It can take days and weeks for you to get ready to attend a homeschool convention. You are making lists and getting childcare, or thinking through how you will feed your three little people while browsing different curricula. And what curricula is out there, anyway? So you research and ask lots of questions to your homeschool friends for days beforehand.
Or maybe you just show up and hope for the best. We know a little something about both methods: we spend months preparing, but we also just show up—ready for the adventure.
What we call “Fair Season” begins in February and ends in July, peaking in April and May, when our whole sales team is on the road and in hotels, setting up booths at conventions, and talking with lots of you; then tearing down, and traveling again all in one weekend.
Each convention is so different, we find ourselves telling stories about them for years. All kinds of stories, the good, the sad, and the lovely. Here is our convention season in review.
What face do you remember best?
Melissa: One woman I talked to had an essential oil infuser around her neck. She said that she had been into essential oils, and her husband took the initiative and got this perfect gift. She was stressed about coming to a convention, and so she put a relaxing blend of oils in the infuser.
Mike: In Texas, there was a security guy who looked like Steve Demme. Attendees asked him over and over if he was Steve Demme. Steve wasn’t even at that convention. The security guard was really gracious. He walked by our cashier person occasionally and held up numbers of how many people mistook him for Steve.
Walking around with Steve Demme at a homeschool convention is like walking around with Bono anywhere else.
Is there a customer story that stands out in your mind?
Seth: There were two ladies in Cincinnati who came to the booth, and said, “Word on the street is that Math-U-See doesn’t work for Algebra.” Steve Demme was sitting there, and he gave me the nod. So I broke out the Algebra Decimal Inserts and factored a polynomial. They were like, “What!? You’re saying you can use Math-U-See for Algebra!” Then they bought Math-U-See’s Algebra 1 level.
Melissa: There was one customer who bought $400 worth of stuff. She looked so put together, her hair was nicely done, her outfit was gorgeous and matchy-matchy. But she had forgotten to bring a rolling suitcase. She had some hefty bags, and so we kept them in the back for her until the end of the show. Then she almost left the convention without them! I had to chase her down, and she was really grateful.
Was there a situation this year where you found yourself having to improvise?
Amanda: In St. Louis, we had just gotten everything unloaded, and then realized we didn’t have this essential piece, the price sheets. My husband was at this show, working as a cashier. I knew all of our prices had recently changed, and my husband hadn’t had exposure to that. But I had just happened to grab a price sheet from the last show, and took it with me for his reference.
So we took it to an office store and got copies made. We were all so grateful that I had that along!
What event do you still chuckle about?
Linda: We visited a memorable diner in Denver. When we got our food, it didn’t look… great. My husband and I had ordered fish, so we got tartar sauce. When we ate it, we knew something was just off with the tartar sauce. I was afraid to complain, but I did tell the server, because I was afraid I might get sick. She said, “Yeah, we were out of tartar sauce, so we just added some stuff to it to make it stretch further.”
Then, looking around, we started to see bottles that had no caps on them. It was just not a very clean place. It became a joke to us.
A few weeks later, I was telling my son about the experience. He and his friend had just been to Colorado, so we were comparing our dining. They had just been to that same diner! They saw a rat run across the floor at this same place! They paid and left right away. You don’t always know the places to eat when you’re new in town, and I have since read that this diner has cleaned up its act.
What was your favorite venue of all the fairs you attended this year?
Seth: I attended six fairs, and Greenville, South Carolina was my favorite. The nicest people are from the Carolinas. And they have really good food down there.
Amanda: Portland was amazing. It was an area we’d never been to before. What impressed me most was the number of second generation homeschoolers! I’m a second gen homeschooler, and I don’t find that very often.
Mike: CSTHEA, in Chattanooga. They provided packed lunches and a dinner that they brought to the booth–tea, coffee, goldfish, granola bars, fruit. We could go into the vendor lounge any time to eat.
What travel tips have you developed?
Mike: Last weekend was my 35th convention, so I’ve developed some tricks. I text myself my room number. I barely remember what state I’m in when I wake up at a hotel. I think to myself, “where am I? What convention am I doing? What time do I need to be there by?”
If your hotel has a pool or hot tub, go there the first and second nights. I have sold our product from almost every hot tub where I’ve been, because attendees are staying there, too, and of course we end up talking about it.
Sandra: I have a different circumstance than most people, because Atlanta traffic is just awful. So I have to check if any of my routes are blocked. One morning this year, every route I had to get there was blocked with a wreck.
Thanks for listening to our stories! Part 2 is coming soon.