Ahead of the American Society of Association Executives annual meeting Aug. 10-13, Katy Smith plans her perfect Columbus tour.
If I wasn’t a magazine editor, I would love to have a little café or be an event planner. I love bringing people together over delicious food for a fun purpose like a birthday or to celebrate an award. So naturally, one of my favorite games is a simple exercise in hospitality visioning: If the most important guests of your life were hitting town in a few weeks, where would you take them?
That’s what the people at Experience Columbus and related organizations had to decide in planning the schedule for the annual conference of the American Society of Association Executives, which comes to town Aug. 10-13. At 5,000 attendees, it’s by far not the city’s largest gathering in terms of bodies. (The Arnold draws 22,000.) But it is the crème de la crème of conference-gets among tourism bureaus, for those 5,000 people carry a lot of influence. They are the leaders of national groups ranging from the American Medical Association to the Cruise Lines International Association to the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association, all groups that have annual conferences—maybe in Columbus. Cities that persuade ASAE to host its annual meeting there benefit from $500 million in future convention business, according to Experience Columbus.
So what are the plans for our esteemed guests while they’re here? The highlights of a packed schedule include an opening night reception at COSI with Nina West, MojoFlo, and Columbus’ own Craftin’ Outlaws, the band of alternative artists and crafters that proudly brought the handmade movement into the spotlight. Two nights later, conference-goers are invited to a John Legend concert at Nationwide Arena being put on just for them that also features the Harmony Project. The closing event at Express Live Aug. 13 features local bands, a fashion show, food trucks and local craft brews. As if all that wasn’t enough, conference attendees also have the opportunity to give back to the community by making care packages for veterans at the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum, creating a mural to be hung at the Reeb Avenue Center and more.
This is all wonderfully Columbus. But where would I take them?
For breakfast, we would stop into Pattycake Bakery in Clintonville, the worker-owned sweet shop that blazed a national trail with its vegan ingredients, compostable packaging and deliveries by bicycle. What am I having? A Marry-Me Blueberry Muffin and coffee from Yeah Me Too, the quirky Indianola Avenue shop that makes the best coffee in Columbus. That would get us good and fueled up for a visit to Saraga, the eye-popping international market on Morse Road you never knew you needed in your life, followed by room after room after room of intellectual goofing off at the Book Loft in German Village. Dinner would involve slamming on some impossibly-thin-crusted, Columbus-cut pies at Rubino’s Pizza in Bexley (cash only!), and then we would head to Old North Columbus for the evening’s entertainment and my idea for how the guests could give back to the community: Karaoke for Cats.
In my fantasy, my favorite Columbus jazz club, Dick’s Den, would host my most important guests for a night of live music and karaoke. Each performance would cost $5 to be donated to one of the many cat welfare groups in town, and a bonus $5 would be donated for every cat-themed song.
You know what? This is Columbus, after all, where people come together to make things happen—amazing things, like saving the Crew and cleaning up the Scioto River. Karaoke for Cats could become a reality. If you want to contribute, just give me a call at 614-573-7308.
(P.S.!!! After this column was published, I was contacted by Columbus Humane, and they are IN!)