(This is not a post to promote the retreat, but the experience as an event host. My biggest take away is hosting an event is not only creating an event that people want to attend but also event speakers want to be a part of. It’s not only keeping attendees happy but also your speakers and yoga teachers.)
What an experience creating the Blue jay Retreat was. Each of the 3 years was different. Each with its own successes and challenges. I had the seed planted to create a retreat a few years before this adventure. But I needed the push from someone to do it with me. Then on Facebook, I saw a post from Jatore Pierre and I thought I want to learn more. he told he was just in Chicago and if I created an event he would come. Which started me on my path to hold the retreat.
After it was decided to hold the retreat I now needed a name. While sitting in the front yard, I saw a blue jay fly past. It is not very common for me to see a blue jay. I looked up the spiritual meaning of Blue Jays and decided on the name.
Before I start my breakdown I want to thank my sister from remodesigns.com for creating the logo, flyers, and taking my picture above. Thank all the volunteers and speakers that attended the events. But especially Ellie for not only helping during the event but providing feedback and emotional support. And my friend Kathy for attending all 3 years of the event!
June 10th to 11th, 2017
The first year I picked camp Sullivan to host the retreat. It was only 15 minutes away and there was a bunkhouse with a kitchen. I first intended on doing a 2-night event with 3 speakers. But as I was planning and budgeting, I realized that would be too much. I canceled 2 speakers and changed it to only 1 night. 8 months before the event I was camping at devils lake and 2 bluejays kept visiting me. I got the message that I should hold the event there. I talked to my volunteers and yoga instructor, and speaker. Nobody wanted to do the 3-hour drive. So I kept it at camp Sullivan. Two weeks within the event received a text message from Jator that there was a death in his family and he could not attend. I had to decide to cancel or find new speakers. Within 48 hours I had booked Rhemannia and GuruNischian. I had to update all my info and inform my 6 attendees. After the changes were made 5 more people had signed up.
The retreat itself went smoothly. Thanks to my two volunteers. Joan Hogan who helped me stay on track and let me know when people needed anything. She was also doing the yoga session. And Ellie. We were working hard in the kitchen! All the years it kind of feels like herding cats. Trying to get the attendees from one activity to another. I did not have enough time in between things. We only have 23 hours at the venue. But camp Sullivan had indoor rock climbing, bunkhouses, and an area to camp for those who wanted to. We had wonderful weather. My attendees were raving about the event. But I didn’t count for all the costs and I should have charged more. Even though I met my goal for attendees, I broke even on the event.
June 8th to 10th 2018
This retreat was my most challenging. I moved the retreat up to Devils Lake. I booked the rock elm shelter for Saturday and Sunday and the group campsite for the weekend. One of the reasons it was the most challenging is because I had the fewest attendees. The other challenge was my speaker. Because I had already purchased the plane ticket for him for 2017, I suggested he just use the credit to come back next year. For this retreat, there were so many if only. A few months before the retreat he suggested just refunded the plane ticket money. But I was stubborn and I wanted to experience a retreat with him. By the time the retreat had rolled around, I only had 4 paid attendees. I felt so much shame. I wanted him to have a good crowd so when my roommate asked if she could attend for free I let her. I also invited another friend to come as a barter. He invited another friend to come which was not part of the barter. So we had 7 attendees at the event.
As the event rolled around the weather was an omen to what was to come. Jator’s flight had been delayed an hour, which meant we got stuck in a little traffic and made me 2 hours late to get to the campsite. My volunteers had all been delayed as well and so the first few attendees were greeted by an empty campsite. Then I was trying to direct my roommate and volunteers to the campsite in the dark. That coupled with the rain and the cranes nesting made a challenging night. The next morning the sun was out and I was optimistic. I dropped the dog off at boarding and went to the farmers market. I came back to the lodge to hear that people were wondering where I was and where there was supposed to go. Even though I had a folder with detailed instructions for my volunteers and yoga instructor nobody had bothered to read it. That coupled with the flirting between my speaker and a non-paid attendee that morning, I had started going into a freeze response. I was no longer in a place to hold space for my event. I am so grateful for Ellie for again helping me on this retreat. Also, my friend Kathy did an amazing job of trying to keep everyone happy and letting me know when something was amiss. How I felt was written all over my face and everybody knew. Saturday night when we got back to the campground I found out that the speaker had gotten a hotel room with the attendee. It was the gossip around the campfire. This was no longer a health and wellness retreat. It was a retreat where people came to escape. Someone got a box of wine and shenanigans were had late into the night that included a raccoon and marshmallows. The next morning nobody woke up in time for yoga. And everyone was too tired to be fully present for the last talk. The retreat ended and it cost me $1,000 in losses to be emotionally traumatized from the weekend. The next few days half of the attendees had called me to complain about the unprofessionalism fo my speaker. A big part of me is grateful I had so few attendees. Since it was fewer people to experience the circus.
June 7th to 9th, 2019
I decided this was going to be my last year and I wanted to go out on on a high. I heard wonderful things about Aubree and her transformation breath. most importantly she lived close in Madison, WI. It was bittersweet planning. As I planned it kept bringing up memories from the previous year. Ellie was there with me the entire way. Not just in the planning but also in the emotional support as I was still healing and processing from the previous event. Something I never considered is it really didn’t matter who my speaker was. Nobody signed because of Aubree’s talk. In the first year, it was the same. 1 person came for Jator. They mostly signed up for the raw food and yoga. For most of the planning, I was concerned it was going to be another repeat of the previous year. I only had 4 people signed up before the last 2 weeks. Then my friend Kathy who had attended all 3 years brought a group of friends with her. This year we had 10 paid attendees. I am also grateful that Aubree was able to negotiate her to only come on Saturday for her talk and 9 am yoga for a lesser price. But also after last year, I decided I was the keynote. Attendees kept commenting on they wanted to hear me talk. Hear the wisdom and magic I had collected.
We could not have ordered better weather. We picked different campsites this year that were within walking distance of the shelter. I had a night owl campsite and an early bird so people who wanted to stay up all night around the campsite and not disturb the sleepers. I tried to make sure there was more of a buffer. There were 2 guided hikes that brought us to devils doorway for a group picture. With the exception of trouble with the finding ripe avocados, the food was amazing. More importantly, attendees were enjoying themselves unaware that I was herding them as cats. It was a full weekend and I was exhausted after I gave my talk on the lymphatic system on Sunday. I also guided 3 out of the 4 yoga sessions. And the biggest thing I learned during this process is my value. Not only that my energy and mood dramatically affects the retreat. But also that I have just as much to give and teach as any of the speakers that I hired during the events. I made $250 at this year’s retreat.