Wednesday, May 24, 2006

'And the winners were...'

Now that sensation is returning to my legs after four days of zipping around the National Restaurant Association’s annual convention, it’s time to commemorate the 2006 confab with the first-ever The Scoop Post-Show Awards.

Biggest-name attendees you didn’t know were there: Everyone was aware of President Bush’s surprise appearance, which was shoehorned into the packed schedule just three days before he took the stage. The NRA didn’t even have a venue available for the Commander in Chief, and had to borrow a hall from another convention, a retail-technology show that was being held concurrently, in another continent of McCormick Place.
Little noticed were the other A-list politicos who were also in the borrowed arena: Dennis Hastert, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; Major Richard J. Daley; U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert; and Rep. Ray LaHood.
Honorable mentions: Former Yankee coach and Red Sox baiter Don Zimmer; and the Black Crows, who played at one of the after-show parties.

Scariest pronouncement of the show: A tie between two head-turners, both related to avian flu.

Bill Anton, acting as chairman of the NRA’s Government Affairs and Public Policy Committee: "It is expected that the U.S. will see its first instance of avian flu sometime this summer.”

President Bush, when asked about the nation’s state of preparedness for an outbreak outbreak: “…The fundamental question is, if there's an event big enough, should the federal government be able to prevent state authority -- should there be an automatic declaration of a state of emergency that will enable me to rally federal troops to keep the law?”

Most appreciated exhibitor-floor amenity: A chair. Any chair.

Best food consumed off the show floor: Rabbit wrapped in Serrano ham, served in lavender tea, at Butter, one of Chicago’s hotter new restaurants.

Worst food consumed off the show floor: Bacon ice cream, at Butter. The accompanying condiment, a maple reduction, didn’t improve the experience.

Show person most strongly suspected of having been cloned: Mary Pat Heftman, the NRA official who set up and oversaw operations of the show, yet could be seen casually walking through the booth areas for a look-see, or checking the processes drafted in a flash to distribute 4,000 tickets in a few hours for Bush’s appearance. (She used the interest from attendees to generate exhibit-floor traffic, positioning the ticket-distribution centers at the far ends of the halls so that attendees had to walk by booths).

It’s just not natural for someone to be in so many places at one time, and seem outwardly cool throughout. The mere responsibility of overseeing the show would turn any single human into a Don Knotts. I’d have suspected cyborgs, but the Mary Pats I saw also kept their sense of humor.

The NRA should lend that cloning technology to the city, to create more taxi drivers at show-closing time.

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