FoodCon will be taking over the Harrison Center this Friday starting at 6 p.m. This, "unconventional convention," will feature a unique blend of local food enthusiasts and artists. Fermenters, beekeepers, urban gardeners and quail farmers are just a few of the interesting people who will be in attendance.
This year, the annual event is being organized by Leila Vanest, 15, a junior at Herron High School whose birthday is coincidentally the same day as the convention.
Dressed in a plaid skirt and white button-up shirt, Vanest sat at a bench and explained how she got the job coordinating FoodCon IV.
"I was selected to organize the event by Joanna Taft, who runs the Harrison Center of the Arts. I had an internship here last year, and I was asked in the fall last year, and started working on it mid-February," she said. "She offered me this job here as a cultural entrepreneur. I learned a lot last year, it was more general. I did some grunt work. I'm an intern so I guess that is what you do. I kept working throughout the school year because you can have an internship at Herron. I was actually the only sophomore to have an internship."
This sophisticated sophomore was the right choice for the job due to her love of food.
"I love cooking. I like any food except for blue cheese, blue cheese I just cannot do. I'm a total foodie, which sounds kind of dumb, but still. I am really good at making eggplant parmesan and I like to boast about it," she exclaimed.
When coordinating a large event, it can be hard to know where to start.
"At first, it was just finding food trucks and vendors, so I started with food trucks. I looked on the internet and asked some people what their preferences were. We've had food trucks in the past that have come to FoodCon before, so I read reviews on that," she said. "I went to the City Market and looked around to see if there was anyone there who would be interested."
There is much to think about and plan, but so far, coordinating the event has been a pleasant experience for Vanest.
"It has been great. Especially interacting with the people who operate the food trucks and the vendors," Vanest said. "It's fun to run an event and have your name on it. The whole process is really exciting."
"I try to focus on local vendors more, I like the slow food movement," Vanest said.
For attendees with a sweet tooth, Nicey Treat will be bringing a food bicycle and selling popsicles.
Furthering the events focus on local food, there will be a number of farmers in attendance, with cows, goats and other animals, there to teach people how animal products such as milk and cheese are created.
"We have chickens from an eleven year old girl who raises them by herself. She goes to Redeemer Presbyterian Church, the same church as me," Vanest said.
While the primary focus of the event is on food, art enthusiasts will be happy to know that this is still First Friday and so the galleries at the Harrison Center will be full of food-themed artwork by Jeannine Allen, MarnaShopoff, Melissa Hopson, Erica Cunningham, Kelley Jordan Heneveld and Molly Johnson.
"FoodCon can be taken in the literal sense, there are some artists who are just doing paintings of food, but what I love about FoodCon is that you can see the artistry, especially in the vendors and how they are explaining their process. I think art is about what is appealing. Food is the same way. I think art is about (experiencing) all five senses, and I think food is too," she explained.
For the art-loving wine enthusiasts, FoodCon is trying something unique this year.
"We have art in all the galleries. We're doing this interesting thing this year where we have wine and art pairings. It is all about how art and wine complement each other well," Vanest said. "They are very distinctly pairing the wine with certain pieces of art, which I think is really going to be interesting to see if it actually works."
"I was shown an article about this by someone at the Harrison Center, and I decided to implement it into FoodCon," she said. "I am not extremely involved in the process of the wine and art pairing because I am still underage, but I did ask some of the brewers to come, and I am being kept informed and updated about it," she explained.
Vanest is going all out to make this a unique, must-see convention.
"It is going to be awesome. If you like food at all, you should definitely come. The food trucks are going to be delicious," she explained. "I think it is really important for people to know more about local and healthy food options because I feel like there are a lot of people who don't know about good options. FoodCon is all about how to eat; not just tasting it, but feeling it too."