Tag Archives: corporate events


Bravo and a big standing O to Toronto’s URBANSOURCE CATERING who, this month, celebrate 30 successful years in one of the most volatile and difficult to crack service industries – event catering.  Starting off with a modest yet stylish storefront on Yonge St at Davisville, founders CALVIN HAMBROOK (below right) and WAYNE ABELL (below left), have built up a loyal following of corporate, private and fundraising clients who sing their praises and re-book year after year, and a professional staff who delivers 5-star service at every event.

1091 The 2 Crazy Owners Opening DayAfter moving to the larger 396 Queen St East with its big commercial kitchen in January of 1990, the business expanded with more staff being brought on board then, when the space next door at #400 became available in late 2012, Calvin and Wayne took that over, opening a stunning art gallery (www.UrbanGallery.ca) with exhibitions curated by Toronto artist, Allen Shugar. The gallery hosts monthly artist events plus can be used as a private party/dining venue.

Calvin Wayne & AllenCalvin, Wayne & Allen (above L to R)

I had a chance to chat briefly with Calvin the other week, who gave me a brief overview of the evolution of UrbanSource Catering – here’s our conversation which is, perhaps, a great lesson on how to build a thriving business while maintaining high standards of service and always delivering a quality product.

Calvin, any personal thoughts on the significance of reaching this milestone with your business? Over the past 30 years, what we’ve learned is the importance of not only giving our clients the best food, and service, but creating a thriving environment for all our staff. We see and appreciate the talents and work ethic our staff bring to our company, both on and off-site. Permitting our staff to grow professionally and bring their own energy and talents to the table helped us become a responsive company that can cater to a broad spectrum of events. It lets us bring enthusiasm and passion to every dish we serve, every party we staff and every event we plan. That’s something our customers can attest to – and this is how you stay successful for 30 years.

1092 Minstrel Foundation Dinner

WWP-7200Weddings are such big business now – how have you seen catering for weddings evolve over the past 30 years…and are you seeing any changes ahead for this season’s wedding banquets?  Weddings have evolved in many ways over the past 30 years, yet in many other ways they are the same. Many couples are much more interested in being ‘hands-on’ these days, and look for a more personalized event. But it is still a big undertaking for them, whether it’s a small reception or a big event. Often it’s the first time they’ve had to plan anything as elaborate as a Wedding Reception – and our team of consultants keep everyone sane and happy – and actually enjoy their Wedding!  Our Wedding consultant, Kaspara Albertsen, has guided many couples through the whole planning stage, and helped them overcome hurdles to get the wedding they’ve dreamed of!

IMG_0163 Leek Wrapped Tilapia

BeefFennelCroustini party table

Knowing that Urban can supply full on-site service staff, how important is having professional cater waiters/service staff at an event? Having professional staff at an event saves you headaches and stress –our Staff Manager Jean-Marc Fontaine hears from our clients often, how they ‘couldn’t have done it without our staff’ or ‘Thank you for sending me xxx, they understood my party and my guests’. That’s the difference between throwing a party and being a GUEST at your own party!



IMG_0320 You have an exciting and innovative Exec. Chef, Lyndon Wiebe – what does he bring to UrbanSource? Lyndon (below) has cooked and traveled the world, and he has a great ‘taste memory’ of things he’s tried. He can make the classic dishes – as well as our 30 Years of Urban Classics  – but he is always introducing new and delicious dishes for us to offer to our clients.

Lyndo- HEAD SHOT6Each year, Urban supports a number of worthy charitable events – which ones and why?  We recognize the need to give back to our community, and Toronto is one of the most charitable cities anywhere. We support so many worthwhile charities: Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Fife House, Surrey Place, Casey House, Inside Out,  Nellie’s Shelter, Toronto United Church’s Heart & Vision and many area Hospitals and charity fundraisers.


IMG_0975 US-25 Any suggestions/recommendations for people planning weddings, corporate events or personal dining parties to create the best experience for their guests?  We suggest they make a list of all the items they can think of that they will need to provide for the event, assign an estimate of $$$ and a timeline. This will help them plan their budget, and how many guests they want to invite. If they see that this will be more than they can manage, either time-wise or budget-wise, they will save themselves a lot of headache, heartache and energy. This also makes them a much better-educated client, and will help them choose a caterer that meets their particular needs.

IMG_0063And what food trends do you see coming our way over the next year or so?  Street food, homestyle menus and ethnic dishes, especially South Asian and South & Central American. And more vegan, gluten-free and green-sourced foods, pickled vegetables, and house-butchered meats, artisanal foods….people are really embracing locally-sourced foods.

Seared salmon stackwasabi tuna canap+¬

If you’d like to experience what 30 years of successful catering and event planning can do for your next special event, dinner, gala or fundraiser, contact UrbanSource Catering for a quote: http://www.urbancatering.com/

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CONGRATULATIONS TO CALVIN, WAYNE and THE FABULOUS STAFF @ URBANSOURCE CATERING…wishing you another 30 years of delicious success!

2015 Decal Tourism Toronto

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Presented by the fabulous folks at URBANSOURCE CATERING, Toronto’s URBAN GALLERY hosted a special “Urban Foodie” event last night presenting some of the most delicious delicacies created by their Executive Chef, LYNDON WIEBE.

2 30thAnjniversary2015I arrived a little early so I could sneak a peek in the kitchen where Chef Lyndon and his crew were busy putting the finishing touches to the canapes (below)

20141120_171631 20141120_171713 20141120_171811…then watched as they were laid out for the soon-to-arrive guests (below)


20141120_172549 20141120_172617 20141120_173000 20141120_172705The always-fabulous gallery goddess Kaspara vamped for cameras as she tweaked and “fluffed” the food!

20141120_172651And then the guests arrived!

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Visiting food blogger, Linda Matarasso (@aStarvingFoodie) below, posted numerous Instagram & Twit pics, enjoying all the scrumptious treats as well as the stunning photographic art of Karen Silver, whose current show ends Nov. 29th

20141120_175132 20141120_180023 20141120_175814and our talented artist Karen Silver dropped in to enjoy the great food and socializing, below left

20141120_184532Artist, poet and performance artist Brenda Clews (below left) dropped by, too. Brenda hosts monthly poetry salons in the gallery and has previously exhibited her colourful, large format paintings at Urban Gallery.

20141120_184906Then Brenda (with gallery curator, Allen Shugar, below) turned the camera on me!

20141120_185005 GlendaBelow, Wayne Abell, our host-with-the-most, enjoyed welcoming the guests….

20141120_173902….and Catering & Events Mgr, Calvin Hambrook (below right) shared a glass of wine and stories with guests

20141120_185739(0)CHEESY BALLS!  Yaaaaay, they’re back…my favourite “cheesy balls” which are actually delicious risotto balls with warm cheese stuffing made a special appearance, just for me – below

20141120_185502…but the spicy shrimps were also pretty awesome. Simple, delicately spiced with lime, these were gobbled up quickly by very happy guests.

20141120_175648My favourite Canadian wines by Pelee Island Winery were served…

20141120_173328 20141120_173345and the food kept coming….even Whisky & Spice booze-infused mustards made an appearance beside the charcouterie platters.

20141120_181657 20141120_182347But my new all-time favourite has to be this special treat Chef Lyndon prepared…maple candied bacon strips. OMG, they were sooooo good and they disappeared sooooo quickly. At least I managed to grab a few!

20141120_173703 20141120_173731Big thank you to everyone who attended, and thank-you to UrbanSource Catering for showcasing such an amazing selection of holiday hors d’oeuvres, canapes and charcouterie platters, all available from their special festive menus. Find these plus holiday cocktail menus online here: http://www.urbancatering.com/






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I was recently introduced to the wonderful folks at Urban Source Catering and their adjoining Urban Gallery, the awesome event space and art gallery located at 400 Queen St East in downtown Toronto. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a number of artist receptions and salons at Urban Gallery over the past couple of months and wanted to share their story and promote their business to my readers.  I asked Gallery Manager Calvin Hambrook and Event Coordinator Kaspara Albertsen to share the story of Urban Gallery and how artists can participate with shows and exhibitions.

20140403_184402What inspired the Urban  Source Catering team to expand into an event space/gallery?  We had always planned on having an event space and Calvin wanted an art gallery, too, so when the space at 400 Queen Street East became available, we jumped at the chance to have both combined in one…and right next door, too!

Do you have any specific criteria for artists considering a show at Urban Gallery?  We’re a new gallery so we are open to artists in various media, working in a wide variety of subjects.


Allen Shugar is your curator – how did Allen join the team and what is his function as far as choosing artists/curating the pieces that are hung in Urban Gallery?  Allen is Calvin’s life partner and a talented artist. He studied design at the Bauhaus School in Chicago and has a broad knowledge of the arts and art history. He also has a keen eye for the specialized task of curating art, group shows being more difficult and time-consuming than most but Allen always pleases the artists and the public with his curating. [Pictured below:Calvin (left) and Allen (right) flank recent exhibiting artist,  Shannon Moyer-Szemenyei ]


How do you help promote each show for the artists?  We advertise in Slate Art Guide (their magazine & online version) and on  www.torontoart.com plus we have our own website & social media. Since opening in November of 2012, Urban Gallery has built a contact list of over 1,200 visitors & art aficionados so each exhibition benefits from a promotional e-mail campaign.

Do you have any relationships with arts associations, groups, etc.?  We are currently part of the 2014 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival and World Pride Toronto 2014, and we are considering participating with other arts groups and associations in the future as we grow our reputation as a gallery.

How has the opening of the gallery impacted the neighbourhood? Have you noticed it attracts new visitors to the Queen East historic district?  We have noticed an increased foot traffic since we opened, and we know that many of our visitors are pleasantly surprised by the vivacity and safety of the neighbourhood, and the many new businesses and shops opening along the historic Queen Street East strip.

Do you have plans to hold special catered events in the space?  Yes, we will be hosting events during our Group Show Pride of Place in June 2014, as well as various events during Pride and World Pride. We’re also working on our 2nd Group Show in September, the visually delicious “Art of Food” when we will be featuring tasty selections from our catering menu during the Show’s run.


Urban Source Catering celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2015 – any special celebrations planned in the gallery space?  Yes, we will ‘kick off’ the 30th Anniversary Celebrations with the aforementioned Group Show “Art of Food”, and will also host events each month leading up to the 30th Anniversary on March 8, 2015.

Who/how can artists contact you for possible exhibitions?  Calvin is the Gallery Manager and is the main contact for booking exhibitions, but they can also speak with Kaspara Albertsen to make their initial inquiry. Artists can contact us via email at urbangalleryart1@gmail.com or call 647-460-1278.

Any special shows coming up this year? Upcoming Exhibitions: July: artist Alex Taves • August: artist Linda Langerak • October: artist J. David Murphy • November: photographer Karen Silver • December: artist Erik Chong

  •  I SEE is a photography exhibit in May 2014 for Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival
  • Pride of Place is our gallery group show for PRIDE and WORLD PRIDE in June 2014
  • Art of Food is our second group show in 2014, featuring food-themed art and our Chef Lyndon Wiebe’s food artistry

We have a number of “Art Salons” (pictured below) planned and also have several exhibitions already scheduled for 2015, and are receiving inquiries daily for exhibition opportunities!

Nik Beat salon

And a final message from Gallery Manager, Calvin Hambrook:

I’ve been very happy with the interest and enthusiasm from the artists and gallery visitors, not only for the ‘No Commission’ concept, but also for the beauty of the space – its elegance and simplicity. I’m delighted by Kaspara’s pleasant and efficient handling of inquiries and events and, of course, Allen’s excellent curating talent. We are all very proud of Urban Gallery’s contribution to the local community’s well-being as well as the general Toronto arts community!

Calvin, Kaspara & Allen(L to R) Calvin, Kaspara & Allen – the heart, soul and artistic driving forces behind URBAN GALLERY







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It’s always great to catch up with events industry friends and business colleagues, so yesterday I was ready to walk the aisles at this year’s CANADIAN SPECIAL EVENTS showcase down at the MTCC and it didn’t disappoint.

20140326_112949This year’s event featured a lot of amazing stilt-walkers, courtesy of ZERO GRAVITY CIRCUS [ http://www.zgcircus.com]. The gentleman pictured above was soooo tall, I had to ask him to stoop down in order to capture him with my camera!

First off, I made a b-line straight for my friend Crystal Leochko of BRASH AVENUES  [ http://www.brashavenues.com ] – pictured below (R).


I’ve followed Crystal for a number of years as she’s grown her incentives and logowear business located in Burlington, ON, and I always recommend Brash Avenues to all my clients for their wide selection of quality items, fast turn-around and speedy delivery. This year, I really liked the cool kitchen utensils that can be logo’d with your corporate i.d., great for all the foodies out there.

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Just along the aisle from Crystal was the EMS group [ http://www.eracademy.com ] – many large event planners forget how important it is to have the EMS team on hand for any medical emergencies. These folks are all certified paramedics and provide customized emergency response plans so if you’re presenting a major sports event or rock concert this year, these are the guys you want on hand.


The most exciting connection I made was with the iBID representatives Tim and Brandon [www.ibid-events.com ]. iBid is an interactive bidding system using touchscreen & tablet technology that significantly increases the amount of $s raised at fundraising events as guests interact with this fun and exciting online program. This new e-program is really leading edge and I recommend ALL fundraisers check out iBid’s site.

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iBid effectively replaces those old school paper bid sheets and pencils (that always get lost halfway thru a silent auction!) and after watching the demonstration I definitely recommend a personal demonstration from the Toronto rep, Brandon.

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The fun folks at LaROUGE [ http://www.larougeentertainment.com ] showcased some of their cheery entertainers (above).  And I loved the Victorian “steam punk” vibe in the FOS Décor Centre booth (below) [www.fosdecor.com ]

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Every year, I pick up my copy of the TSEvents Guide – the “bible” for special events folks that lists all the venues, caterers, suppliers, A/V companies…all the industry consultants you could ever want. [ http://www.tsevents.com ]


Woohoo, I met the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit down the next aisle – I want these two at my next party!


It’s always nice to meet fellow chocolate lovers and the ladies of TIFIDIN (below) offered yummy treats that carried inspirational thoughts and messages, great for sales and marketing meetings, brightening up your employees’ days or distributing to customers. [ http://www.tifidin.com ]

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A good, clean H2O drinking supply is always important at large outdoor events and the folks at WATER-ON-WHEELS deliver the best. [ http://www.wateronwheels.ca ] I’ve used them myself and can recommend them for all your sports, music or other outdoor festivals.

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Nice to run into old friend Terry Holdershaw pictured below of SCOTIA ENTERTAINMENT [www.ScotiaEntertainment.com] whose string quartet entertained on the main stage. Beautiful music and a lovely soothing respite from the hustle and bustle of the busy exhibitor aisles.

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The food samples from PER SE Catering & Events were deelish! And the chef was kinda cute, too…LOL!  [www.persecatering.com]


Met a couple of wild’n’crazy ladies from THE AGENCY GROUP [www.TheAgencyGroup.com] who shared stories from the trenches of Canadian showbiz with me. Aaaah, memories from my old days working the big rock tours and concerts in the 80’s and 90’s. Big shout out to Soniya (l) and Stefanie (r) – if you want to book great high profile speakers and the greatest bands and musicians in the country – call these ladies!

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I was quite embarrassed that I had not visited the uber cool restaurant JOEY EATON CENTRE [ http://www.joeyrestaurants.com] located on the Dundas St side of the Eaton Centre. The venue looks pretty awesome so I’m hoping to organize a FAM visit with some PR colleagues in the next month or so. The knowledgeable young chef certainly knew his stuff so I can’t wait to try the menu.

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Saw this beautiful floral display (below) set up by DECOR AND MORE [www.decorandmore.com]

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Groove is in the heart…..STARDUST EVENTS presented a fabulous display booth with a hippy dippy vibe. [www.stardustevents.com]

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When you gotta go, you gotta go…and how better to take care of business than with the Royal Flush mobile loo from IT’S MY POTTY [www.itsmypotty.com]. Check out their mobile facilities below…mention my name, get a good seat!

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I had a “Jimmy Buffett” moment when I stepped into THE CANVAS NURSERY booth [www.thecanvasnursery.com] , a Florida-based company offering full-sized artificial palms and tablescapes. Made me want to do a tiki bar themed event….and they even gave me a Pina Colada flavoured lollipop! Yum…

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What a fabulous afternoon spent with innovators and visionaries in the special events industry. Thanks to http://www.canadianspecialevents.com for hosting another fab event.  And thank you to the man in the mirrors who allowed me to touch up my lipstick and hair on the way out!











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INTERNSHIPS – good opportunities to learn or soul-sucking advantage takers?

Over the past few months, I’ve been reading a lot of negative stories about how badly treated interns are – how there are no benefits to working one’s butt off for no (or limited) financial rewards and the mistreatment of these poor poor put-upon students. Yeah right! So here’s a blog that may anger, enrage and piss-off a lot of people but this is based on MY experience as an industry professional who pays a modest monthly honorarium as well as full-time mentoring and investment of my time, knowledge and expertise for my interns…but I am constantly disappointed by their lack of commitment or any sustained level of enthusiasm.


As a marketing, PR and events professional who is always looking to mentor and support newbies to the industry, let me tell you that internships are not a one-way street and are not always as they’re portrayed by this group of “entitlement focused” dis-engaged  and frequently under-educated university students.  Over the past ten years, I have sought out interns from Toronto universities and colleges offering specialized programs for events, marketing and public relations and on each and every occasion, have found the students or recent graduates frighteningly under-educated. Who graduates a student from a PR program without teaching them how to write effective media releases? How come they don’t know the importance of developing (and keeping current) media contact lists that include print, broadcast, outdoor, transit as well as web-based news sources? And how come they don’t understand the importance of tracking time allocations for clients – I have yet to receive a full series of completed weekly time sheets from any of my previous interns!? This impacts client billings and yet they don’t understand this important factor and simply shrug off my pleas for time sheets. And when given the opportunity to go out and secure their own client where they can keep ALL fees associated with that client to themselves, they never bother to do so or come up with excuses why they can’t find a potential project for themselves. Isn’t this what you went to school for anyway?   thCACSWW99

When taking on interns, I ask them their preferred area of business – do you want to focus on managing/producing special events or create and manage public relations or publicity campaigns for clients? Based on their response, I tailor an internship that focuses responsibilities in those areas where they can shadow me, learn and then take ownership of projects and at the same time, learn and work on all the less-glamorous administrative chores that support these projects. I illustrate how important it is to track hours spent working for each client or project, how to calculate and quote on fees and retainers for clients, how to cross-promote, I give them an understanding of the sponsorship process and, of course, all media relations processes. Interns are given easy chores to complete each week including updating media lists, sourcing promotional opportunities for my clients, social media populating and engagement based on easy to follow parameters I have set….but after an initial rush of enthusiasm the first month, by weeks 7 or 8, I find that each and every intern loses interest, slacks off and ceases to bother with even contacting me for follow-ups. All I ask is for a 10-12hr per week commitment which is not a lot.

I insure interns are empowered and involved in every aspect of events management and promotions, media relations, client presentations and social media. I never expect them to pay-to-play: I reimburse all and any expenses incurred, transportation and they are given all sorts of perks and samples as well as getting paid AND having access to my contacts, my templates and marketing collateral, and my brain! How much is that all worth? They are treated with respect and their hours are scheduled to accommodate classes or other part-time work to the detriment of my own needs. So….who’s the bad guy here? If interns do not step up and ask questions, offer their own input and opinions, use their initiative to contribute why are WE the bad guys? Sure there are lots of jerks out there who do take advantage of unpaid interns but it’s up to those interns to report the “abuse” to their colleges, or simply walk away. You are not indentured to these “mentors”, nor are you forcibly confined. Quit being such cry babies!! Get out there and create your own opportunities – you interview the companies or individuals offering prospective internships, not the other way around. This is your career, your education, your life so take responsibility.

interns  Tough love? You betcha…but I’m fed up with continually investing time and energy in young people who do not respect or appreciate the amount of time being given them and knowledge imparted.  Stop wasting MY time.

I’d love to hear from other professionals and business owners who have gone thru the internship process – how do you mentor and help the neophytes? How have you benefited from intern assistance? What are your horror stories? And I’d love to hear from interns, too – what has been your experience and how did you survive inequitable situations or enjoy a fruitful and empowering relationship?

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This evening, I had the pleasure of experiencing the hospitality and dee-lish menu samples from the charming folks of THE FIFTH INC. a multi-level café, grill, pub and fancy-schmantzy event space in downtown Toronto. www.thefifth.com

img166My lovely assistant, Kaneesha, joined me for the great networking opps and the generous sampling (hic!) of cocktails, wine and beer as well as the yummy appetizers (the juicy grilled lamb chops & mint were my fave!) and we also had fresh shucked oysters on the half-shell.

G at the Fifth Kaneesha

Bravo to The Fifth, for making this industry event a wonderful experience for all us jaded events professionals…and thanks, too, for the surprise gift bag with the Lindt truffles – wow, you really know how to spoilt usl!  Great to see Tourism Toronto there to support the venue and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up on all the TT news from around the world from my favourite “membership guy” Christopher Barry. If you wanna see all the great int’l events coming to Toronto over the next few years? Visit: www.seeTorontonow.com

Below are some pics I snapped of the venue (before all the people arrived so you can see how it looks), the elegant and cozy sheep cushions on the banquettes, Kaneesha tweeting out pics of our desserts, etc. but you gotta go check it out yourself. Tell them I sent you…..

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Even their exec. chef presented a food demonstration, creating the super tasty steak tartar for the rapt audience (below).


The Fifth has maintained all sorts of cool architectural salvage and original fixtures from the early 1900’s. I had to snap away and share these with you, too.20130924_185146 20130924_185206 20130924_185238 20130924_185302

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Thanks to the amazing event professionals at www.ignitemag.ca for hosting another brilliant expo for the special event industry at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. Saw some innovative lighting display balloons, courtesy of www.airstarcanada.com (below) and tasted several delicious wines from the Niagara region.20130620_154252And speaking of Niagara, I just had to take a picture in the green-screen booth of the Niagara Falls Tourism folks. It reminded me of that scene from Bruce Almighty when Jim Carrey is told on-camera he didn’t get the TV anchor job. Yikes!

img158Then I visited with a fab group of tourism reps from www.worldmarketinggroup.com (below) who shared their stories about Turkey, Ireland, England…and other international destinations they serviced. Could have stayed with them forever and those yummy Turkish Delight samples really hit the spot! Thanks Michael, Fiona, Sen & Kelly for your smiles and warm conversation – hope you got lots of business from Toronto event planners.

20130620_150038(0)I then noticed the lovely Princess over at the Medieval Times booth and snapped a cute pic of her reigning over her event planning kingdom. I wrote a nice article last November on Medieval Times for www.TheRider.com after being given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Toronto Castle. I met horses and knights and falconers and princesses and jesters and serving wenches and….well, I had a blast so I can highly recommend http://www.medievaltimes.com/toronto.aspx to anyone, young or old, for a fun evening of jousting and feasting.

20130620_154628I ended my afternoon with a visit to the www.ConventionsRegina.com booth where I got “arrested” by a Mountie! Well, maybe I was the one who tackled him and cajoled him into posing with me (below), and being a lifelong fan of the 30’s movie musical “Rose Marie” starring  Jeannette MacDonald & Nelson Eddie, I could not resist warbling in his ear…”When I’m calling you-oo-oo-oo oo-oo-ooo….” LOL!

20130620_150849Thanks again to the nice folks at Ignite Magazine for a super afternoon of networking and sourcing new suppliers and venues. Bravo, you!

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