I quickly rinsed the sand and sea from my skin and redressed myself in clothing more appropriate than the boardshorts I had previously been sporting. I had a five hour roadtrip ahead of me, and Jesse and I were supposed to leave at nine. This would have given us plenty of time to enjoy the drive, fetch lunch and even possibly make a few fun pit stops along the way to the conference, but as luck, fate or any other deity of despair would have it, we would be leaving hours later than that. After getting several texts of his tardiness my wife and I decided to get breakfast and bask in the sun’s glory for a few hours while we waited for the message that my cohort was on his way to our house where our journey would begin.
I wasn’t surprised that we were leaving late, honestly I had predicted, and seeing as there was really no rush to get to Columbus before seven I wasn’t entirely worried. He pulled up in the bright red Volkswagen our company had graciously allowed us to rent, and I flung my bags in the back, kissed my wife, and we were off.
Jesse didn’t know what to expect from the conference, all he had to go on were the numerous stories I had shared when I got back after last year’s conference. It’s hard to explain Creative South because it doesn’t really subscribe to the ideas of most conferences. Sure, you have your line-up of kick-ass presenters who are chosen to move, inspire and provoke you to create, but Creative South as a whole moves, inspires and provokes you beyond creativity and in a way that can’t be described or quantified.
Let me put it this way, after sharing the little town of Columbus for three days with complete strangers I was creating vacation plans with Jason, sharing my home with Russ and his family, and planning drinks with the Bryan and Drew from Type Fight when I visited their hometowns. Creative South is kind of like the force, in that it surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds us together and leaves a connection that last long after the events of those three days. With that said, this year’s Creative South did not disappoint, and in many ways built upon the already unimaginable expectations I had for it. At a certain point I almost dreaded going to Creative South this year. I was terrified that I would essentially be an addict chasing that initial high, hoping that I could recreate the magic of last year.
When we arrived in Columbus I checked into the hotel and abandoned my bags in my room and made a beeline for Broadway. It was too late to check-in at the event venue, but I was hoping to casually dump into someone I knew on the downtown strip. After a quick pass of the usual spots I opted to text the people I knew would be there in hopes to meeting up before the kickoff mixer that was slated to start later that evening.
Short story shorter I ended up just meeting my companions on the bridge that had been reserved by the conference for our introductory celebrations. The night was filled with frantic dancing, bottomless cocktails and a killer demonstration of raw drawing skills. Every pulsing rhythm was matched by a furry of strokes from the contestants of InkWars, a 60 minute battle between eight artists with nothing more than an eight-foot-canvas and black ink markers. It felt great being able to cheer on one of my design heroes, Varick, as he represented the Jacksonville crew with his own spin on the theme “Faster than a Speeding Bullet.” After getting the results of the battle an even bigger dance session ensued and it wouldn’t be long before we were being herded off the bridge and towards the next venue.
The night would continue to the after party where I stayed out far too late conversing with designers and getting my first opportunity to meet Dan from the powerhouse DKNG. It wouldn’t be the last time we talked this weekend, as I was honored to hang with him in Nathan on both Friday and Saturday night. Thursday ended with me passed-out in my bed around three in the morning, and it would only be a matter of hours before my alarm was screaming at me to rise and reenter the fold, for Creative South 2016 had only just begun.