Monkey Business at Cake Fair – Orlando
From the U.S.A to England & Canada… October and November were whirlwind months for me. Thanks to my very understanding husband and some help from friends I was able to make all of this travel happen and also make it reasonably easy on my kids. A bit of organising, but we got there.
First stop was Orlando for the CakeFair show. I arrived 4 days early, to hang out with the incredible Avalon Yarnes and Zen Video Master Zach Waters and to start work on a showpiece that she asked me to be a part of. She had already been working day and night for a week on a life-size girl clown that was floating away with some balloons. Although the clown was only halfway done when I arrived, she was already looking realistic, with a fine arse on her too.
My job was to make a life-size standing chimpanzee that was pointing and laughing at her (at the clown…. not Avalon). My plan was to be really organised and bring the chimp head completely finished with me from Ireland. But, as usual, time got away from me and I had only made the basic shape. I hit the ground running though and started in on it as soon as I arrived. I didn’t want to let her down and have her regret that she asked me at all.
The whole project was a huge undertaking but thankfully we got help from some incredibly talented women. Shawna McGreevy, Shannon Bond, Sara Laird Webber and Sandra Velez-Beltran. It seriously wouldn’t have been completed without them. Actually, while we were in the house we found out that Avalon, Shawna and Shannon were awarded Top Ten Cake Artists in the USA! PROUD!
Every day from morning until night we were all working on the pieces constantly. And it was FUN. When you’re so used to working with cakes on your own all of the time it can get a little lonely. I don’t mind it – but I do find that sometimes when I meet another human being, I start talking a mile a minute about nothing at all – just to be able to talk to someone! So this whole situation of staying in a house with all these like minded, crazy, fun, talented ladies was a recharge of my batteries. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard work and there were some tears. There was also some singing, dancing, teasing (mostly of me), some wine (again mostly me), attack frogs and a lot of pyjama wearing.
Thursday was D-Day (delivery day). We had around a 20 minute drive to get to, and find, the convention centre with some VERY delicate pieces in the back of 2 vans. The clown lady had to travel in 2 pieces (cut at her waist) in one van and I went with the monkey in Sandra’s van. I was very nervous that his pointing arm was going to shake, bend or crack with all of the bumps on the road over. So I fashioned a very high tech mechanism to reduce the movement. A bit of cling-film (saran wrap) and my brute strength to hold it up did the trick. We managed to get everything in place. It was a little nerve wracking putting Cotton Candy (the clown girl) together on site but we did it! A few touch up jobs but everyone was thrilled with the result! They looked great together!
The rest of the weekend was fantastic and busy, too. After the monkey was transported, I moved houses to stay with my good friends Bunny Bard (BunnyBakes) and Kim Gold (KimmyCakes) from Montreal and my buddy Etty VanUrk (Cake Dutchess, Scotland). We were also sharing the place with Kylie Mangles (Letterpress Bakery, Vancouver). I hadn’t met her before and was seriously fan-girling. She’s as sweet, quirky and fun as her cakes are. When you stay with people in such close quarters you really get to know them well. We were a great mix together.
The show itself was really well laid out and organized. Not as big as Cake International (what is?…) but you’d be happy wandering the aisles and taking classes for a weekend. First job at the show… I had to give a demonstration in a classroom on how to make a realistic hand. At the start it looked like there were only going to be around 4 or 5 people joining me for it. But after telling everyone to pull up a chair, so I didn’t have to shout, more and more people joined but also pulled up chairs. It was one of the best demonstrations I’ve had. Great camaraderie between everyone and there were a few “OOOooooooh” moments – which I love. We had an absolute laugh too. At the end loads of people were exchanging details with each other. I love that.
The next day was my hedgehog modelling class. I was nervous about this one as my classes are usually full day (7 hour) classes and I only had 3 hours to teach it. There was a decent turnout for it and everyone was up for the challenge. It turned out to be a great class with some fun and cheeky students. And the hedgehogs looked great too!
But I wasn’t the only Irish lady there! One of my best friends from Ireland was there competing with another buddy of mine, Maria O’Connor in the Live Global Cake Challenge! I was thrilled to be there to cheer them on with Grainne, waving Irish flags. It was insane stress just watching. Luckily I was able to send some live video footage back to all the eager people in Ireland awaiting news. And it was looking good for Ireland. Everyone had chosen them in the running for the top 3 contestants. The US had Fernanda Abarca and her husband on their team. TOUGH competition!! I never got the chance to see their piece though – because the structure didn’t hold under the weight of the cake and it collapsed. Australia’s team seemed to have suffered some disaster and their station was down to one brave lady. So it was really down to (in my opinion) Ireland, Canada (seriously not biased) and Mexico. I had to give another demonstration at the American Cake Decorating stand while the awards were given out. So I couldn’t be there for it. But I heard the announcement over the microphone – IRELAND WON!! I think I might have scared the beans out of everyone that was watching my demo when I shouted out a WAHOOooooo! I was, and am, completely thrilled for them as they had worked SO hard practicing and prepping. A leprechaun on a pot of gold on a stone wall. Complete with music and dry ice smoking out of his pipe. A PRISTINE finish. They were working together and troubleshooting like the pros that they are! Their smiles for the rest of the weekend was worth more than their prize money. A whopping $10,000!
It was an amazing trip! I met so many new friends and caught up with some old ones too. I had promised myself that I wouldn’t be able return to Cake Fair (for financial reasons) but looking back on the whole experience and reminiscing about it … never say never ; )