Sacramento Shines in the “California Plaza”

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Remember two years ago when I wrote an informative yet entertaining blog post about attending the largest travel trade show in the country? Well, I’ll save you the trouble of actually going back to re-read it: IPW is the largest travel trade show in the country and it brings thousands of influential industry folks from all over the world each year. These are the people who influence where travelers go. So it’s a big four days for the Visit Sacramento team to share our city with the world.

We just recently wrapped up the 2019 version of IPW. Ok, by “recently” I mean like six weeks ago. Good blogging takes time, people…and bad blogging takes even longer (about six weeks). The important thing is that the Visit Sacramento tourism team attended IPW and we really let our Sacramento-ness shine this time around.

This year’s show had the added bonus of being hosted in California – in Anaheim to be exact which – since it’s south of Santa Barbara and north of San Diego – we all just call “Los Angeles.”  That made it super-easy to get to, but also meant that there was a lot of pressure for California’s tourism industry to show the rest of the world how to be an amazing host for a trade show.

For events like this, all of the state’s destinations look to Visit California to take the lead and what they came up with was the “California Plaza.” The idea was that we could create a mini-road trip through the whole state in the area between the convention center and the host hotel. Visit California invited all California destinations to have an “activation” booth for entertaining the conference attendees for the duration of the trade show.

Visit Sacramento jumped at the chance to be a part of the plaza to take our rightful place as one of the state’s premier destinations – and the premier destination if you aren’t into big cities, the ocean and/or amusement parks. The tricky part was coming up with an “activation” to have in our booth. Obviously, the first step in coming up with a good activation is to figure out what an “activation” is.

Well, according to the “dictionary” it’s:

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So clearly, I chose to chemically alter the catalytic substance of the uhhhhhh….ok so there’s a funny chemical activation joke out there somewhere, but I’m not gonna get make it happen. If any of you smarter writers out there come up with one, please send it my way.

Anyhow, choosing just the right “activation” for Sacramento was a key part of our involvement. San Diego brought the beach and the tacos, Mammoth had campfires where you could roast s’mores and they had a life-sized (to the best of my knowledge) woolly mammoth statue, San Luis Obispo had a really pretty instagram-friendly photo lounge that said something about how beautiful life is, Monterey had fashion models and a race car, the High Sierra had some type of virtual reality 3-d experience and San Francisco had a huge model of the Golden Gate Bridge. And there were a bunch of other booths too that I can’t remember, but I’m sure they were equally impressive.

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So this got me to thinking: What is the go-to activity in Sacramento? Sure, we have biking, rafting, paddleboarding, hiking, gold panning, breakdancing, skateboarding, rollerskating, hula-hooping, arm wrestling, snacking, rope climbing, folk dancing, rock throwing and more, but what is the real quintessential Sacramento activity?

After a lot of brainstorming, I came to the conclusion that for me and so many other Sacramentans like me, that activity is “hanging out.” We are the go-to destination for folks who just love to hang out and have a friendly conversation. And if it involves beer, wine, great food, river views, cool patios, live music and a whole bunch of likable/attractive people, even better.

The next step was to convince the folks in charge that “hanging out drinking beer” was a real activation. Previously, they had suggested that we go with a whitewater rafting experience – basically a raft version of a mechanical bull that would jostle people around and be extremely instagram-able. I wasn’t totally opposed to the jostling, but I really felt like “hanging out” was more Sacramento true. So I prepared a long document of bullet-pointed justifications and set off to present my case to the powers-that-be. But as it turns out, even the powers-that-be love hanging out! I received literally no pushback. They were like “yeah, awesome, that’s very Sacramento.” And I was like “cool.” And then we were all like “I guess this meeting’s over” and they were like “get out of my office” and I was like grabbing as much candy as I could on my way out.

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But how could we capture the essence of Sacramento and create this “activation” around it?

The solution was to create a mini-Midtown Sacramento complete with a nice backdrop of charming houses on a tree-lined street, an abundance of local beer, some good food, a nice place to sit and me just kinda sitting around chatting with people just like I do in the real Sacramento. We even added a whimsical hand-drawn version of our Visit Sacramento logo. So finally there’s a little something for all of you who keep complaining about our lack of whimsy.

I’m not saying it was as tough as building a life-sized woolly mammoth or a replica Golden Gate Bridge, but I’m not saying it wasn’t. Ok, it wasn’t. But it was very “Sacramento” and over the course of the next 4 days, thousands of conference delegates enjoyed a nice sit, a cold beer and a  full dose of Sacramento hospitality.

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It was certainly a bigger hit than the weird guy the San Diego Zoo hired to force people into eating mealworms. And I know from experience.

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But maybe it wasn’t quite as much of a crowd-pleaser as this porcupine which the San Diego Zoo also brought.

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I guess the San Diego Zoo kinda broke even on the whole deal.

The important thing is that, once again, Sacramento won over the public’s heart by just doing what we do and not making too big of deal over it.

So if you’re looking for a good place to hang out, some tasty beer and a ton of likable/attractive people to chat with, come on over to Sacramento. And if you’re interested in finding some of our locals’ favorite spots to hang out (and drink and eat) check out the Sacramento Field Guide. And if you wanna find some of those beers, check this out.