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Live Event Recap: CCPPNS Convention and the Wistaria Festival

April 7, 2017

One of the hardest things about working for an online toy store is that you’re curating this collection of beautiful items, things you’re really excited to share with your audience, things you’re sure kids and anyone who loves kids will really get a kick out of – but in-person events are the only time you get to actually hand a toy to a kid and watch their face light up.

That’s what makes these live events so exciting for me – let me tell you, did I see faces light up!  I played about 500 rounds of multi-level tic-tac-toe, taught a teenager how to use a yo-yo, made little dun-da-da-da! noises as I placed winning snails on their little podium, answered countless questions, built and rebuilt and rebuilt our Twig and Tegu displays, balanced monkeys, ate shave ice, and all around had a fantastic time 🙂

Our first event of the weekend was the CCPPNS Convention (that’s the California Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools – a mouthful, huh?), and like all event days, it was a long one.  We got to the location at 7:30 to say hi to lots of busy nursery school teachers and parents and start the process of covering all available real estate with toys.


I look forward to all our live events, but this particular one has a special place in my heart.  I attended the Sierra Madre Community Nursery School, and I keep thinking back to that school and all other schools founded on similar principles when I need to remember why the toy business is not only fun, but also important.  Parent participation nursery schools are nonprofits, founded on principles of mutual support, community and cooperation.  They encourage imaginative, kid-driven play and learning; they work to build empathy and a sense of community responsibility, and allow kids the time to be kids.  It’s a mission I really believe in.

So you can imagine, it’s a privilege to come table at their yearly convention!


Kitty and I had an absolute blast talking to everyone and showing them the toys we brought.  It’s so much fun talking with people who believe in expressive, open-ended play and natural child development the way we do.  I’d link to our bestsellers at this event, but most of them are sold out!  There are a few that are still available on our site: the Katamino block puzzle, Vroom Vroom the snail racing game, and the lovely Plan Toys tea set that’s front and center on our table in the photo.  I’m already thinking about what we’ll bring next year.

That night we packed up, drove back down to southern California, caught a few hours of sleep, and headed out early the next day to set up for the Wistaria Festival!  We were exhausted, but even at 6:30 in the morning, setting up our tables, I was excited to do it all again – with the help of a little coffee, at least.

This event was a first for Heirloom Wooden Toys; though most of us had attended the Wistaria festival before, we’d never been a vendor.  And I have to say, as much as I loved CCPPNS the day before, the Wistaria festival had one big thing going for it: kids!  We set up a little play area on a rug…

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…and I got the rewarding job of telling eager toddlers making a beeline for our booth (and the nervous parents following them) that, yes, this is all to play with, go to town!  🙂

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Oh, the kids were so cute.  We had a games station on one of our tables, and I played game after game after game of Vroom Vroom, Kaboom, Suspend and Gobblet Gobblers.  One of the things I love about kids is that they’re so unselfconscious, they just are exactly who they are.  If they wanna yell, they’re gonna yell – if they wanna toddle away clutching the little wooden snail game pieces, that’s exactly what they’re going to do.  Some of them wanted to know all about the rules of the games, and some couldn’t care less.  I was playing the same games over and over, but each time was a completely different experience.

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I loved the small-town feel of Sierra Madre, where this festival is held every year; we met plenty of lovely, chatty parents and grandparents, said hello to lots of beautiful dogs, and had an incredible iced coffee from a local cafe.  The toy business seemed like an afterthought – we were just hanging out, chatting with people about what was on our tables, or about the weather, or about their families.





At this event, the Suspend game got a lot of attention; it’s something of a showstopper.  It’s a big balancing game that’s fun for older kids (it takes a little more patience) – I found myself toying with it when I was looking for something to do.  But in terms of sales, the clear winners were the Tegu and Twig sets.  We put some of each out on our play rug, and plenty of passers-by of all ages sat there for quite a while, absorbed in experimenting with the different combinations of blocks.  One of these days I’ll need to do a post about those two sets and the different directions they take to expand the possibilities of block sets – but for now, I’ll just say that the amount of attention they commanded a this event spoke for itself.


By the end of that second day, boy were we exhausted – but we had so much fun, I started researching other events we could attend just a few days after we got back into the office.  It sounds cheesy, but those in-person interactions, when we get to make kids’ faces light up and see them enjoy playing – that’s what really makes this business worth it.

Leave us a comment!  Have you ever been to one of these events?  Did you enjoy it?  Should we come back next year?  Or maybe you know of a different event we should come out to!  Let us know…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kitty permalink
    April 9, 2017 11:20 pm

    I had a great time working with you Julia!

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