Feeling grateful to our 2016 Sponsors & Presenters- @wmnsflyfishshow

In the last few weeks, I have been all over the place with the amount of time I am putting into my work.  I go through waves of being able to really focus, check things off my list and feel like I am on top of my game.  It feels so good when I make a few sales, send out a few emails and get some posts scheduled in advance.  I generate some ideas, share them with colleagues and take one more step towards making the kind of progress I am looking for.

Then the kid gets sick for a week.  Suddenly, he is not going to school, I am not going to the office, I am not sleeping, I am fighting with my entire immune system while learning the lengths of my patience, understanding and compassion with a miserable toddler who (when he is sick) runs my life.  With some family coming into town next week, I know that every minute of work I can squeeze in will count in the long run.  So, while my hand, foot and mouth diseased kid takes an evening nap (afternote- we let him sleep through the night) while listening to Mozart and Bach- (OVER, AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN), I am listening to the Ziggy Marley station on Pandora and feeling grateful.

I wanted to flesh out a few thoughts on the Sponsors and Presenters who have agreed to collaborate in preparation for the 2016 Showcase.

Frontiers International Travel will be graciously presenting the Showcase this year.  Their financial support, program development and general encouragement has really made me feel like the Showcase is effective and worthwhile.  Their continued generosity will be displayed in December issue of the greenzine, Dun the Magazine, because they are DONATING their graphic artist to create our two page layout.  Which, by the way, is provided by an incredible staff at Dun the Magazine.  Talk about a powerhouse of empowerment.  One conversation with Jen Ripple, and she’ll have you running for president (at least of your local TU!)

It wasn’t surprising when Whitney Milhoan, Executive Director of Casting for Recovery, mentioned that she was good friends with Jen Ripple.  Casting for Recovery is responsible for taking thousands of breast cancer survivors on fly fishing retreats all over the country.  Whitney and I had a great conversation about the issue of retention in her organization and across the nation in women’s organizations, alumni groups, conservation non-profits.  Retention is going to be good for the entire industry and I look forward to a packed room for the roundtable discussions on retention at both showcase locations.  Oh, and I have Cathi Comar from The American Museum of Fly Fishing to thank for her electronic introduction to Whitney.

The International Federation of Fly Fishers has come on strong for 2016, thanks to Rhonda Sellers.  Peggy Brenner pointed me in their direction because of their success in the Women’s University.  IFFF has provided a learning Center at the Shows for more years than I have fingers, and I have no doubt that this collaboration will continue for many more years.  I hope to make the connection between IFFF and Girl Scouts this year…creative juices are flowing!

Sisters on the Fly has had a presence, and I mean a PRESENCE, at multiple locations on the Fly Fishing Show tour over the years.  Their group has single-handedly become the largest women’s organization in the country- all designed around the theme of “We have more fun than anyone.”  Their members do have a a lot of fun, but they are also very committed to women getting outdoors.  Maurri Sussman and her son, Austin, are a force to be reckoned with, and I am beyond stoked that they will be joining us in Somerset – albeit, without their trailers this year.

Blue Halo Gear is getting ready to launch a new rod and a new non-profit relationship benefiting women, and just yesterday decided to sponsor both locations.  Blue Halo speaks women, and I can’t wait to see how many fiberglass rods they sell through their relationship with us!

And then there are the presenters- and brainstormers!  I’ve talked to female guides who are fulfilling their bliss, as well as those who are fighting for equality and respect on their homewaters, just like spawning fish heading upstream.

I am having conversations with Girl Scout leaders about getting more Brownies and Cadettes to the Shows to earn a patch that is being donated by my good friend, Vann Taylor.

I am also having great conversations with folks and business representatives who want to learn more about the Showcase and see if sponsorship or partnership is a good fit for them.  A shop owner asked for hard numbers on what women spend in the fly fishing industry.  #1- These numbers don’t exist.  #2- How do I respond to “We already have waders and boots.  All other equipment is gender neutral.  Doesn’t everyone wanted to be treated equally.” #3- I love these kind of tough questions and discussions…ones that lead me to look really hard at how we can facilitate dialog between female anglers, shops and industry reps so that we get on the same page about what women are looking for from the industry.

In the meantime, I am scouring the OIWC to learn more about women’s role in the outdoor industry, as well as how their organization works with corporations to “elevate” women, (AND why fly fishing is poorly represented  in the OIWC- a fact I would like to improve).

This year, after launching their rods based on the premise there was not only a lack of products made for women but also for lack of respect given to women for their skills, passion and love of the sport, Sara Bella decided it was time to get on the Show floor.  As a fellow exhibitor, I know what that takes and I have no doubt that Sara Bella will grow as they continue their relationship with our Show.

It has also brought me back to the people I worked with in 2015 to create programs in both regions that would reflect what women want to see and experience at the Show.  It’s as if we are meeting all over again, with a better understanding of where we stand in the river as individual anglers, and as a member of an under-represented group in the industry.  And we all have fabulous ideas of how to answer more questions, provide more information to the industry and use the momentum gained from the Showcase to improve the visibility and numbers of lifelong female anglers.  I have spent endless hours brainstorming with Kelly Buchta, Jackie Jordan, Peggy Brenner, Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten, Cathy Beck, Sheila Hassan, Cathi Comar and more.

Sure, Joan Wulff is irrefutably making us correct her silhouette’s line on our logo, and Cathy may only be in Somerset one day of the weekend, but the Show will go on, and the Showcase will continue to improve and innovate year after year.

And even on days when I haven’t slept the night before, I can’t remember when I took my last shower and I am, once again, spoon feeding my sick child Ramen (because that’s all he would eat), I will continue to enjoy the creativity and the community I get out of being the Project Coordinator for the Showcase.

In the end, I have to throw it all back to the original creator of the Fly Fishing Show, Chuck Furimsky.  That man has a pulse on the industry like no other, and I will always be grateful that he suggested we start a Women’s Showcase in 2015.  Thanks Chuck!






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