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BlogHer13 Sightseeing and Expo in Chicago

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Whenever 4,000 + bloggers converge on a major US city, they turn a typical convention spot into a media hub.  Everywhere you go, everyone is capturing photos on their camera or phone.  If you think you know social media, someone, somewhere can tell you about another new platform to try.  The mom-next-door that you meet and chat with about raising kids might turn out to be the next big blog star with millions of followers.  And yet, she’s surprisingly down-to-earth. The diversity of styles and opinions can be as varied as the world we live in.
My first experience with a blogging conference, ever, just happened to be this summer’s BlogHer13 conference in Chicago.  Having never visited the city except on a weary plane layover, I was enchanted by the downtown, park and waterfront areas along Lake Michigan.  I found the architecture captivating and went home excited about places I could bring my children on another visit!
Buckingham Fountain in Chicago
I know, I know, I was supposed to get a picture of the famous “bean” sculpture like everybody else.  I was drawn instead to water features like Buckingham Fountain…
…and Monroe Harbor.  After arriving on a blue-sky afternoon to see the harbor for the first time, I returned during a leisurely run along Lake Michigan the next morning.
Monroe Harbor in Chicago
Because this was BlogHer and everything tied into technology, the morning run required a new trial with the Fitbit Zip tracking gadget that sponsor Best Buy gave us.  It is surprisingly easy to use and will hopefully motivate me to run more consistently back at home.  I made several new friends on this run-at-your-own pace 5K, and I stopped more times than I should have to take Instagram pictures.  But LaKeesha and Brittney with BlackGirlsRun.com encouraged me to finish.

It was helpful getting some fresh air, sunshine and fitness, because that helped balance the time spent sitting in workshops and conference talks.

The most overwhelming part of the expo, for a newbie like me, was the intensity of the marketing efforts aimed at bloggers.  It took me a short while to realize that every other person I met was not a blogger, but a marketing rep.  Those bags you see everyone toting around?  They’re full of free swag!
BlogHer13 Expo Hall

It’s understandable that since I blog about simple living and consumer awareness and don’t have a million followers just yet, I wasn’t even close to the top tier in the world of swag. Could you believe the industry folks touting canned food didn’t want to discuss BPA?  I believe some bloggers went home with new kitchen gear and luxury makeovers, while I was just hoping the folks at the artisanal chocolate booth would have sent me home with some samples.

I had to include a photo of these adorable gentlemen in their suits tailored to match the furniture they were selling.  As a Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families blogger, I wanted to ask them if they know when US safety standards on flame retardant chemicals will improve so we can be assured that all furniture is free of toxic flame retardants.  But, it just wasn’t the right time to talk TSCA reform.  Look at those sweet smiles!
Megan Hostetter, Stacey Pierson, Delilah Onofrey
Garden Media Group

I finally felt at home in the expo hall when I found the Garden Media Group.  They had a quiet space devoted to all things green and they even talk a little organic.

The prettiest booth that I forgot to take a photo of was the Happy Family display of “Organic Superfoods.”
And the caring folks at St. Jude were at the expo, reminding everyone that Saturday, November 23 is the givethankswalk.org in cities across the country. Please join them, if you can, to help raise money for the children of St. Jude.

*Thanks to SCHF for making my trip possible.

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