August 2015 I drove alone from NJ for my first conference, Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. The tickets were affordable, the city is more price friendly than NYC, and the speaker list was solid. Even though all of that was amazing, in reality it’s true value came in the friends I made. August 2019 I made the same drive out, but this time there was no conference… there were just the friends.

That first year I figured I would pick up some cool industry knowledge, that I wasn’t getting at my job, and I did… but more importantly I met friends I still keep in touch with, grab meals with, and now drive endless hours to meet up with and eat tacos with. Conferences like WMC Fest and Creative South provide so much value to it’s attendees, but it’s greatest value is how it brings so many like minded people to one central location.

Most of our group getting ice cream at Mitchell’s for the 3rd time before leaving Cleveland. Mitchell’s, Barrio Tacos, and Melt are 3 eating establishments we always make our way to while in Cleveland.

This past weekend myself, 4 others from New Jersey, one from Philadelphia, and another from Boston traveled to Cleveland to meet up with a few local artists and spend a long weekend sharing laughs and meals. We weren’t there to learn anything, but seeing the faces of the folks I only get to chat online with was well worth the hours spent staring down a highway. You never know who you will meet at these conferences, just like I doubt the folks running these conferences know the impact they will have on the attendees… years after they leave. I met folks that lived less than an hour from me and have met dozens more that live thousands of miles away, yet I still call friends. So when the one time a year I get to see them ends… it doesn’t go un-felt.

While in Cleveland we visited Jordan Wong’s Mural and one of Lisa Quine’s Murals

I guess this is all to say. Thanks to the folks behind the conferences we get to attend and if you have never been to a conference find one and get out there. It doesn’t need to be an expensive one or one in an expensive city. Here are a few that I have gone to or want to go to in the future.

Creative South
Making Midwest
Kingdom Creatives

Here are the cool people I spent this past weekend with in a hostel and across Cleveland.

KevinMikeJedJessStephStephHannahWillAlita, o and me!