with only a handful of participants. That number dropped pretty quickly. Three rounds in, there were only two. The guy who became the second-place winner finally quit when his tears started to burn his cheeks. He walked away with $25.00. The first-place winner ridiculously took another spoonful hit as a ‘Victory Lap,” and then announced she was off to spend her $50.00 prize at El Chalupin (aka The Grasshopper) in Adrian for a Mexican dinner.

Jeff and pretty much everyone spectating, were astonished by that. I didn’t think it’d be worth it for anyone to go as far as they did. Chili-heads are a fierce, feisty and fun-loving bunch, devoted to fiery foods. The fiery food vendor and selling community were the most enthusiastic folks I’ve ever done business with. Jeff fit right in.

Many of our vendors were just as dedicated, just as friendly. I have many stories to share about them. That’ll be coming up.

Thought for the Week:

2018 11 20 Share your enthusiasm cultivate and curate jakorte

 

 

 

 

 

Peppered; with Doubt

Truthfully, I still doubted we’d be able to pull it off, but Jeff’s enthusiasm continued to rise.

A few things made it easier for me to delegate. Trust that he’d try. Lack of Time I could devote. And a little bit of doubt that it could be accomplished in the first place. I figured the worst that could happen was we’d have to cancel. But, then, we’d at least have a head-start on planning for it next year. 

With a detailed list of questions and tasks, I handed Jeff the reins and went along for the ride.

Have you gotten permission from the mall?

Will it hurt the other stores’ business or are they ok with it?

Power – can we run bounce houses and band at the same time without blowing out the mall?

What type of permits do we need?

What type of permits do our table/craft people need to have?

Is there be enough parking in our small lot?

Do we need traffic control on the busy two-lane highway?

Are we sure the tables and chairs and tents will be at no cost?

Who will judge the homemade salsas, and how many judges do we need?

How will we handle entries so that it is an anonymous vote?

Do we want to categorize? Sweet salsa, savory salsa, spicier than normal salsa?

Should we ask winners or all entrants to share their recipes, so we can include them in the next monthly newsletter? What is the prize?

Who will handle hot sauce eating and contest registrations, run the register?

Decide how many fan favorites we want to have people voting on? 5? 10?

Then, invite suppliers to provide one type of salsa product for tasting,  let them know the votes will be 25 cents each and donated to ARC. Might need a few jars from each.

Revise the regular waiver for extreme heat sales to address participation in the hot sauce eating contest.

What are the prizes? One winner or 1st, 2nd, 3rd?

Update the membership list, add new customers.

What do we want to say in our mailing to members? On website? On radio?

Do we want to give a discount or a special favor to our members? Do we want to include this for new sign-ups on the day of the event, too?

Can we really use ‘palooza’?

I’d like to change the name from Sauceapalooza to Salsapalooza. Our store name has hot sauce in it, so that part will be obvious. Not everyone likes hot sauce, but most people like salsa. Plus, it would encourage salsa entries.

What if it rains? Or pours? Or is windy? Or nobody comes?

By the conclusion of one more BNI meeting, in one week, he got it all done, all laid out and all planned. Except for the weather, of course.

Quote for the Week:

2018 11 20 two things make it easier to delegate

Lasagna-nipulation

“Lasagna. It’s not ready, yet. So, wait a minute!” “Ooooh,” I cooed. “I love lasagna! Garlic bread, too?”

Jeff grabbed my hand. “Of course! Listen to this…”

“The bounce houses can be free. They said so, because it would be good advertising for them. Someone has a flat-bed trailer with a generator that we can borrow to put a band on.” 

“Would you be able to hear a band over a generator?” I asked.

“I imagine so,” Jeff replied. “He’s used it for parades and even Apple-umpkin, once.”

He went on. “We can use the tents for free, but we have to pay for the labor to set them up. I don’t think we can do that ourselves.” “No,” I agreed. “We definitely cannot do that ourselves.”

He just kept going like a linebacker sized Energizer bunny. “And the broadcast would be included as part of an advertising package to promote it!”

“You’ve already started this.” I stated.

“Yep.”

“And you’ve done all that?” I stared at Jeff.

“Yep,” he beamed. “Did it all today, and I’m going to ask for donations of salsa and sauce from our suppliers, since it’s a fund raiser, too!”

I was about to tell Jeff I still didn’t think we could afford all that, when the oven timer went off.

He let go of my hand, and chattered happily as he headed toward the oven. “You go change out of your work clothes. I’ll get dinner on the table.” 

I spent my changing time going over all of the known and unknown components of this oversized crazy venture.

Even while I was seeing dollar signs, I was thinking of Jeff’s exuberance. He’d checked the availability for a lot of things, and the best date was only a few weeks away? Could we pull something this large off in just about three weeks? “Well,” I reasoned with myself, “we did open the store in about three weeks…”

“You know,” I commented as I sat down to one of my favorite dinners. “We might be able to do something like that… just a lot smaller to start with.”

“We’ll see.” Jeff said.

“I guess we’ll have to sit down and make a list of questions and things that need to get done.” I countered.

“Ok,” he agreed. “Let’s eat!”

Quote for the Week:

2018 11 05 Food is an amusingly underestimated jakorte

 

Sauce-a Huh?

We had a store coach. A fellow BNI member, with tons of enthusiasm.  He and Jeff got together once a month to brain storm. Jeff would bring him our ideas, and our monthly advertising budget. How much we spent didn’t exactly have a direct correlation to how much we earned. Mostly, we spent more on inventory than marketing. Some months, we’d spend more on advertising and less on product.

Jeff was super excited when I got home from work that day. In the meeting they had dreamt big. Then bigger; then bigger, yet. As he talked, it became clear he wasn’t really thinking budget.

The idea we had agreed to investigate further was to invite as many local non-chain restauranteurs as possible to a salsa meet-and-greet. Of course, there’d be tastings. Hopefully, some bulk sales, too. Serving salsa wasn’t an issue, we were licensed for that having taken the Lenawee County Health Department’s Food Safety course.  

When Jeff mentioned a local wine-maker and declared we could give samples of that, too, I had to stop him. “Um,” I said. “We don’t have a permit for that.” “I’ll check that out,” Jeff made a note. “Maybe he could do the samples for his own stuff.”

“Anyway,” he continued. “That’s not all of it.” He shuffled some papers around. “Here’s what I think we should do.” The title of the hand-written (almost illegibly scribbled, truly) was Sauce-a-Palooza. “I’m not sure we can use the ‘palooza’ part.” I interjected. “Might be copyrighted.”

“Ok,” he waved his hands. “But, that’s not all of it.”

“All of it” entailed tents, tables for crafters or businesses, a homemade salsa contest, hot sauce eating contest, bounce houses, live music, a live radio broadcast, and 20 different kinds of salsa for a vote-for-your-favorite American Red Cross fundraiser.  Each salsa would have a mason jar next to it. Each vote was 25 cents, but folks could put as much as they wanted over that in, too. The salsa with the most money in their jar would be the winner.

“The winner of what?” I asked. “No, wait… never mind that. Do you have any idea how much it costs just to rent tents? Do we need a permit for that? Live music? Where would we get a power source? I have no idea how much those bouncy things cost.  Do you?”

“Well,” Jeff was getting ready to explain, when I cut him off, again.

“Do we really want to serve homemade salsa from people we don’t know? We can’t just set out jars of salsa and let them sit there all day. We’d need to keep them cool. We’re gonna need to hire help for all this.” I took a deep breath. “Oh, no.” I reported. “We can’t possibly afford all that.”

“Well,” Jeff started.

“Maybe next year.” I emphatically ended the conversation, before adding, “So, what’s for dinner?”

Quote for the Week:

10 29 2018 There are only two types of business people jakorte

 

All Fired Up!

When Jeff had a dream, he dreamt big. He’d laugh and call it a vision.

And it would always begin with, “Suppose…”

All of our Michigan Hot Sauce Club store open house events began that way. We held tastings. Jeff made snappy dips, fiery cheeseballs and poured crab salsa over cream cheese. We’d line up 5 jars of salsa or 5 bottles of hot sauce or 5 bowls of fiery snacks/candy/cookies, labeling each with a heat index. Mostly, to protect the mild lovers from accidentally dipping into anything Blair’s or Dave’s Insanity.

He developed some unique chili – bean and corn, no-bean burger, smoked jalapeno brisket, and an amazing white bean chicken bright green chili, that took its color from an awesome sauce named Swap Scum.

My favorite heated creation was the Spicy Texas Sheet cake.  Such a perfect combination of cocoa and sugar and spice. I tried to make it once without him. It just wasn’t the same. I followed his recipe verbatim, but it lacked Jeff’s magic touch.

That’s not a flighty compliment. I firmly believe everything came out scrumptious simply because Jeff believed it would. Just as I know, he truly meant it when he said everything will be fine, even though it most likely wouldn’t. It was an admirable trait, which occasionally annoyed me to exasperation.

Yes, GOD would provide, but He gave us brains to figure out how we could help ourselves, as well. I was a disaster planner. Jeff was a ‘let’s see how this goes’ guy. Stress begets stress, but Jeff deflected well.

I’d say, “If this… then that.” He’d say, “Ok.”

I’d say, “But, if that, then this other thing.” Jeff would say, “Ok.”

I’d say, “Unless that other thing turns into another thing.” Jeff would say, “Let’s just see what happens.”

His weekly BNI meeting had incubated an idea he was all fired-up about. Pun intended; that was Jeff’s favorite tag line.

In fact, each meeting he would come up with a variation or punny description. “MHSC, the biggest little hot sauce store east of the Mississippi!” On Thanksgiving, it was the biggest little hot sauce store west of Turkey. On Halloween, it was the scariest little hot sauce store in Tecumseh. It became his trademark – members would look forward to what he would say next.

One evening, I came home to Jeff’s biggest “Suppose…”, yet.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 23 theres no reason to dream small jakorte

A Colder October

I don’t remember a colder October.

Nature’s real lessons – love and loss and longing – echoing yearly. Simple trees and simple leaves. Temporary slumbers; predictable, patterned, withdraw with a promise of likelihood. Coming back, coming back stronger, maybe reaching a little higher.

Occasionally, that’s not the case. Of course, majestics don’t worry about that. Perhaps affording optimism in squirrels and birds and other creatures. Although seeing fit to plan, return rote expecting rejuvenation. Coming from another season’s slumber, they lumber; sometimes dumbfounded when the memory is bare or barely there.

Much like those times you thought you were growing straight, turned twisted in time, searching for the sun. Vital pieces fall away, hacked, splintered, struck by lightning. How it happens; endless possibilities, all still no less of a shock.  

So, I welcome the colors, and I welcome the lack. It’s part of the process.

Lightly suffering through another falling season. It only seems ok because I’ve been here before. Somehow now it’s easier to see. There are no perfect trees.

I don’t remember a colder October, or colors that faded so fast.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 16 there are no perfect trees a colder october jakorte

 

Sunblock-Clocked

When Jeff was ready to continue, we set out slow walking. It was obvious to everyone who scooted around us, that there was a problem. It really got him down. We made it into the stands and stood for a while at the bottom looking up. The trudging climbers didn’t seem to bothered by the pace.

“C’mon,” I tugged his hand. “Let’s go…” He was dubious, but shuffled forward.

When the upward surging mass stalled, Jeff held on tightly to the rail. “My legs are shaking,” he told me. “That’s ok!” I replied. “You’ll be stompin’ in your seat shortly.” He gave me a little head shake smile, as the crowd crept along. We plodded on, keeping time with the slow bobbing waves of heads. “One foot in front of the other…” I sang off key. He chuckled.

When we’d made it, we both collapsed in our seats. “We made it!” I cheered. “I feel like Rocky…” Jeff huffed. “… after a few rounds.”

Not sure how we lucked out, but we had two seats on the end of the row, which meant Jeff could stand up and sit down easily. Eventually, we both caught our breath, and set about the business of setting up in the stands.

Jeff divvied up the headsets, which sadly were really only brought along for ear comfort. They’d previously hooked up to a radio, set to track channels. We’d listen to pit crews, his favorite drivers and even announcer chatter.

He handed me the binoculars and kept the camera, slung around his neck. Jeff surveyed the situation and sighed. “I hope I don’t gotta go….”

I was looking down re-stashing the sunblock we’d just slathered on the back of our necks, when a shadow came over us. I looked up and caught the tail end of a fighter jet just as it soared out of view.  Jeff’s hat came off, smacking me in the face. I reflexively reached up, opening my hand to catch the cap. The sunblock sailed forward and beaned the gentleman in front of me.

In those few seconds of mayhem, the clocked by sunblock fellow turned around. Jeff stepped closer to me, raising his eyebrows and hands in apology. I involuntarily shrieked in surprise as the sonic boom hit. I slapped both hands over my ears as they painfully popped. I’d just experienced my first fly over directly in the path of a fly over. Frozen in place, I stared at Jeff.

He surveyed me quizzically, quickly surmised my shock and threw out his own boom. Jeff’s contagious laugh caught on, as usual. Those around us grinned, chortled, chuckled, and very nicely returned our strewn belongings.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 09 There nothing quite like the camaraderie of like jakorte