The Maple Lodge Farms Special Event Team is taking a little road trip this summer...make that a BIG road trip...about 7,000 kilometres wide of a road trip to be exact. From July 4 to August 3 2010, Grant, Kim, Cassandra, Natalie, Mike and Josh - 6 wicked young people from the GTA - will be hitting all the major cities across Canada, hosting free BBQs at grocery stores and head offices that Maple Lodge is in partnerships with. Traveling in a 70 foot tractor trailer from hotel to hotel, they're on a mission to get the nation hooked on chicken. So stop by this blog daily to see where they are, what they're up to, and maybe YOU will start craving an Ultimate Chicken Dog too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Last Post

No no, I'm not about to ask you to stand as I play a patriotic trumpet number, but I do hope that THIS Last Post will be just as epic.

My surroundings tonight are a little different than my previous writing scenes. I'm sitting at a high square table with my laptop set up on a placemat. There is not one, but a whole plethora of windows providing a view of a green backyard, and there is a gigantic fridge just steps away filled with perishable food items.

Indeed, the Great Canadian Chicken Expedition has ended and the Maple Lodge Special Events crew is HOME!

At about 3:30 this afternoon, the Showtruck arrived at its final destination. Music was blasting from a live band, while confetti and streamers flew into the air as hundreds of Maple Lodge employees applauded and cheered for the trailer as it rolled majestically across the dusty lot...

Ok, truthfully, the welcoming parade never showed. But we WERE greeted by a display just as awesome! Shortly before our arrival, Frank pulled the old Showtruck from last summer right up to the security gates of the Lodge which was decked out with balloons and a sign bearing the words "Welcome Home Team."

Yes, 31 days later, we're back in Brampton, Ontario - and I can't believe that our cross-Canada adventure is over!!!

After driving all the way to Victoria BC and back, it was so surreal driving into the Lodge lot this afternoon. It felt like it had been forever since we last took the Winston Churchill exit off the 401, and yet, when we were back the shop, washing the truck and talking with Frank, James and Kate, it felt like no time had passed at all. It's so hard to believe that we've been through all the major cities in Canada in the last month!

What an amazing month it was to say the least! I've been a part of the Special Events team for three years now, but July 2010 definitely trumps previous MLF adventures. It was an experience I will NOT soon forget.

Even though I've been on the team since I was 18, this year is my first summer as Team Leader. The difference between being a member and being El Capitano? Instead of taking orders, I give them. Oddly enough, this concept took me a little while to get used to. Starting in May, I was suddenly in a leadership position which was defined by bigger expectations and responsibilities - the main one being the responsibility of leading a team across the country for one month.

AHA! Yeah right.

I remember feeling stressed and flat-out nervous when I first learned that I was going to be Team Leader for the national team. Being in charge of local events was one thing, but coordinating events thousands of kilometres away? HOW?

What's more, when I saw the new Showtruck for the first time, I literally felt like David looking Goliath right in the face. Learning how to work that thing was quite an overwhelming experience and I wondered how in the world we were going to take it across Canada. There were so many little details to think about which made me wonder if this trip would be a success. How were we going to get product? Where were we going to fill up propane? How were we going to clean the truck? Where were we going to fill up our water tanks? What do I do with the breakers again?? WILL I BE ABLE TO DO THIS?

Well folks, it's August 3rd and the chicken has been served. Mission. Accomplished.

Despite the stress, nerves and inevitable exhaustion that comes with taking care of the execution of special events, I am SO happy that I took on this challenge. I've learned so much from this experience, specifically the art of "going with the flow," the practise of double-checking everything, and the importance of knowing that "Yes, I CAN do it!"

Before I left for this trip, I remember my 92-year-old Uncle saying to me, "You can't be nervous about anything! If you're gonna do it, get out there and hit 'em hard!"

From Brampton to Victoria, I think I did just that, and it's exactly what I intend to do for my next adventure: a semester exchange program in Denmark starting in February for TV Journalism! Despite the nervousness and stress I know I will be feeling in six months, what I've learned from this cross-Canada tour is that I have it in me to delve into a new situation and accomplish something GREAT.

But hang on a minute.

The success of MLF's Summer Tour 2010 is not for ONE SECOND just my own doing. I wasn't province-hopping alone out there, people. Rather, I was in the company of five awesome people who know how it's done. Grant, Cassandra, Natalie, Josh, Mike and I are a team, and it was the SIX of us that made our trip a grand accomplishment! It was OUR work and personalities combined that made those chicken buyers smile. Without a doubt.

So really: WE did it!

WE made head office employees light up as they sampled a Salsalitta chicken thigh and WE made kids smile by making them chicken hats and free hot dogs. WE raised over $1,000 for Sunshine Dreams for Kids and WE put on ten events that I believe left Maple Lodge's mark on the West - our goal right from the start.

And that's not all.

We drove 10205 kilometres across Canada. We hotel-hopped like mad and still found the energy to wake up the next morning and keep driving, no matter how long the GPS said it would be until our next destination. We pranced through endless fields of canola flowers, we tried on cowboy hats at the Calgary Stampede, we rode a rollercoaster indoors at the West Edmonton Mall, we took at 70 ft. trailer on a ferry, we stood in the Pacific ocean and we saw the skyline from the base of the Rocky Mountains...

All because we promote Maple Lodge chicken. How amazing is that?! The things we have seen and experienced in the past month were made possible because of a small summer job that we took on to pay for school and rent and everything else.

Really, that may be just as beautiful as the mountains themselves. In life, it's the decisions that take you somewhere you never expected to go that make living such a rich experience. Who knew that taking a job at Maple Lodge Farms three years ago would lead to THIS! Chicken took me across Canada, and soon journalism will be taking be across the ocean. More experiences to come!!

Life is nothing short of an adventure and you never know where it's going to lead you to next. So dive in, I say! Bask in it! And take a bite out of every opportunity it throws at you...

That, and a Maple Lodge Farms Ultimate chicken dog, of course.

For MLF Special Events, I’m Kimberly Ivany. Georgetown.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bonus Features 2.0

7:30 in Sault Ste. Marie and I'm blogging from the Quality Inn - a.k.a, the very last hotel of our Tour du Canada!

As promised, we shall re-commence our question and answer session.

The floor is now open.

Q6: How many hotels did you stay in?

Over the past four weeks, the MLF team has bunked in a grand total of SEVENTEEN hotels, which I have kept track of like so:

I do believe I'm missing two, but I feel as though I won't run out of ink anytime soon.

As you can see, we didn't stick with just one chain of hotels throughout our journey, so each one offered a unique lodging experience - some of which deserve a special mention.

The Country Inn and Suites in Calgary had the best breakfast, complete with a waffle making machine, a parfait-making materials and four different kinds of cereal.

We were at this place for four days, and each morning was gloriously delicious.

Then there was the Heritage Inn in Saskatoon. We were there for the same amount of time, yet there was no breakfast, our rooms had a bit of a jail cell vibe, and our bathrooms hadn't been renovated since the '70s.

What's funny however is that I miss this hotel the most! It was our first major stop of the trip and the first place where we had a full day off, so I had time to settle in and find joy in the bleak square of a room. Ah, Heritage Inn. I did grow fond of you and your desolate corridors.

We also took full advantage of the swimming pool and hot tub at each location they were available. The most impressive facility was at the Holiday Inn in Winnipeg.

The pool room was like a mini indoor water park! Honestly, I was probably more excited to be in here than the five-year-old children in the kiddie pool.

Q7: How do you wash the truck?

I'm sure you have seen the pictures of the poor butterflies, bees and other buzzing wildlife that have gotten themselves stuck in the grill of the truck since we drive 100 kilmoetres per hour down the highway in their flight path. As picturesque as I have made them to be, they aren't visually appealing to the many customers that hang out around the Showtruck during events...nor is the coating of dirt that settles on the truck and trailer. When we're doing events back at home, we powerwash the whole trailer at our shop the end of every event. But out on the road, we've had to scope out places to do so.

There's nothin' like a shiny Showtruck to lift your spirits I tell ya.

Q8: Where do you get the product for your events from?

Another thing about doing events at home is that all our product is located at Maple Lodge. Before events, we simply walk into the reefer we have at the Special Events Team shop and take out the product we need for the day, as stated on our request form. Unfortunately, the reefer inside the Showtruck isn't big enough to carry enough chicken for ten events. Even if it did, we would have to spend an insane amount of money on fuel to keep the generator running for a whole month. Therefore, at every major stop on this trip, we went to a cold storage warehouse to pick up our chicken that was shipped to us from Maple Lodge.

What made it interesting though was that all the roasts that were shipped were not sliced yet. In order to make wraps, we had to get the deli emloyees at our grocery store events to do it for us!

The trick to getting these people to slice 10+ roasts in one sitting? Smile sweetly and say "Thank You" about 392 times. Oh yes. They were big fans of ours.

Q9: What was the best event of the trip?

This question is a little tricky. Each event had its own good and bad qualities, and each one varied by demographics, location and menu. If it has to come down to just one event, I would say it was Thrifty's Head Office in Saanichton, British Columbia. This event was such a great promotional opportunity for unlisted products, and the response we got was amazing!

Q10: What do YOU eat while on the road?

Contrary to popular belief, the six of us DO eat more than just chicken. Sure, we've had more chicken dogs and thai wraps than anyone should eat in a year, but we do enjoy pork and beef dishes as much as you. During long days on the road, we ate at a LOT of Subways and other fastfood places. We grocery shopped from time to time too, but we've definitely had our fill of restaurants for a while.

The best culinary experience I had was in Winnipeg at White Tower Restaurant. It was a family-owned greek eatery and I dove into my adventurous side and tried "Mousaka." Can I get an O-PA?

Q11: Are you excited about going home tomorrow?

I'm SO looking forward to returning to the luxury of home-cooked meals, the convenience of free laundry, the comfort of my own bed, the laughs with my sisters, the days without long drives, the bonfires with my friends, and the atmosphere of my own house.

But at the same time,

I'm going to miss the deliciousness of restaurant dining, the adventures of coin laundries, the softness of pillows made-to-order, the jokes with my work siblings, the days of beautiful views out the truck window, the conversations with the people we've met along the way, and the look of the Showtruck venturing across Canada.

And now, too bed, for the final stretch starts at 6 a.m.

Hard to believe...

...but I just typed in the address of the LAST hotel of our road trip into the GPS.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bonus Features

Look out world. The MLF gang is back in Ontario -

- and we're yours to discover.

Yes, you've seen us in action all across our home and native land. You've read about our thai wraps, you've gotten to know the team a little bit, and you've seen the most respectable business figures prancing around in paper chicken hats.

But yet, you may still be left asking: what really happens behind the scenes of the Special Events team? Being on the road for 30 + days, just how do these traveling chicken experts do what they do?

Well, O faithful reader, the time has come for you to find out.

That's right. For the next two days, as we trek from Thunder Bay, to Sault Ste. Marie, to our final destination of Brampton, Ontario, I'm going to host a little Q&A session about truck procedure, hotel check-ins, and everything in between so you can see EXACTLY what goes on when the BBQs go off.

Q1: How long does it take to set up the truck?

I don't think I mentioned it before: the Showtruck we're taking across Canada is brand new this summer! Back in June when our events were just starting to pick up, no one except Frank Palermo (our boss) knew what in the world to do with this massive transformer of a trailer. As a result, set-up took about 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

There are multiple steps in this truck set-up procedure, which include lowering the trailer,

extending the awning,

and setting up the stage.

What's cool is that the stage is indeed a wall of the trailer! It's only a matter of turning two keys to lower the whole thing. After that, we have to put on support brackets below the stage to make it level, then unfold the walls and set up the stairs and railings to support the mad dash of hungry customers that we're expecting.

Once that's done, we also have to prep the inside of the trailer. This includes (but is by no means limited to) mopping the floor, disinfecting all the counter-tops, setting up the display case and cutting vegetables for wrap-making.

But honestly, after doing countless events since June, that hour of set-up time has been cut in half. The guys can set up the stage in about 15 minutes while the rest of us do our thang inside, equalling up to about half an hour prep time. Basically, we're like that team of sprinting young people who clean the diamond in between baseball innings.

Q2: How big is the truck's gas tank?

Bigger than our bladders, apparently. The truck can take about 300 litres of diesel fuel, meaning that we have to fill up once a day (while making an average of two more for bathroom breaks and food.)

It got a little interesting in the mountainous regions of Northwest NoWhere where fuel stops were more sparce than death metal punk rockers at the Calgary Stampede. But we managed to get from all our Point A's to all our Point B's with plenty of gas. And not just from Josh.

Q3: What was the hottest city you went to?

Kelowna, British Columbia – 35 degrees. Beachy keen weather, but avoid black shirts at all costs.

Q4: What was the coldest city you went to?

Regina, Saskatchewan – 9 degrees. Feeling the change of both the time zone and the ozone.

Q5: Are you sick of each other?

Well I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’ll be happy if I never see Grant, Cassandra, Natalie, Josh and Mike ever again.

HA! No but actually, what that really means is that I’m probably going to wake up on Wednesday morning in my own bed in Georgetown and start bawling because my chicken mates aren’t in the same room! We’ve had some GREAT times together over the last four weeks, a lot of them being simple bonding hours in hotel rooms talking, chilling, prancing, galavanting, and inside-joke-making. We went to sleep laughing more than once!

Don’t get me wrong, when you’re with the same people for over four weeks, there will naturally be a few riffs here and there. We’re a team of different personalities which come out when you spend all waking hours with each other. But I’m happy to report that there were no major conflicts, kerfuffles or fist fights between the six of us.

The only real issue over the whole trip was radio and iPod control while on the road. A war between John Mayer and techno beats ensued in the Flex pretty much on the daily…and funny enough, as I write this chunk of my post, Grant is jamming to “All I want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.

This trip has been an interesting musical experience to say the least.


And thus ends session one! Please hold all further questions until tomorrow evening when we arrive at our next location in Sault Ste. Marie.

Thank you for your participation, and good day to you from a thundery Thunder Bay.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chillin' at the Holidae Inn

Morning from Winnipeg!

It's almost noon here and I'm still in my pajamas.

Despite my innate sense to DO something, there are no wraps to buy, no hotel to check into, and no event to get dressed for! So instead, I've conquered the alien-coffee-maker-machine and am now enjoying a lovely cup of RedRose tea while watching Johnny Depp dodge bullets in the Carribean.


Friday, July 30, 2010

That's a wRap

Yo home skillets
from Ontario digits,
from room 613,
I ask, how ya been?
Good, you say?
Well hey!
Us too,
the Maple Lodge crew,
miles away from you,
in Winnipeg currently,
promoting stuff fervently -
you know how we do,
but here's a story for you,
events of this tour?
They be fewer!
Cuz guess what -
Today's event (number ten)
for Canadian women and men
marked the last of the trip,
and with a "YIP"
we packed up the trailer
and nailed 'er.

But where were we, you ask?
"KIM - give us the details at last"
Not so fast,
Here's info galore,
We were at a Giant Tiger store,
the rain held off, but a storm we was cookin'
that got people lookin'
and hookin'
on tasty eats,
chicken treats,
made of cajun and cooked,
(healthy by the book)
plus hot dogs and bacon -
that got you shakin'?
Chicken bacon?
Brotha, it's the cheese,
it'll have you beggin' please,
can I buy some?
Sure son,
inside Giant Tiger for $2.97,
AH, heaven.

But busy we were,
so speed-wrapping we should,
(the way eminem would,)
to keep up with the fun,
like head offices we done,
OH, we be pros,
and it shows,
by the way we be servin'
and turnin'
questions to answers,
that encourage some monies
from dads, kids and hunnies,
to be spent on our products,
and just for a few bucks!

Oh yeahhh we have done it,
this Canadian summit,
from east to west coast,
but hang on,
this isn't the end of my posts!
As long as the trailer wheels be rollin'
so be my blow-gin...

And by that I mean bloggin'
but my noggen,
has run out of rhymes,
so tune in next time
to read more adventure
at the Holiday Inn,
starting with tomorrow's day off.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Love, Peace and Chicken Grease

It's not in the job description, but a large part of being a member of the Maple Lodge Special Events team means that you have to be able to put up with smelling like a piece of chicken for hours on end.

Today was our ninth event and the menu consisting of Ultimate hot dogs and Salsalitta chicken thighs left us all BBQ-fresh from noon onwards.

Since our grills are mounted inside our truck, we have exhaust fans installed above them to suck up the smoke. But even then, the grease rising from the full-blast BBQs manages to settle on our faces. There is however, a plus side to indoor grilling. This rising grease also makes it way to the floor which creates a prime spot for moonwalk execution.

Indeed, the floor is delightfully disgusting by the end of an event, but at least we can get our Micheal Jackson on as we're cleaning up.

Today we were at a place called Winpak which differs slightly from other events we have done. These guys aren't buyers. They are rather the company that packages all Maple Lodge's chicken! Our event was more of a "thank you" BBQ for Winpak, but an AWESOME opportunity for promotion at the same time.

Everyone LOVED the Salsalittas. We had countless compliments and so many people asked where they could purchase them. One guy even called Sobey's right in front of us to ask them if they carried it! Another guy came out of the plant after lunch was over and said, "You guys did a simply smashing job!"

Plus, the President of Winpak told us that none of their customers have done something like this ever before. He also gave us free Winpak hats and thermoses, AND a tour of the plant. In between the lunch and dinner shifts, we got dressed up in hairnets and ear plugs and toured the 450,000 sq. ft. factory. We saw how they make the plastic for packaging, how they press plates for labels, and we also walked by this massive german machine thing that costs five million dollars. I can't remember exactly what it does, but the price is too news-worthy not to mention it.

We also saw our very own Maple Lodge packaging being processed!

Apparently these ones are heading off to China - Maple Lodge tastes good anywhere in the world, afterall.

Aside from wowing a hungry crowd with our chicken products and getting a free tour of a packaging plant, there was something else that made this event memorable.

One of my responsibilities as the team leader is to fill out some paperwork called a "Request Form." This form is completed electronically and documents event information like product inventory, what the weather was like, demographics, etc. Basically, it's an event summary that becomes a public document on the Maple Lodge Farms server.

Like always, I was standing on the far side of the truck after our event, filling out the form on my laptop. At this particular time however, the setting sun was at the perfect angle, creating shadows on the walls and sparkling up the aluminum table tops inside of the truck.

I stopped for a second and just watched.

Yes, we were going about our normal jobs - I was doing the request form, Grant was outside folding up the stage, Cassandra and Mike were cleaning up inside, and Josh was torturing Natalie.

But as we were doing so, everyone seemed in a really relaxed mood...just very content and laid back. Don't get me wrong, we always have a good time together while we work, but tonight, we were laughing, goofing off, and recalling funny memores in a way that made me want to just freeze time...

I've said it before: I really love my job. I'm love how I'm always out and about meeting new people and seeing new places, raising money for a good cause and getting people excited about chicken! But another big reason why I love it is because of Grant, Mike, Josh, Cassandra and Natalie. I'm happy that my work experience, and memories that I've made while on this team include them! That also includes everyone else back home on the Ontario team. I work with some really cool people and MLF Special Events would NOT be the same without them.

OHHHH let's not get too sappy now.

But it's true. Tonight I just sat back and smiled because not only has this job given me the chance to see all of Canada, it's also given me the chance to make friendships that I think will last a long time.

...despite the fact that I am still wearing a layer of Salsalitta grease.

To the showers!