If you’re dining downtown, and there seems to be an inordinate amount of people taking photos of their food, here’s why: Sacramento is the host city for the International Food Blogger Conference, which runs Thursday, July 28, through Sunday, July 31.
Downtown’s Hyatt Regency hotel will serve as the headquarters for the eighth annual conference, which previously has been held in cities such as Seattle, New Orleans and Portland, Ore. More than 350 food bloggers, from the United States as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, are expected to attend the event. Conference programming includes field trips to local farms, workshops on writing and the business of blogging, and panel discussions on various food topics including drought, urban farming and agricultural innovations.
The Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau led the efforts to secure Sacramento as the latest host city for the International Food Blogger Conference, which was founded by the Seattle-based website Foodista.com. Mike Testa, chief operating officer at the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he previously had approached conference organizers about bringing the gathering to Sacramento, but his invitation was declined.
However, “last year the conversation was different,” Testa said. “Our food reputation had grown a little, and they saw an opportunity from a production standpoint in terms of farming and food producers. For them, this was a new angle.”
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The conference is positioned in a way to further SCVB’s initiative of branding Sacramento as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.” Many of the conference’s events, including a dinner on 13th Street outside of the Hyatt Regency and a two-hour tasting event at one of the hotel’s ballrooms, will feature goods primarily from the Sacramento area, such as peaches from Twin Peaks Orchards in Newcastle and wines from Bogle in Clarksburg.
Registration costs $495, but is reduced to $195 for bloggers who agree to write at least three posts about the conference. “That’s about 1,200 posts on the Sacramento food scene,” Testa said. “That right there is very valuable.”
According to Testa, the SCVB is spending $30,000 to produce the conference, which resulted in 260 rooms being booked at the Hyatt Regency. He estimates the economic impact of the conference will be $295,000 from spending on hotel rooms, meals and other factors.
The Sacramento area traditionally has been fertile grounds for food blogging. Elise Bauer, the Carmichael-based blogger behind “Simply Recipes,” has been singled out among the internet’s best food bloggers by Forbes. Her blog reportedly receives upward of 6.5 million unique visitors a month. Bauer, who will participate at a conference panel on the power of SnapChat, recently sold her blog for an undisclosed amount to Seattle-based Fexy Media.
Hank Shaw of Orangevale, who authors “Hunter Angler Gardener Cook,” won a James Beard award in 2013 for best blog (though he’s not participating in the Sacramento conference).
Rodney Blackwell of Elk Grove credits the International Food Blogger Conference for inspiring him to branch his blog into an events business. Blackwell attended the Santa Monica version of the conference in 2011, the same year he launched Burger Junkies, a blog that rates the best burgers in the Sacramento area and beyond. A year later, Blackwell launched the Sacramento Burger Battle, a popular tasting event and competition that benefits charity and pits local chefs against each other in the name of hamburgers.
On Saturday, July 30, Blackwell will be among those participating in the “From Blog to Business” panel discussion, which will share tips and insights on how to leverage an online presence into organizing community events and other endeavors. He’ll be joined by two other Sacramentans who are also conference veterans: Catherine Enfield of the Munchie Musings blog, the Sacramento Food Film Festival and Have an Offal Day; and Food Literacy Center founder Amber Stott.
“I’ve always found it to be a collaborative environment,” Blackwell said about the conference. “It felt like everyone was pretty welcoming and wanted to share what they’ve learned about blogging and wanted everyone to succeed. In the first year of my blog, (the conference) helped me find a direction for it.”