Saturday, October 09, 2010

Festivus for the Rest of Us

This past May, I happened to mention to a couple of friends at work that it would be fun to have a grilled cheese festival. The both agreed. We poked around some ideas, but that's as far as it got. Partly because it was rapidly approaching the end of the school year, and partly because, by that time, it was getting pretty warm and, let's face it, grilled cheese is more of a cooler weather thing.

Flash forward to the start of this school year. I was making the Friday Treats Sign-up Sheet and went ahead and signed the office up for two dates. That's our norm - we bring staff treats twice a year - once in the late fall/early winter, and once in the spring. Typically, one time it's for lunch and the other time will be just break-time goodies. Our first treat date was this past Friday - and it was our lunch round.

I again mentioned the grilled cheese festival idea, and everyone thought it sounded fine. You know, it's funny how you can mention something to several different people and each person's idea of the same thing is different. For instance, Jeff's vision of a grilled cheese festival was white bread and American cheese. Okay, so that's normal. But ... it's also boring! I'm not sure what everyone else thought as they really didn't weigh in on the subject. My vision, however, was ... well ... unique. I guess. When I dreamed this up initially, my thought was to have various kinds of breads, a selection of delicious cheeses, and all kinds of 'add-ins' to make the sandwiches both special and delicious.

I began tossing around ideas for different combinations of things. While I thought they sounded wonderful, both Jeff and Linda looked at me as if I'd lost my mind or had landed from a different planet. I teased them about not knowing what was good, and in return, each suggestion I made was met with either incredulity or, worse, feigned barfing noises (thanks, Jeff).

As we grew closer to the date, I'd made out lists of items and signs for ideas for different sandwiches. I even created a dessert menu of 'dessert melts' that I thought would be fun. My office mates kept telling me that I was 'over the top', but told me to go ahead and run with the idea. Most said they were running short on time and would be glad to pitch in money if I didn't mind picking up all of the 'goodies'. No worries, I thought, that's fine with me.

Running around from place to place picking up this item or that item, I began to wonder if maybe I was indeed crazy, and had gone way off the deep end with this idea. I worried that maybe the rest of the staff wouldn't be as into this 'festival' as I was ... Well, it was a risk I'd just have to run.

Starting Tuesday in our staff bulletin, I began hyping Friday's Grilled Cheese Festival at lunchtime. On Wednesday, I included an amazing website that listed tons of amazing options for grilled cheese sandwiches. By Thursday, I was encouraging everyone to 'come hungry and be creative!'. So .. . Friday arrives and I was in the lounge at break-time just starting to set up for our lunch. The first step was to post signs with bread, cheese and add-in offerings, as well as the dessert melts options and offerings. Next, I posted signs saying 'How About ...' and listing different sandwich creations.
As I was posting them, our staff began reading them ... out loud. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but was so pleased with what I heard! A few people told me they'd woken up that morning saying 'TODAY is the grilled cheese festival!!' Several others told me they'd been thinking about it all week long! I was amazed - and thrilled - to hear that they were as excited about it as I was!

As I continued setting up for the lunch, I grew even more excited! I wondered what everyone's favorites would be. (Not to mention a bit of worry about blowing the power with four large grills running all at the same time ...) Finally, everything was set up and ready to go -- with about 15 minutes to spare before the lunch bell rang.

WHEW!! Let me tell you, shopping, preparing, and setting everything up was one HECK of a lot of work. Was it worth it? OH MY GOSH - YES! I cannot begin to tell you how much fun we had! Everyone was amazed at the choices - breads, cheeses, and 'fixin's'. I think everyone came up with a different combination and we had a blast asking 'What do you have?', 'What's on your sandwich?' And the 'mmmmm's and 'ahhhhhh's. It was a HOOT!

All afternoon, I kept receiving emails from everyone: "That was the BEST luncheon we've ever had!", and "Oh my gosh, that was SO MUCH FUN! What a great idea!", "WOW, what a spread!". Clearly, everyone loved it! And I had a great time putting it all together. Was it a lot of work? Yes. Was I totally exhausted? You bet. Would I do it again? In a heart beat!

Okay, so maybe I was a bit over the top. But, as you can see from the photo, the staff agreed: Life is too short for boring cheese. Sorry, Jeff!

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