Thursday, August 16, 2012

Raleigh, NC Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo 2012

On Sunday August 12th I attended the first Raleigh, NC Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo. There were over 30 vendors (myself, included), cooking demonstrations, door prizes, an appearance by Mrs. Shannon Ford, the winner of Mrs. USA 2011, and around 750 attendees. It was a fantastic event organized and headed by Mrs. Nikki Everett, owner of ECHO Event Solutions and founder of the Charlotte ROCK Gluten-Free Support Group.

Gluten-Free Expo Director Nikki Everett with
Pam King from the Maryland Center for Celiac Research
at the Charlotte GF/AF Expo earlier this year.
Photo courtesy of Jeff SanGeorge/Gluten-Free in NC

Nikki became aware of the needs of the gluten-free and celiac population when her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008. Nikki immediately started a local gluten-free support group and in the same year organized and began the first Charlotte, NC Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo. The expo was an instant success and Nikki immediately started planning for more events. Eventually more and more people asked her for events closer to where they lived in other parts of the country. Nikki eventually quit her job as a hair stylist and began a company called "ECHO Event Solutions" and started planning additional gluten-free & allergen-free expos around the country in places like Omaha, Nebraska and New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Raleigh Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo took place from 2:30pm - 7:30pm on Sunday August 12th at Cobblestone Hall in downtown Raleigh. The facility was a beautiful old building surrounded by the cobblestone streets of the quaint downtown. Around 750 attended the event and had the opportunity to try many different gluten-free foods and beverages from companies all around the US.

I love that we are wearing similar patterns! We're that much alike! haha!
One of my favorite parts of the Expo was FINALLY meeting my friend Debbie, author of the lovely (and locally NC) blog "The Gluten-Free Dish." Debbie is so inspiring. She cooks and bakes the way I want too (and am learning too) -- grain-free, low glycemic, low inflammation, with limited natural sugars (and no white sugar). I love her for her honesty, for her incredibly kind & loving heart, and her genuine faith. She's an amazing person and I'm so grateful we finally got to meet in person and give each other a big hug.

I was also thrilled to finally meet Jenni, the author of another local and absolutely adorable gluten-free food blog called "A Spoonful at a Time." (I so want those measuring spoons Jenni!!! lol) Jenni was actually at the Expo representing Triumph Dining, an awesome company which helps folks figure out which foods are gluten free at restaurants and grocery stores by offering print shopping guides, restaurant translation cards, and even a new shopping app for your smart phone. She had a very busy day selling Triumph's new gluten-free baking guides, written by Iris Higgins and Brittany Angell (more fellow gluten-free bloggers of awesomeness!) The baking guides SOLD OUT and Jenni did a fantastic job representing Triumph!

Another highlight of the day was spending some time speaking with Mrs. USA 2011, Shannon Ford. Shannon is a new representative of Nerium, International. Nerium is a gluten-free, anti-aging facial cream that has produced absolutely stunning results on wrinkles and fine lines and has truly shown to be a unique and effective product in the evolution of skincare. Shannon was very excited about being a new representative of the product and has some very exciting offers if you sign up to be a preferred customer through her Nerium website. I am hoping to try this product soon, as I'm not a big fan of make-up, but I am a true believer in taking good care of your skin. And I have to say Shannon was so incredibly nice, down-to-earth, and easy to talk too! I was thrilled to talk about our paleo lifestyles and now if only I could take up her exercise habits!

Visit Jeff's website: GlutenFree in NC 
I also had fun speaking with Jeff SanGeorge, a genius of social media marketing, fellow gluten-free blogger, and owner of a fantastic and comprehensive gluten-free resource for all North Carolinians: Gluten Free in NC! Jeff's website highlights gluten-free resources in every region of North Carolina from the mountains to the coast. If you are new to the area or trying to find resources for a trip or for gluten-free friends and family, please check out Jeff's incredible site. Jeff also is also the leader of a local gluten-free support/meetup group in Greensboro, NC. I think I'm going to have to crash one of their meet-ups sometime soon since the Greensboro Earthfare (and all the gluten-free goodies they sell) is/are absolutely AWESOME!

Next to our booth, Caper a local volunteer with NC FACES shared tons of information about food allergies and how to bring awareness to friends, family, schools, and restaurants. Caper was an absolute joy to speak with throughout the day. Both of her children have severe food allergies, so she knows first hand how important it is to spread awareness. NC FACES has an annual walk to raise funds and awareness for food allergies in children. This year the walk will be held at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, NC. For more information on how you can participate in this year's walk, please visit the NC FACES website: I am planning on being there and joining in. Food allergies in children is no laughing matter and the more ways we can bring about awareness the better!

My sweet friend Nancy, a member of our local
Gluten-Free Support Group made the awesome
pumpkin bread I was able to share with attendees!
Thanks Nancy!! Here's her recipe

I wish I could remember share about all the amazing people I met and all the incredible vendors who attended this year's first Raleigh GF/AF Expo! For more information on the event (and I certainly hope you will join us next year if you're in the area!) and a complete list of the vendors and their websites please read more at Nikki Everett's event page & blog.

This cracks me up.. yep.. that's me! Cindy Blye certainly
captured an interesting expression on my face as I'm leaning over
my vendor table... thanks Cindy! lol
But the hottie to the right there, hubs of course helping me out! 

Lastly, here's a great write-up of this year's Raleigh GF/AF Expo on The -- written by journalist Cindy Blye, Raleigh's Healthy Food Examiner.

Did you attend this year's event? What are your thoughts? What was your favorite vendor? What would you like to see at next year's event? Please share your thoughts below and I'll make sure to send them along to Nikki!

more fun pics from Cindy! lol!!
That was good beer though! We had the raspberry flavor!

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