Dapper Day 2017 at the Magic Kingdom & Epcot

Geoff, Dean, and I went to Dapper Day Spring 2017 at Disney World and had a great time! Saturday was at the Magic Kingdom and Sunday was at Epcot.







Shhh… it’s a surprise!

For Geoff’s birthday, which will be just a few days before our trip to Disney World, I’ve had these custom t-shirts designed for him. I hope they arrive in time!

These are sort of “black market” custom Disney t-shirts, highlighting our own favourite inside moments at the parks. There’s a Haunted Mansion t-shirt, Haunted Mansion t-shirt, Enchanted Tiki Room t-shirt, and Carousel of Progress t-shirt.

Inspiration: Haunted Mansion /  Text: We’re assembling for a swingin’ wake



Inspiration: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror / Text: This, as you may recognize, is a maintenance service elevator still in operation, waiting for you.



Inspiration: Carousel of Progress / Text: You know that pilot fellah… Charles Lindberg? He’s about to fly a single winged airplane all the way across the Atlantic. He’s never gonna’ make it.
Inspiration: Enchanted Tikki Room / Text: My siestas are getting shorter and shorter

And they’re in! They came out great. I can’t wait to see Geoff wearing them at Disney World!

And here he is, happy as pie at the Enchanted Tiki Room.

And at the Haunted Mansion:


More Dresses for Sale

I’m selling some dresses. Open to offers. The prices are listed in USD but I’m open to offers in CAD.

Prices do not include shipping from Canada. Shipping to US destinations is $17 USD. Shipping to Canadian destinations is $18.50 CAD. If you’re Canadian and would like to make an offer for everything in CAD, just give me a shout.

“Alice” Dress – L – $25 USD


“Summer of Love” Dress – L – $25 USD

Eva Franco Dress – size 10 – $30 USD

No longer has the belt, therefore the great price.

Charming Blue Dress – XL – $25

Damzels Seahorse Dress – L – $25

Please contact me if you’re interested in any of these items.

Click here to see more dresses.  

Stop Staring Dresses For Sale & More

Closet purge! Brand photos appear first followed by photographs of the garments. Prices $30 and up. Everything is in excellent condition from a smoke and fur-free home. I’m a clothing “collector” so I keep everything in excellent condition.

  • Stop Staring, Suit Dress pink/black – “like new” condition, L – $85 USD
  • Stop Staring, Black Timeless – “like new” condition, L – $70 USD
  • Miss Candy-Floss – Trixie-Rose skirt, new with tags, MEDIUM – $60 USD
  • Bettie Page, Scottie Dress – shortened slightly, L – $30 USD
  • Rock Steady, I call it the Calamity Jane dress, L – $40 USD
  • Bernie Dexter, patterned dress, L – $40 USD
  • Collectif, beige with floral print*, new with tags, L – $30 USD

**Prices do not include shipping from Canada. Shipping to US destinations is $17 USD. Shipping to Canadian destinations is $18.50 CAD. If you’re Canadian and would like to make an offer for everything in CAD, just give me a shout.

Stop Staring Suit Dress – $85 USD

Stop Staring Timeless Dress – $70 USD

Miss Candy-Floss Trixie-Rose Skirt – M – $60 USD


Bettie Page Scottie Dress – $30

Bernie Dexter – L – $40 USD

Rock Steady – L – $40 USD

Collectif Dress – L – $30 USD


Please contact me if you’re interested in any of these items.

Click here to see more dresses.  

Event Organizing Checklist

A Seasoned Event Organizer’s Tips & Checklist

Everyone loves a great event! It takes an incredible amount of planning, project management, and also stage management to run an event that feels great to participants. Detailed planning is critical. You need a great team of people that you can work well with, you need a high level, realistic perspective, and you need to be organized. Really organized.

I’ve created a checklist that you can refer to when you’re planning your next event. I’ve tried to include all of the best event organizing tips that I can offer from my extensive experience as an event planner. This advice comes from my own experience running major dance festivals like Frankie 100, over 12 years of dance workshop weekends, and local specialty festivals like the TD Niagara Jazz Festival, Rawstock Niagara, and the Niagara VegFest.

Obviously, every event is different and this checklist should be scaled accordingly depending on the size and scope of your event. A two-hour book club party is going to be scaled much differently than a four-day jazz festival. However, the core principles remain the same.

1. Set the Date 

As early in advance as possible, set your dates. If your event is an annual one and the event takes place at the same time each year, you have an advantage, but either way you should lock that date in stone ASAP. Make sure to add the date to your website as early as possible.

Be courteous and coordinate your dates with other organizers in your community. Let them know what you have planned and avoid conflicts when possible. Reach out to other nearby organizers, or related community leaders, and be respectful and communicative.

2. Secure the Venue

The next most important step is to book and confirm the venue. Even if your event takes place in the same place every year, confirm it and get it booked. Unless the event is taking place in your own backyard, this is really critical. Make sure to lock into your venue as early as possible.

3. Send Out a Save the Date Announcement

Your full promotions might not begin for some time, and you might not even have any other details set yet, but as soon as you have your date confirmed and your venue booked, update your public. In today’s day and age, people are becoming more and more busy and it’s essential to notify your community as soon as possible. Update your website with the preliminary save-the-date information, and send out the high level announcement on social media and in your newsletter.

4. Build A Great Team

You may already have a core team in pace, but consider what staffing needs your event needs based on your new event scope and budget. Depending on the size of your event, key members might include:

  • Director/Producer
  • Fundraising Lead
  • Sponsorship Lead
  • Treasurer
  • Stage Manager
  • Volunteer Coordinator
  • Registration/Tickets
  • Decorations/Creative
  • Marketing & Promotions Lead
  • Guest Liaison & Hospitality
  • Security Lead
  • Green/Eco Team Lead
  • Roadie/Logistics Team Lead
  • Travel Liaisons
  • Etc.

A great event is only as good as its people. Not only do you need to find great people who you can work with, but you need to build a team that will be communicative and caring with each other. Building a team of hard working, dedicated, mutually respectful, inclusive people is probably my number one tip when it comes to event organizing.

5. Establish an Organizational System 

These days, there is some great project management software available. I love Asana. It’s really changed the way that I work and think about work. If you’re new to it, consider picking up the Asana Definitive Guide. And where would we be without Google docs? I can’t live without my shared Google spreadsheets. A shared Google Calendar might also be useful for your team.

6. Set Out the Organizational Timeline

Depending on the lead up time to the event, determine what benchmarks should take place when. When considering major timeline benchmarks, consider all factors, like the launch of your promotional campaign and the date that ticket sales will open should not conflict with other related events or holidays that will distract from your message.

Make sure that as much of your organizing will ready in advance as possible so that in the final weeks (or even final month, depending on the timeline), most of the large pieces have already been finalized. That way, you can leave yourself wiggle room for putting out fires (the inevitable unexpected) and troubleshooting.

Also, if you’re planning to have any type of after party or volunteer appreciation party, set that date in advance and stick to it. Otherwise, it’s likely to fall by the wayside.

7. Create a Schedule for Regular Team Meetings

Depending on the size and scope of the event, meetings might take place in person or by conference call and should ramp up from monthly or bi-weekly to weekly leading up to the event.

Strive to keep meetings on topic. It’s important to respect people’s time. The meetings should be friendly, but not so casual that you just end up winging it. If you’re in charge, take your leadership role seriously and work to continuously motivate your team and make them feel valued. Take the time to communicate and check-in frequently with your Team Leaders to make sure that they are on track and equipped to mobilize their team own smaller teams if they have subordinates. The larger the project, the more important it is that you focus on mobilizing your people.

8. Budget Budget Budget

Get serious about your event budget. Remember that every event is scalable. If your event is in it’s infancy, be conservative. Start out small. Make modest projections of how many guests you might realistically expect to attend your event. It’s advisable to under-budget on attendance while over-budgeting on costs to ensure that you have a safe buffer zone for unexpected expenses.

There are always unexpected costs and even with extensive experience, you never can anticipate what they will be. If you could, they wouldn’t be unexpected. Set aside some a reserve in your budget for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances. I recommend a buffer of about 10%-15% as a safe buffer zone.

  • Petty Cash & Expensing

Set out a clear policy for expenses. It can be very tough for staff, and especially volunteers, to carry expenses around for too long before submitting for reimbursement. Setup a clear system for your team. Be very cautious about asking volunteers to expense items. I much prefer a petty cash system, and the petty cash available on-site during the event should always be bigger than you think, just in case.

9. Give Your Event Shape

Determine the specific details that will give your event character. This will depend on the type of event that you’re holding. Whether it’s booking and determining special guest needs, booking bands or artists, securing guest instructors, celebrities, local officials, etc. now is the time to work within the budget that you created and shape your event into a blend dreams and reality. This is also the time to manage any artist contracts and riders, and lock in to specific guest requests.

Consider all the ways that the event will affect the guest experience:

  • The event’s vision & mission
  • Event branding, tone, messaging, communications
  • Entertainment and/or educational value
  • Decorations & overall feeling of the event
  • Flow & energy; what kind of “ride” will you be giving your attendees throughout the course of the event. You don’t want to underwhelm your guests, but you also don’t want to overextend and plan more than is realistic for them to absorb.
  • Create value so that guests walk away feeling like the event was a worthwhile experience that was worth the price of admission – even if the event was free!.

Go back to your budget constantly to tweak it and ensure that everything still fits.

10. Operations & Logistics Planning

Now it’s all about balancing logistics with the flow of your event. What should take place when? What parts of the event will be the best attended slotted in where? What logistical support will be required based on how your schedule flows? Think about the way that your event flow will feel from your audience point of view, and also consider the human resources that will be required to execute that plan. As you lock in to your finalized schedule, be as realistic as possible about how much time needs to be allotted where. Various aspects of event setup always take longer than you might think.

  • Organize Registration and Tickets

Unless your event is free, you’ll need a way to manage attendance. What type of ticket or wristband will be most appropriate for your event? What will your re-entrance policy be if someone leaves and wants to come back in? Will the tickets or wristbands be enough for re-entrance, or will you need a hand stamp of some kind?

  • Determine Technical Needs
  • Determine Equipment and Supply Needs
  • Determine Administrative Needs
  • Establish an On-Site Communications Plan

How will your team communicate throughout the actual event? I’m a big fan of walkie talkies with the ear piece attachment. I’m also a fan of being as hands-free as possible. As a woman who usually dresses up to be presentable at the events I’m running, I plan on wearing a belt so that I can attach the walkie talkie to the belt.

I am not a fan of cell phones which you don’t hear ringing in loud spaces. I still carry my cell phone on me because you always need it for something, but I set an out-of-office reply on my email to let people know that I’m in event mode and won’t be able to attend to email. If it’s important, it’s better that they call.

Make sure that you have someone who will be in charge of fielding phone calls and email from the public during the event, or set an office responder for that account that includes all of the FAQ information that someone might need at the last minute.

  • Consider All Possible On-Site Needs

Get your team involved to make sure that as many brains are considering gaps that may need filling as possible. Will your guest artists need water? Lunch? Who will be responsible for that? Are there enough toilets onsite or do you need to order port-a-potties? Are there enough seats? What about coat check? Think about all of the variables, then think about them again so that nothing slips through the cracks. Revisit this line of thinking often.

11. Return to the Budget

Review your budget again to make sure that costs are still lining up with projections or revise the budget as needed.

12. Launch the Full Advertising Campaign 

And begin ticket sales/registration, according to the timeline you originally set out. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the PR side of this other than to say that a strong social media presence is very important. Establish a hashtag for the event and encourage photo uploads during and after the event. Having someone live Tweet the event can also be a good idea.

13. Check Up on your Event’s Health

Check ticket sales in the weeks leading up to the event. Are they where they need to be? Does the event need to be re-scaled, either up or down, based on the current level of sales? Consider whether or not you’ve over or under projected your supply quotas and scale back or add on to make sure that you can meet the needs of the event without either losing money or overselling.

Also, make sure that you’re checking-in with your team members regularly. How are they feeling? How is morale? Take care of your team, and they will take care of your event. Neglect your team, and the event will suffer for it. Your people are everything.

14. Walk the Critical Path

Walk the Critical Path of your event with your Team Leaders to make sure that all aspects of event flow have been considered. By this, I mean create a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, schedule for the event that includes who/what/where/when for event details and staff. You can do this as a flow chart, or I happen to love spreadsheets. However you do it, get it down in writing and get your team on-board to create a functional critical path.

  • On-Site Responsibilities

There needs to be a clear understanding among your team members of who is responsible and on-duty when. Who is committed to the early morning setup shifts? Who is dedicated to late night and clean up? Your team must take the time considerations seriously.

Part of running an event is understanding that you really aren’t there to have fun. Of course you enjoy seeing your vision come to fruition, but while the event is taking place, you are responsible. Drinking, dancing, socializing, celebrating, etc. is for your guests and not for you to partake in unless you are clearly off-duty or taking a break from responsibilities at a time when you are clearly not needed by your fellow team members.

  • On-Site Financial Control

You need a clear plan for managing cash and financials on-site. Who will be responsible for delivering the float/cash box? Who will check-in periodically and remove excess cash to a safe location? Who is paying bands, guests, artists? This should be decided and scheduled clearly in advance.

  • Printing & Personal Tech

Who will be responsible for bringing any printed lists or information that you’ll need on-site? I really prefer to go paperless in the rest of my life, but there is always a need for printed information on-site. Whether it’s registration and ticket lists, lists of volunteer schedules, site maps to facilitate smooth setup, or even something as obvious as the schedule of events, you’re going to need printing and someone needs to clearly be responsible for bringing it.

In terms of equipment, don’t just assume that everyone will have their own laptops on-site, and don’t assume that they’re comfortable using their own laptops. I personally am happy to use my own laptop but I’m not comfortable sharing it. Other people will have their own preferences and that needs to be respected. Same with the use of cell phones. That’s another reason why I prefer walkie talkies; it’s not fair to assume that your volunteers are willing to use their own air time, and the same goes for staff unless there’s an expensing policy.

If you’re using a square to accept credit cards, you must determine in advance whose phone will be used. Giving up their phone for credit card transactions means that they won’t have it for personal use. This needs to be taken into consideration.

Don’t assume that there will be wifi available and be careful about relying on the internet for important on-site tasks. Check in advance, and save or print backups of the information.

Make sure to review the Critical Path again in the final week before the event.

15. Run the Event – Show Time! Event Proper

Follow the plan that you set out in your Critical Path. However, there are times when you need to be flexible. A really good event organizer will know when it’s time to change parts of the plan. Do what needs to be done based on the reality of the moment.

Take the time to respect and appreciate your team members while the event is on, even – no especially – when you’re under pressure and feeling stressed.

You’ll be overworked and busy during the event, but try to be as present as possible aware that your plan is materializing into fruition. As an organizer, events tend to fly by from your vantage point behind the scenes, but try to appreciate what you’ve created!

  • Self-Responsibility

As an individual, I try to be as organized and responsible for myself as possible. By that I mean, I try to pack all of the clothing, gear, a bottle of water, and also snacks so that I have everything I might need for the day already with me. Even if there is a planned break where I might have time to go back and change, etc. things can change and it’s better to have everything you need with you from the outset. Get your coffee and breakfast first before the call-time. If you’re the point person for volunteers or subordinates, brief them with the same suggestions in advance so that they can also plan accordingly.

  • My Personal Must-Have Onsite Items, aka. My Event Kit
    • Ziplocks – In a variety of sizes, ziplocks are extremely handy to keep at your event’s front desk. They can be used for a variety of things, from organizing cash, receipts, loose papers, pens, pencils, tickets, etc. You can never have too many ziplocks!
    • Sharpies – ie. permanent markers. There is always a need to write signs or label items (including writing on ziplock) and it’s very handy to have extra sharpies around.
    • Cell Phone Charger – Because you always run out of charge. Always.
    • Laptop – And charger, because you never know what you might need to reference or look up onsite.
    • A Small Purse – As a woman who dresses ‘up’ for events, I don’t usually have pockets and there are things that I need to have with me for functionality. I have a small purse that’s big enough to hold my cell phone, a pen, a sharpie, a little change, an event or personal credit card, and lip stick. 🙂
    • A Larger Bag or Backpack with Everything I Might Need – Including print outs of my important documents, a folder that seals or a large ziplock to keep and seal important incoming documents, a bottle of water, a change of clothing and change of shoes (usually I leave the house wearing something very casual and then change into something nice before the event starts), several snacks, hand wipes in case we end up doing something dirty and it’s inconvenient to find a washroom to wash up, makeup and a comb to freshen up before the event proper.
      • Great suggestions from Rich:
        • First Aid kit // Combo of Band-Aids+Tylenol+Advil
        • Safety-Pins
        • Sewing needles and white+black-thread
        • An 1/8th”-to-1/8th” audio cable (headphone size) with an 1/8″ stereo to 1/4″ mono adapter. (Can come in really handy for emergency DJ’ing / Audio issues.)
    • A Belt – So that I have something for my walkie talkie to hook onto. In a pinch, I can hook it to my small purse instead but it gets clumsy.

16. Conduct an Event Post-Mortem

After the event, conduct a post-mortem meeting as soon as possible to review the event. Create detailed notes while the event is fresh in your mind. Discuss the successful or needs-improvement aspects of the event with your team.

Don’t postpone the post-mortem! Despite being tired, it’s important to attend to this as soon as possible or you’ll lose all momentum.

Review finances and budget in the first few days after the event.

Also look at how the team worked together. Sometimes the truth can be a bit brutal, but it’s important to be communicative with your team so that you can learn and grow. Make yourself listen to the good, the bad, and the ugly, as well as any praise. The constructive criticism is far more valuable than any pats on the back. Don’t be self-deprecating but don’t succumb to hubris either. Live, learn, improve.

Once the wrap up has taken place, relax and look back at what you’ve accomplished. Feel proud of a job well done!

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions of items you would add to your own checklist, please let me know!

The launch of my new business, Barker Social!

I’m thrilled to announce my new business with my pal and partner, Chachi. As of this morning, we’ve launched Barker Social Marketing, Marketing worth shouting about!

Chachi and I have worked together in a lot of different capacities over the years. Now he’s helping me take the social marketing and copywriting work that I’ve been doing for the past couple of years to the next level. Together, and with our international team (Laura Barros in Portugal and Jay Zambranoin Colombia), we’re able to offer our clients much more than what I could do alone.

Please have a look at our new website http://barkersocial.com/ and let me know if you ever have any questions about social media marketing, ghost blogging, or copywriting services.



New Spin on Social Media Marketing Shakes Up Industry
Read the Press Release


Swing Dancers Take Old Dance Partnership Off the Dance Floor and Into Business
Read the Swing Dance Announcement

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Frankie Manning honoured in Google Doodle

It’s May 26th, 2016 and Frankie Manning has finally been honoured in a Google Doodle!frankie-mannings-102nd-birthday-5160522641047552-hp2x

I just did some digging in my email and I was able to locate some early efforts made towards having Google recognize Frankie Manning in a Doodle. I was able to find this event from 2012 created by Alex Gaw. Over the years, other people like Lucie Q Mazzanti also did a big push to help make it happen, and David Ljung Madison in 2013/2014. Cynthia Millman in particular and the rest of the Frankie Manning Foundation board have been coordinating with Google in secret since January. Thank you to everyone who has helped to get Frankie the attention he deserves! https://www.facebook.com/events/280677998690775/281066528651922/

Here is the page from the Frankie 100 efforts: http://frankie100.com/participate/google-doodle/

It’s wonderful to see this come to fruition.

Niagara Summer Events 2016

I’m trying to compile a list of Niagara summer events for 2016. What am I missing?

Summer Events

June 4 – Niagara VegFest Vegan Wine Tour & Film Screening

June 5 – Niagara VegFest

July 7 – 70s Pop – Brass Monkey – 7pm @ Charles Daily Park

July 8 – Shake, Rattle & Roll – 7pm @ Niagara Falls Museum

July 11 – Jimmy Stahl Big Band at 7 p.m. – 7pm @ Montebello Park

July 13 featuring Kindred – 7pm @ Montebello Park

July 14 – Jazz – Barbara Mantini Jazz Quartet– 7pm @ Charles Daily Park

July 17 – All Star Big Band – 7pm @ Crystal Beach

July 18, The Tempest 7:30pm @ Montebello Park

July 21 – Open Microphone – JAM NIGHT with Flat Broke – 7pm @ Charles Daily Park

July 27 featuring Solstice – 7pm @ Montebello Park

July 28 – Duelling Pianos – Duelling Pianos Niagara – 7pm @ Charles Daily Park

July 29 – 31 Niagara Jazz Festival niagarajazzfestival.com/2016-schedule/

July 31 – John Denver Tribute – 7pm @ Crystal Beach

August 4 – Concert Band – Lincoln Concert Band – 7pm @ Charles Daily Park

August 7 – The Moonlighters – 7pm @ Crystal Beach

August 8 Dragon Ritual Drumming at 7 p.m. @ Lakeside Park

August 10 featuring Marty Allen Band – 7pm @ Montebello Park

August 11 – 50s & 60s Hits – Johnny and the Cruizers – 7pm @ Charles Daily Park

August 13 – Peach Festival –10am – 5pm – Niagara-on-the-Lake

August 15, American Graffiti at dusk at dusk @ Montrebello Park

August 18 – Country – Elton Lammie – 7pm @ Charles Daily Park

August 21 – Barley Brae – 7pm @ Crystal Beach

August 24 featuring Walter Ostanek – 7pm @ Montebello Park

August 25 – Swing – Jimmy Marando Swing Band – 7pm @ Charles Daily Park

September 1   – RB Funk Soul – LMT Connection – 7pm @ Charles Daily Park













Hoppin’ on the Hudson

April 9th, 2016

*Most of the photos are from Voon Chew & Geoffrey Holmes. Thanks guys!

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.16.20 PMThe cat is out of the bag. I was the event planner for a very special event called Hoppin’ on the Hudson that took place this past Saturday at the Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown, just outside of New York City.

Due to the nature of the event being private and the strict security surrounding the estate, it had to be kept very quiet. I wish that the event could have been open for the Lindy Hop community; it was a very special occasion, but it was private and only the performers and a small pool of guests could be included. The guests were mainly non-dancers. My sincere apologies and regrets to all of my New York friends who had to be left out. If it had been my event, I would have invited all of you.

The show was put together under the artistic direction of Chester Whitmore and was absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much to all of the performers who helped make it such a success. Michael Hashim’s 12 piece band, similar to the one that played at the Apollo Theater, was outstanding. The Big Apple Lindy Hoppers, Bathtub Ginnys, Harlem Strutters, Catrine & Chazz, Barbara Morrison, Barbara Billups, Sugar Sullivan, LaTasha Barnes, Calle Johansson, and many others were all incredible. A highlight for me was certainly the terrifying and thrilling experience of performing with Norma Miller to close out the show. That was not part of the plan and I couldn’t be more stunned and honoured that it actually happened. I’m still pinching myself. Thank you Voon for posting many lovely photos!

Thank you so much to everyone who was a part of it. I’d especially like to thank my good friend and partner in crime, Elliott Donnelley, for driving me crazy but always managing to make incredible magic happen. You’re nuts and I love you. Jen Pringle, I could NOT have done this without you! You are my favourite person!!! Besides my husband. 🙂 And my husband, Geoffrey Holmes, for supporting me and for sharing this memorable experience with me.

Videos to come.


Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 4.26.14 PM
Geoff has uploaded a big photo album to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/geoffrey.holmes.77/media_set?set=a.10154022634835126.1073741855.631395125&type=3&pnref=story
Geoff's Album
Voon took a photo series of me at the pool.

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Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 12.39.52 AM
Chester Madness! Photo by Jen Pringle.
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Great to see Daniel!
Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 8.19.01 PM
Breakfast at the guest house for our guests! Photo by Catrine Ljunggren.

Elliott Donnelley Mandi Gould

Jen Pringle Mandi Gould