10 Things We Learned at the Festivals & Events Ontario Conference

On February 28, 2018, Jen, Stacey and Erika (hello!) made the trip to Hamilton, Ontario for the Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) annual conference.

It was our first time attending the FEO conference and in a nutshell – it was epic. We had a booth in the marketplace and found ourselves chatting with a fascinating array of vendors, including musicians, animal handlers, artists, fencing contractors and more! The nights were filled with live music, creative performances and a whole lot of fun.

Blue Stone Cloud First Nations dancer at FEO welcome gala

​This boy and his mother performed for the delegates at the welcome reception that took place at The Art Gallery of Hamilton. They performed with the band Blue Stone Cloud. 

Dispatch talent stilt walkers in Hamilton at FEO conference

​Imagine for a moment you're sipping a drink when you suddenly sense a presence and notice this hovering over you... Well done Hamilton Aerial Group​!

FEO Marketplace Reptilia

Reptilia Zoo and Education Facility introducing us to their little friend.

FEO Showcase The Funky Frequency

​The Funk Frequency takes the stage at the FEO showcase 2018

Erika, Jen and Stacey at FEO in their tutus

​"No really, honey, I need to pack these matching tutus in my suitcase for this very serious business trip..."

Rolling home after the conference on a cloudy Saturday, we talked about what we learned from the conference.


We borrowed Kina’s button maker and ma​de an array of witty slogan buttons for our visitors. The idea? Delegates might find their “button buddy” in the crowd and have an instant ice breaker. The buttons were great conversation starters and guess what? ​Our logo was nowhere to be found! ​A brand is so much more than a logo – the spirit of the Haven Mavens is to help people connect and laugh.  

Buttons that the Haven Mavens gave away at their booth


​It seems as though Hamilton is going through a bit of a renaissance. When the Mavens weren't busy conferencing, we were checking out local foodie hot spots. The art and music ​scene is also alive and bumping as was demonstrated at the welcome reception, hosted by Tourism Hamilton.

New meets old in Hamilton

On our walk over to the offices of at the City of Hamilton, we couldn't help but fall in love with the contrast between new and old that peppers the Hamilton skyline.

The Mule in Hamilton

Big thanks to Brenda from  the City of Hamilton for the hot tip. You MUST TRY the Brussels's ​sprouts taco at The Mule​.

Wandering minstrels at the FEO welcome reception

​The Vaudevillian ​​is just ​​one of the many ​inspiring musical talents showcased at ​the welcome reception. ​


Listen. I’m a homebody. I get it. Yet, I was texting my husband at 11:30pm telling him we were going out for the evening. What???

No matter how tired you might feel, the afterparty is where it’s at. This is where connections solidify into a shared experience. And you don’t want to miss out on that.

​Jen ​cutting a rug with one of the delegates from ​Modu-Loc Fence Rentals.

​Jen ​cutting a rug with one of the delegates from ​Modu-Loc Fence Rentals. Lights and entertainment throughout the evening courtesy Dispatch Talent!


I especially appreciated that Jen stocked up at Bulk Barn before the road trip. Nothing makes a long drive go faster than fuzzy peaches and big feet. Or is that just me? Also, they make great fuel when gearing up for the afterparty.

​It's also worth noting that working a booth is hungry work.

​Jen, Stacey and I were all unable to break away and hit the lunch table during the conference and we were starving by 4:00 pm. We ducked out to Burrito Boyz for a satisfying snack but then missed out on dinner and cocktails. Next time, we’ll pack snacks for the booth to mitigate this problem!

Erika of the Haven Mavens "bobbing" for apples

​I must have been starving having not packed any snacks... it's a good thing the St. George AppleFest had apples up for grabs (you just had to work for them)!


A conference is not the time to be shy. Get out there and introduce yourself to people! You never know who you’ll meet. Be honest and show genuine interest in the people you are talking to. We made such fantastic connections and now have a summer bucket list chock full of festivals and events. As well, Jen booked two musicians to perform at her wildly popular house concerts. Everybody wins!

Black Bird Studios fashion show at FEO

Not realizing this was a fashion show, ​Jen tried to make friends with this model ​as she was walking down the "cat walk". ​Who wouldn't ​want to make friends with a person wearing this stunning pant suit from Black Bird Studios​?

FEO Welcome Market

​One of the marketplace vendors, Natalie Tsigoulis of Quartz & Knot gifted the Mavens some beautiful stones. Instant. Friend. Stacey and Jen each picked up one of her essential oil necklaces.

Hans On Exotics Bengal kitty

​If we lost track of Stacey, we knew that she would probably be around the corner ​making friends with the kitties at the Hands On Exotics booth.  


This is a tough one, because you’re taking your chances here. We experienced lots of conference kismet at FEO. We enjoyed the Thursday night showcase with delegates from the Ukrainian Festival, and at the Gala, we chatted the night away with delegates from the Hillside Festival and the Fergus Scottish Festival. Again, don’t be shy. The key is to start chatting and the fun will follow.

Festivals and Events Ontario trophies on the gala table

Table 33... the winning-est table at the Gala. Congrats to Hillside Festival for taking home not one, but two pieces of hardware.

FEO Gala

​What a special moment this was! Can't beat a room full of goofballs goofing off!


On Friday morning, we woke late after the first afterparty. After a restorative brunch at the John Street Diner, the Mavens were ready to work. We made a beeline for the hotel and fired up the laptops. Within minutes, the suite was buzzing with creative energy and we cranked out our social media posts and some new, exciting ideas.


Is it just me, or is it every conference delegate’s worst nightmare to run out of business cards? Yet, it happens. So, pack extra. This also lets you be the hero when your newest contact discovers they are out of cards! If this happens, grab one of your cards and write their details on the back so you’ll be able to contact them when you’re back in the office.

Haven Mavens work their booth at FEO

​Our booth was hopping for most of the day! It's a good thing our second shipment of business cards was delivered to the hotel. ​It was an absolute pleasure to meet every single person who passed by our table.


Across the aisle from our booth was an event promotions company that was interested in our button maker. I promised to follow up with information on where to buy it. First thing I did on Monday morning? Send a follow-up email with the info as promised.

As well, I made a stack of the cards we collected at the conference and emailed each new connection, one by one.


Ontario is home to hundreds of festivals and events to please every palate. Take a look at this year’s list of FEO’s top 100 to check out in 2018!

Haven Mavens in Hamilton

​Do we go left? Or do we go right? You'll never believe what happen​s next...

Mavens loves attending fun conferences about tourism. Follow along with us on our journey to Corning, NY for TBEX North America.