What do you get when you have a fan determined to bring her favorite author to town? If you’re Debbie Ford, and all the lucky people around her, you have a terrific, one-of-a-kind fan conference called Thru the Stones! This past weekend, more than 300 Outlander fans had a major treat when they attended the 2-day conference in Davenport, Iowa.
The first night, Friday night, included registration and a huge, 100-question trivia contest with a fabulous prize – the winning team got to sit with Diana Gabaldon the next night at dinner. Honors went to a team from Minnesota who spent the last couple of months in hot and heavy studying. Seven other lucky attendees had the pleasure of being chosen to sit with Graham McTavish at the dinner!
Saturday was a terrific full day, with classes, Outlander-related vendors, a delicious lunch, a pipe and drum band concert, a druid dance like the one in Outlander’s premiere episode (with the wonderful Sue Triforo singing The Skye Boat Song live for us), and finally, the highlight of the weekend, addresses by both Diana and Graham, followed by a Q&A of (pre-selected) fan questions. I’ll have both Graham’s talk and the Q&A in a second post.
Here’s one number done by the Blackhawk Pipe and Drum company:
Many of the classes presented were really interesting! (information was provided by the wonderful ladies of my trivia team, Les Dames Blanches – thank you Koko Pipkin, Jan Kurtz, Stacie Janecki, Gail Heideman, Alyson Bailey and Emma Bailey):
Travel Scotland – a tour of the canal and lock system in Scotland, presented by Darren Low, a Scotland native who now runs the Quad Cities Highland Games. Now I can’t wait to get over there and see the Bigman and the Falkirk Wheel!
Celtic Faeries and Fairy Tales: The presenter talked about her personal experiences with fairies, and the Celtic traditions about these creatures.
Cooking with Herbs (Gail): The Cooking with Culinary Herbs class covered both the growing of herb and cooking with herbs. The teachers recommend how and where to plant certain herbs and how to keep them all year indoors. They also talked about what herbs pair well together and brought samples of some different ways to use herbs in cooking. My favorites were pineapple and basil infused water and Pinenut and rosemary cookies (the cookies were amazing!).
Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum (Koko): Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum: I enjoyed this, the instructor was exuberant and passionate about her topic, The History of Rum. She is very knowledgeable and was able to engage the class. We learned the history of “grog” and the how/why of rum on ships…along with the reason it was stopped.
Whisky Tasting (Koko): Whisky Tasting, what can I say? I had a blast! The instructor knew a lot about different varieties.We learned that to properly “breathe” the bloom of the whisky, you hold your mouth (slightly open) and hover the glass just under and then you oh-so-slightly breathe in. That way you stimulate the taste buds as well as receive the bloom on your palate and olfactory senses. I also learned that the first sip should be swished about the mouth and that the second sip is where you truly experience the flavor and depth of that whisky.
Medicinal Botany (Koko): The lady is a naturopath and was very knowledgeable. Sadly, it was warm and just after lunch so I left halfway through. She had good slides, but few handouts.
Painting the Stones (Alyson and Emma): We had a lot of fun, definitely didn’t paint anything that we will put on our walls. It was fun and the teachers were very good and nice and fun to talk with.
Pipe and Drum Class (Alyson and Emma): For some crazy reason I thought I’d learn a bit about playing them…what was I thinking?, says Alyson. Even someone musical wouldn’t be able to. But we did learn interesting stuff about the instruments. The bags are now made out of Kevlar. So they are bulletproof? They used to be made out of leather.
Debbie Ford arranged for several Outlander/Scotland related vendors to sell items at the conference, including a lavender farm, an organic honey producer, and an artist who offered oil paintings of castles. OutlanderObsession offered many different original t-shirts. And just for the event, Debbie and her sisters put together Beardsley’s Trading Post, offering beautiful handmade ornaments, photo quilts, tartan handbags, and much more.
Debbie, a florist, put together beautiful, unique centerpieces for each table, and handed out “goodie bags” with jars of locally-made mustard and stout, and an adorable stuffed porcupine, among other items.
Of course, the best part of the weekend was the chance to meet many people that I’ve talked to online, and get to spend time with lots of great people who really get the Outlander excitement! My new friends Brian and Barbara McConnell came appropriately dressed – Bill plays pipes with theClan McAlpine Pipe Band in Rockton, IL.
Please see Part II of my Thru the Stones coverage for video of Graham’s talk and the Q&A with Diana and Graham. And watch for my exclusive interview with Diana, as well as a link to an exclusive interview with Graham! Lots of exciting information from the weekend’s activities!
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