Before I describe any of the highlights, I want to offer a money saving tip: it costs $15 to buy tickets at the door, but if you buy your ticket online it costs $12 for a regular ticket, or $9 for a student ticket. In addition to this automatic online savings, you can type the coupon code "roam" and you'll save even more. My regular price ticket ended up being $8.96 with this code. The code doesn't appear to work with the student price, but give it a try just to double check. You don't need to worry about printing your ticket, either, just make sure you put the correct phone number when you register and write down the bar code number from the ticket they send you. The event is definitely worth the $15 if you have to pay full price (I swear) but why not save money if you can, right?
Now to finally get around to talking about the highlights of this wonderful event! At around 2pm today Aias and I arrived at EPIC, which is held at the NEW Vancouver Convention Centre West building (Canada Place). We took the Canada Line there, but you can also take the Expo Line or one of many buses that head that direction. When we arrived there was a healthy crowd, but there is never any line or anything; the volunteers that help with EPIC do an excellent job of getting people inside quickly and painlessly. When we walked in we were greeted by smiling volunteers and were offered a free cloth bag, which we happily accepted. We then walked over to a Vancouver Sun booth where we signed up to win something and we were given a free 3 week subscription to the paper. They promised me that after 3 weeks it would automatically be cancelled; as in, we wouldn't have to cancel it on our own. So that's pretty cool, we've been planning on doing some paper mache anyway ;) We then immediately bypassed the Toyota exhibit (cars = hate) and checked out some of the booths.
The best thing about the booths at EPIC is that you get to see some awesome products, but you also get tons of free samples to try and take home! The second best thing is that everyone offers amazing deals on things you'd likely be buying anyway. For example, there were quite a few coffee and tea shops there today sampling their wares and also selling their products for a bargain. We just bought coffee last week, but I could have saved had I just waited until today. Two brands that stand out in my memory are Salt Spring Coffee Co. and Doi Chaang Coffee Company. I personally think Salt Spring Coffee is kind of gross, but Doi Chaang is delicious. I think Doi Chaang was selling their coffee for quite a bit less than they normally sell it in stores. They didn't have decaf, however, so I passed. I also tried Asantae Java coffee which I had never heard of before (apparently it's antioxidant coffee or something) and it was delicious. I think I tried 10 types of tea and 5 types of coffee throughout the course of our stay. I also tried beer! I've probably had 1 or 2 sips before, but today I sampled about 2 ounces of Pilsner! They had some other beer companies there too but beer isn't really my thing.
One of the features I loved most about this year was the Fair Trade Vancouver area. When you enter this area of EPIC they give you a passport that you then get stamped at different areas of the exhibit. Some of the areas featured fair trade bananas, tea, coffee, chocolate, soccer balls, and flowers. Each of the areas had people dressed up like whatever the topic was (for example, a giant banana person!). It was adorable and Aias loved them. There was also a guy dressed up like a teabag and he shared a station with a girl dressed like a teapot. It was fantastic. This area also gave away free Fair Trade chocolates and teas to take home. One of the tea shops had organic fair trade mint chocolate tea, and now I'm kicking myself for not remembering which company it was. I can't think of a more delicious kind of tea!
After checking out the Fair Trade exhibit, we wandered over to the area where the not-for-profit and community groups were. One of the most interesting groups was the Child & Nature Alliance which exists to raise public awareness about the benefits of policies, programs and activities that bring children and families closer to nature. I think this is such an important initiative, especially for city kids that often don't spend a lot of time outdoors. Their mission to connect Canada's children and families to nature and the outdoors in the settings where they live, play, learn and work really inspires me.
After checking out the community groups, we headed over to the section with all the food. NOM NOM NOM was there ever some delicious food being sampled! There was also a whole cafeteria area where they were selling food, but we didn't even need to buy any because we got so many samples. One BBQ Sauce company (I really will be writing these names down next time I swear) was sampling pulled pork with different sauces on top, and there wasn't even that long a line! What else did we sample? We had pickled asparagus, pickled onion, spicy pickles, various breads with reductions, various breads with oils, guacamole, the best tortilla chips in the world, chocolate covered berries, goji berries, Raincoast salmon and tuna, and some Indian food! Aias also ate his weight in free Stonyfield Yogurt. While we were walking around nomming on these delightful treats, a guy from Wok Box in North Vancouver handed Aias and I each a coupon for a 100% free stir-fry dish ($10 value!). Now we know where we will be eating after our next hike in Lynn Canyon!
When Aias was stuffed with food, we headed to the kids area which was absolutely fantastic this year. I think it's the first year that they've had a kids play area and it was exactly what we were looking for at that point. Honestly if it weren't for the kid's area we would have had to leave, but because Aias got a break to play we were able to stay there for 2 extra hours! The first thing Aias did was head over to the colouring table where the volunteer gave him a free hardcover colouring book for him to colour. As he coloured he was rocking out to the music we could hear from the fashion show happening on the runway a few meters away (they have an awesome fashion section but I'm not really a fashion person so we only skimmed it). After some colouring he played on a table full of wood chips with recycled toy bulldozers. I gave him a diaper change in the mom's area, which included some nursing chairs and a change table and pack and play. I think this area was put together by Granville Island Toy Company, the Vancouver Aquarium, and the Westcoast Mom's Network. Anyhow, it was REALLY well done. We stayed in this area for probably an hour and by the time we left, Aias was totally ready to go around and check things out with me again.
My second favorite area of EPIC this year was Whole Food's large exhibit that talked about the importance of Mason bees. Did you know that:
- One of every three bites of food you eat needs a pollinator to help it grow
- In Vancouver, each dwelling is entitled to 2 colonies of Mason Bees
- Mason Bees don't sting; they don't even have stingers!
I learned that stuff today! They also gave us some free honey sticks (Aias is over 1 year so it's all good) and a coupon for Whole Foods for 1 free organic 4" herb or vegetable plant!
By the end of our visit, which last from about 2pm to 6:30pm, we had decided on some things we wanted to purchase. We ended up buying:
- A container of delicious sun-dried tomato humous from Golda's Finest Foods for $6
- A bag of chips and medium salsa from Fresh is Best for $8 (mix and match chips and dips for $8)
- A package of sprouted sesame seed and onion gaufrettes from Organic Lives
- Three bags of Hard Bite potato chips that were 3 for $5 (there's a line up for this every year, so popular!)
- BACON SALT!!! Yes, salt flavoured with bacon!!! It was $5 from Sea to Sky Seasonings. They had TONS of other flavours too, but bacon wins.
Some of my favorite freebies we end up taking home:
- A bag of goji berry granola
- A jiffy pot tree planting kit
- Various Biovert products (earth friendly laundry and dish detergents)
- Fair Trade chocolates and teas
- A coupon for Whole Foods for 1 free organic 4" herb or vegetable plant (which we picked up on the way home, a peppermint plant!)
- 2 coupons for free stir fry meals at Wok Box
- Lots of other small goodies!
We honestly had a blast this year, and I'm super excited for next year already. Below are some pics of Aias at the event (cell phone pics only since I forgot my camera) and some pictures of our haul that I took when I got home tonight.
Aias checking out some of our haul when we got home:
Our adorable peppermint plant we got for free from Whole Foods with our coupon:
Some of our freebies and samples:
The Wok Box coupon I think is so awesome:
The Bacon Salt (epic indeed!):
Aias colouring with a volunteer:
Making his happy goofy face while colouring:
So seriously you guys! DON'T MISS THIS EVENT!!! We were there for so long because everything was really fun to look at; there really wasn't a single exhibit that didn't offer something new to think about or try.
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