Finally getting around to blogging a few words & pictures of my trip to Las Vegas for WPPI.
WPPI was AMAZING! I can't say enough about what a great opportunity it was to be there. I was there from Sunday, March 7th through Wednesday, March 10th, and the time just flew by! I am already missing Vegas and the whole WPPI crowd (and there were a LOT of us)! Quick overview: WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Professionals International) is an annual expo held in Las Vegas each year. This was its 30th year in existence, so there was lots to celebrate. The event runs for over one week in total. There are classes from 8:00 in the morning till 8:30 (or later) each night, with their HUGE tradeshow open in the morning & early afternoon. There are welcome events, keynote speakers, cocktail parties, award ceremonies and closing events.
And walking. There is definitely a lot of walking involved. (I am still exhausted.) It was about a 20-minute walk from my hotel room to the convention area (in the SAME hotel)... and anyone who knows me well, knows that I do not walk slowly.
I headed up there on Sunday afternoon with my sis-in-law, Maria (also a photographer). The trip took us just over 4 hours, which was a record time for us. My favorite sight along the way? We stopped off at an In-N-Out for a quick lunch, and there were TWO women's restrooms, with several stalls in each. TWO! It was a beautiful sight.
In any case, we got to the hotel and checked in just after 3 pm. We were staying at the MGM Grand, which happens to be my favorite hotel in Las Vegas. And convenient, too, since this was where the WPPI convention was being held. After relaxing a bit, we decided to grab a bite to eat at Diego's. Wonderful food & wonderful presentation, too. Knowing that the welcome reception that evening would be serving appetizers, we ate as lightly as possible.
We shouldn't have bothered with any food beforehand. Our jaws nearly fell to the floor when we walked into the reception area and were greeted by station after station of food. These weren't your ordinary appetizers. Mini-plates of pasta, carving stations with turkey & cranberry sauce, stuffed mini-breads, and the list goes on and on. So of course we stuffed ourselves silly. After our stomachs felt like they were going to explode, we made our way back up to the room, to enjoy watching all the "Red Carpet Recaps" while in our jammies.
Breakfast at the Studio Cafe. (yum.) Then we hit the tradeshow. I immediately dragged Maria over to the Millers Lab booth to show them off. Since starting my business, I've primarily used Millers Lab for all my printing needs, and wanted her to see their whole lineup of goodies, in person. She was as impressed as I had first been. We stuck around long enough to see some speakers they were featuring: JB & DeEtte Salle of Sallee Photography. Maria and I both decided then and there to attend the class they were giving at 3:30 that afternoon (which turned out to be a great decision).
The size of the tradeshow was a bit intimidating; it was so large that it had been divided into two separate buildings. Because of this, we decided to walk one section one day, and the other section the next. Again, I am so happy with our decision. It took us over 2 hours to walk the tradeshow that day, and we each walked away with a nearly 10-pound bag crammed with literature, samples, etc. We were tired. And sore. Oh, and did I mention that Maria was doing all of this while almost 7 months pregnant? (oh, yeah... you should have SEEN the crazy stares she got from people.)
Quick lunch back at the Studio Cafe, and then on to afternoon class with the Sallee Studio. It was simply awesome. Definitely learned a lot and found some inspiration, as well. Leaving class at 5:30, we noticed a GINORMOUS line right outside. I should've known better than to pass it by, as it turned out to be the line for the class I had wanted to take the MOST... Jasmine Star was speaking at 6:30. I was too late to get a spot in her class. Even though the room held 900 people, it filled up so quickly that there were a LOT of people turned away. (The people of WPPI were nice enough to schedule a second class for her to give the next day, but my schedule was already full. And I figured that since I would be attending a workshop of hers next month, there was no need for me to worry about missing out this time around.) Unfortunately, my second choice of classes was also already filled up.
No worries. I was in VEGAS! Time enough to grab a mojito and head back up to the room to relax. And prepare for that evening's event...
The scheduled poolside cocktail party was moved indoors due to the threat of rain. The party was moved to the Garden Arena, which is where they hold all the major events (such as boxing, etc.) at the MGM. Totally awesome. We dressed up for the night (I even wore HEELS), and had even decided to skip dinner so that we could fully partake in all the yumminess of the food this time. Only to get there and realize that there was NO FOOD this time. Bummer. And with Maria being preggo, she couldn't last long without dinner. But we decided to stay & enjoy ourselves. There was an awesome dj, and plenty of people. Even a few photobooths. We managed to hold out till just after 10:00, at which time we made a mad dash for McDonald's and headed back up to the room. We were both exhausted, but I'd promised myself that I would make a trip outside sometime in the night, to capture some shots of the Strip in all its nighttime neon glory. So, just after midnight, I bundled up and headed out into the windy night. These are my favorites:
Tuesday morning started off in an absolutely lovely way. First, I received a "tweet" from Millers Lab, letting me know that I was a WINNER of their daily Twitter contest. My prize? My choice of any of their fine art products. Seriously. I burst into happy tears right then & there. And my morning thrills continued... as I walked into my first class of the day, I was greeted by music from a LIVE MARIACHI BAND. (The instructor had brought them in to help "wake us up" at such an early hour.) And it took me only a moment to realize that they were playing TONY'S & MY SONG! (On our 3rd date, my husband and I went salsa dancing, and a live band played "Sabor a Mi" as we danced... so that is forevermore "our song.") happy, happy, joy, joy.
The rest of the day went smoothly enough. A couple more classes, and lots more tradeshow. Fell in LOVE with a few particular products (such as the slideshows I have recently started using). Even managed to fit in a trip to the MGM Spa... a $75 credit came with my room, so I'd be a fool to pass that up! It was the first time I felt myself relax in a loooooong time. Scheduled a quick 25-minute shoulders, neck & back massage. Aaaaaahhhhh... bliss. And, on the massage table, I had one of those moments that you know you will always remember for as long as you live... there I was, getting a massage in Vegas, at WPPI, in the midst of all my colleagues, there to do what I LOVE to do, living my passion... and the music "Claire de Lune" started to play. (One of my favorite classical pieces. Of all time.) It was a perfect moment of peace & clarity.
Maria and I had a late dinner that evening, and I received a fortune cookie that said the above. Score! We decided to head back up to our room for the night. On the way, I decided that we should at least gamble a little bit, since we hadn't done so thus far. I handed her a $1 bill, and took one for myself to use. Of course, the quarter machine I decided to put my dollar into let me play twice and then promptly started flashing an annoying little light to let me know that it was out of paper and needed an attendant. I waited for someone to arrive, not wanting to walk away... just in case one of those last 2 quarters turned out to be a winning pull. So I waited. And waited. Maria gave up and wandered into a nearby giftshop. I waited some more. While waiting, I dug into my purse and found another dollar bill. So I decided to use it on the machine right next to my own. Played once. Twice. And on my third play, I WON Fifty Dollars! Now, that might not be a whole lot... but it was really exciting to me. Put in $1.00 and get $50.00 in return? Woo-hoo! I cashed out and left at that point, deciding that I didn't want to wait for my remaining 50-cents any longer. It was all good.
I started my morning with one final class. And then it was time to pack up and say farewell to it all for another year. Check-out went smoothly, we made a few final pit-stops for gifts, and then we were on our way back home.
I had an absolutely fabulous time there in Vegas, and can't believe that the days went by so quickly. I met a few people, learned a LOT, and am totally inspired to keep working on my craft and building my business in a beautiful way! And I am already looking forward to WPPI for NEXT YEAR!