Glad you asked. In New Zealand a quilt symposium is a collection of all things that make a quilter happy.
There are classes, quilt supply shops, food and sewing machines. Honestly, what else does a quilter need???
This is how it works in a 'nut shell'. Kinda a long nut shell, but you'll get the idea.
First - someone puts their hand up and volunteers to host this event. Volunteers. Not a paid position. Usually a shop or club. Once every two years a main symposium is held, and often has over a thousand registrants. The larger event can afford to bring in international tutors as well as local, and has multiple exhibitions with several prizes.
On the alternate years the mini-symposium hosts New Zealand tutors and is home-town small. There are still classes, exhibitions and a merchants mall, just on a reduced scale.
At some point there is a call for registrations of interest. Usually there are forms available in the quilt magazines, some shops and online. Registrations show the number of interested parties and gives seed money to print the catalogues and put deposits on venues etc.
Tutors send CVs to the organisers and then hold their breath. With so many talented tutors in this country, it must be a very difficult to decide who receives the letters saying "sorry" or "congratulations". Most organisers strive to have a wide variety of classes appealing to a broad range of quilters.
Once tutors are chosen and classes selected, a catalogue is sent to those attending to make some choices. Tutors know that a minimum number must sign up for their classes in order to pay for their fare, wage and lodging.
A high percentage of classes do go through and students are assigned their choices, or if a class is over full, their back up choices. Tutors are notified which classes will be full and make arrangements accordingly.
The committee works hard keeping everyone informed as they court sponsors, organise speakers, venues, merchants, contracts and queries. The pace becomes frenetic for them leading up to the day as more and more details have to come together.
Registered attendees arrive and receive their 'goodie bag', which contains a mug, coupons and a selection of small donations from shops and sponsors. Sometimes there is even chocolate!
The first night a formal 'opening' ceremony introduces the committee, sponsors and tutors. Prizes are often awarded for the Hoffman challenge, and any other challenges or exhibitions.
The Bernina crew go through and set up the machines they rent to those that need them(so quilters don't have to lug their precious machines on airplanes etc.) Students and tutors get ready for the next day and the work begins!
Classes last about six hours, with a nice lunch break in the middle to wander through the merchant's mall and visit with friends. This is a wonderful time to meet new people, discover innovative items on the market or just take time to have a look at the great quilts on display.
During class breaks tea, coffee and biscuits appear. When machines rebel Bernina guys come in and create minor miracles. All in all it's a pretty reliable set up. The inevitable quirks never really stop the momentum of the event.
The after class 'happy hour' (called this because it is usually hilarious) is nice touch at the end of the day where friends meet up. Spot prizes are given for often ridiculous reasons and the classes have a chance to show and tell about their hard work. Friends meet to share the day's news.
One night a gala is on offer where quilters can dress up for a first-class meal. A speaker of some import is on hand and some entertainment. The type of entertainment varies greatly between events with shows such as singers, magicians and fashion runways.
The closing night really winds up the week with the committee re-capping the events, sharing special happenings of the time and thanking everyone. It's then farewell to friends until the next show!
If you are interested in checking out the next event it's in Palmerston North January 2015...poke the button below.