Pinch me, I must be dreaming. Is that really Ree Drummond sitting just feet away from me in her flowery and flowing top?!
As we began planning for this year’s Design Conference last year, there was no question in my mind who I wanted to introduce the women (and some men) of Fargo (and around) to- Ree Drummond, “The Pioneer Woman.” This sentiment was backed up by Patrick, our Design Conference emcee, who is, might I say, an even bigger fan than I. Although I don’t know that his love runs as deep and as long as mine… His love of Ree stems from her recipes and magical ways in the kitchen. My love goes back to the days before cookbooks and tv shows. It started in the beginning days of her blog when the distant encouragement and laughter from a daily dose of Ree would help me through my day.
There was just something special about her. Yes she is beautiful, yes is funny, yes her photography transports you to the prairies of Oklahoma almost as if you are standing next to her, but it was more than just those things that kept me coming back to her blog day after day (after day, after morning, after evening) just to “hear” her voice.
It was her Kindness.
Her Consistent Kindness.
I felt as if each blog post was penned just for me. A little daily dose of inspiration and laughter that was placed delicately on her keyboard to help me see the beauty in life and better yet humanity.
Bringing Ree to Fargo fulfilled a dream of mine, but it also served a purpose. That purpose is the foundation of Design Conference.
To create a day that inspires, educates and encourages those in attendance. If you were in attendance I hope we did at least one of those things for you.
Yes, we know if you sat on the floor your toes were cold (hockey rinks will do that to toes) and not everything ran on time and perfectly smooth as we planned it, but what didn’t sway from our plan was the “feeling” that floated through the air the entire day. A feeling of Consistent Kindness, a stirring of excitement and a reverb of laughter and a tish of education. We may call it Design Conference, but I think we can all agree we not only learned about home design. We learned about life design.
Let’s take a walk through the day.
As you entered the arena you were greeted by the lovely Shannon and Jordyn from our Bismarck location. They handed out gifts lovingly hand packaged by the Eco Chic team.
The day began with a couple hours of exclusive shopping from curated vendors, hand picked by the Eco Chic crew.
As it got closer to 2pm and the start of the beginning of the stage show the crowd began to make their way to their seats. Those who purchased the VIP tickets were greeted by swag bags, cupcakes and copy of Ree’s latest cookbook ‘Dinnertime.’
2pm arrived and I had the pleasure of welcoming all of our attendees.
Do I look nervous? Because I was. Not only because it was such an important day and I didn’t want to mess it up by saying something dumb, but also because I was wearing four inch heals. I asked the Lord to bless my words (and my walking abilities) prior to going on stage and I’m happy to report he did both.
This year we did something a bit different. Instead of the audience arriving to a beautifully and already decorated stage they arrived to this…
A blank stage.Luckily, help was on the way. Once again we welcomed the guys from Grain Designs to the Design Conference stage.
Luckily, help was on the way. Once again we welcomed the guys from Grain Designs to the Design Conference stage.
As we began planning the event, Patrick Kirby (our famous emcee) suggested that instead of having the stage already done, why don’t we let the audience watch it all come together? I thought this was a brilliant idea and I was jealous I hadn’t thought of it but we all know that Patrick is a genius. Right Patrick?
Anyway, the Grain Design guys joined me on stage and quickly got to work.
The first step was to open up the “room” and Grant had a plan. I’m thinking the plan was to scare them with his bulging biceps (while holding a chainsaw). This works for me, but the guys weren’t so sure the chainsaw was needed.
While keeping their shirts on (wink wink) they removed the dividing wall and got down to business with the new stage design. Creating a focal point in the living room was first on the list. Phil and Pat made it look easy.
Blain and Grant (who found his shirt again, darn it… oh cmon you were thinking it too) installed a gorgeous sliding barn door into the dining room.
Chip Wade felt as if maybe the guys needed a little expert advice and made an early guest appearance on the stage.
The transformation continued as the guys installed floating shelves and a reclaimed wood countertop that helped define the space between kitchen and living room and served as additional eating/working space.
Once all the larger design and remodeling elements were in place, the guys rode off into the sunset…. well, not really, they come back soon, and it was 3:30 and we were inside…so there was no sunset, but you get the picture.
Now the real fun began (at least in my mind) it was time to decorate the stage! I invited a few of my friends in the design world to join me on stage to put the finishing touches on the place.
Trever Hill (who yes, always carries a tree around every where he goes) and the lovely Julie Alin joined me on stage to help show the audience some of our favorite tips and tricks when it comes to decorating.
We had a blast placing all kinds of Eco Chic and Ree inspired pieces on the stage. So much so, that I may have to reevaluate my latest love of neutrals. The pops of color are just so refreshing and happy (much like Trever and Julie).
When it was all done, all the designers and builders came back to stage to host a Q & A panel discussion with the audience.
Once we got past the, “Are you single? Because I have a lovely daughter…” questions from all the moms in the room for Grain Designs we actually got to answer a few design questions.
The fun didn’t stop there, we were just getting started. Next up was Chip Wade from HGTV’s Elbow Room, and yes he is always this smiley!
His passion, skill-set, and knowledge of home building was second-to-none alongside his deep desire for functional and out-of-the box thinking when it comes to home design and building. Not to mention, he is one heck of a nice guy! We had a blast getting to know him. Tate and Chip were instant friends, they bonded over discussions of cross-bows, normal bows, shotguns and other hunting do-hickeys. It was a magical friendship made over pancakes at the Village Inn. We hope he comes back to Fargo real soon.
Once Chip left the stage we took a break for dinner. Guests who had purchased tickets to the “Dinner with Ree” were treated to a private event where they not only got to eat a delicious meal prepared from recipes out of Ree’s cookbook, but they also got the first glimpse of Ree and her daughter Paige.
Dinner was catered by Concordia College and we chose the Kale Salad, Chicken Picatta and Cheesecake Shooters as the meal, followed but a fun Q & A with Ree about cooking and life.
Each guest was treated to a table decorated by Eco Chic Boutique and adorned with fresh flowers from Olive Branch Botany. They also received a clipboard featuring the recipes for the meals they at that evening.
Ree shared with the crowd stories of cooking, a little about her favorite foods and even gave me a lesson in how to properly take care of a cast iron pan. In which I learned that the dishwasher is never involved in the cleaning of cast iron. Oops, looks like I should have paid better attention to the instructions.
Anyway, after dinner was complete, it was time to introduce the attendees to their keynote speaker and favorite pioneer woman.
Ree took the stage to a standing ovation amidst cheers and some tears from an excited North Dakota crowd.
My dreams came true when I got the privilege to sit alongside Ree and ask her questions about life, family, blogging and food. She also shared some great, humorous life stories, and loving stories of her and Lad- all of which were sprinkled with her sweetness. Most importantly, I got the chance to thank Ree for all those years of Consistent Kindness in her writing and living. She has inspired and encouraged me in ways I can never explain.
Then, in true Eco Chic fashion, we asked if all the little Ree fans wanted to come up on stage to meet her. It was a magical part of the evening and one I hope they never forget.
I’m always so encouraged by the amount of young fans we get at our events. It makes me hopeful that our youth are watching more than just Spongebob. (I mean really…why do kids like that so much?)
As we finished the evening Ree and Chip signed autographs and took pictures making each and ever person feel special.
Ree even got to meet a little Ree that was named after her.
We ended the day with a few photos of the speakers, it was a privilege and honor to stand alongside this group of folks. What was, even more, an honor is to work alongside the team below.
We are so blessed to get to do what we do alongside of who we do it with. It was an honor to bring you Design Conference 2017.
To see more photos of the event click here.