Going Back to My Roots

I am enjoying my vacation out west immensely but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t feel weird not writing five times a week. With a hectic schedule the past several days, I have not posted at the typical rate that many of my readers expect. Hopefully you can forgive me.

I did want to update you on a couple fun ventures I have embarked on over the last week. First of all, I completed my seventh year as a court monitor this past weekend for Spokane’s Hoopfest. While all the locals complained about the 100+ degree heat as they pretty much melted on the asphalt, I was doing my thing while saying “What’s the big deal?” The Southern humidity conditioned me well and I had no problem staying out in the extreme conditions for ten straight hours on Saturday and eight hours on Sunday.

As for my court, I must say from top to bottom it was the most talented bracket I had ever officiated. With the high talent level came high competitive juices. Two fights broke out under my watch throughout the weekend. At the end of the game that contained the second fight, the instigator, who was a huge bald man with a goatee stood on top of the curb and yelled at me. With his already intimidating presence magnified by the few extra inches given to him by where he stood, it was a nerve-wracking experience. Luckily the Hoopfest rapid response team was right there to keep me safe.

Me meeting with two of the teams in my bracket prior to the game.

Me meeting with two of the teams in my bracket prior to the game.

A couple personal memories from Hoopfest 2015 will be forever documented thanks to media coverage. KXLY, a local news station in Spokane, did a story about Sidney and I traveling so far to volunteer. To view Grace Ditzler’s report, click here. Also, a team in my bracket was composed completely of homeless gentlemen. KXLY was also on hand to tell that story. To view that report, click here. This past weekend was awesome and I owe a big thank you to Sidney, my mom, and my dad for all taking turns keeping score for me.

Just doing my job during Hoopfest 2015.

Just doing my job during Hoopfest 2015.

Yesterday, Sidney and I made the drive to Missoula, Montana. Driving over the two passes, it was Sidney’s first time ever seeing real mountains. Making the trip to Missoula was important to me because after 15 months since setting foot in the city, I wanted to go back to the place that gave me so much.

We arrived in Missoula at around 10:30 a.m. and went right to the University of Montana campus. Sidney and I walked straight to the Adams Center so I could say hi to all my former colleagues in the athletic department. It was nice chatting with these people who I worked so closely with over the span of five years. It was especially humbling that Kent Haslam, Montana’s athletic director, took time out of his day to talk with me for about 15 minutes.

After visiting with Grizzly Athletics, Sidney and I went outside and met Dan, one of my very best friends from my college years. We walked around the campus and then enjoyed lunch at the Press Box. From there we hit up the mall where we met another friend and then we ventured over to a bowling alley. Dan dominated Sidney and I over the course of three games in the outdated, empty building. Mad that he crushed us so bad, I dropped Dan off at his car and he made the trip back to Kalispell (thanks for making the day trip to see us, Dan).

We enjoyed walking around the beautiful University of Montana campus.

We enjoyed walking around the beautiful University of Montana campus.

After checking in at our hotel, we met up for drinks with my great friend Pete at a new place in Missoula called the Thomas Meagher Bar. After some great conversation, Sid and I went to one of my favorite places in the city, the Iron Horse, to meet Shaun Rainey, his wife Britt, and their new son Brandon for dinner. We had a delightful time catching up and sharing a few laughs. From there I took Sidney around downtown Missoula where we made a few stops at some of the city’s famous watering holes. We returned to Spokane early this morning.

Shaun and I in the photo on top, Pete and I in the photo in the bottom left corner, and a view of the scenery on the drive back.

Shaun and I in the photo on top, Pete and I in the photo in the bottom left corner, and a view of the scenery on the drive back.

I am excited for the next couple days. While I enjoyed the hectic-nature of the past week, I am looking forward to just relaxing around the house for the next 48 hours. I plan to use every minute to enjoy myself and re-charge. Come Friday we will be traveling again on what will be a very busy few days.

Hope the month of June was a great one for you. As always, it was awesome for me. In a blog post at the start of the month, I mentioned how June of 2015 was going to be a special one for me…you would say my prediction was spot on, right? Don’t Blink.

Back Again for Hoopfest 2015

After a one-year hiatus, I am thrilled to participate in the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament once again. I am back to serve as a court monitor at Hoopfest, the signature event in the city of Spokane. This tournament is so big and so distinctive that ESPN is in town and Sportscenter will broadcast LIVE from Hoopfest for three hours tomorrow.

This weekend will mark my seventh time volunteering as a court monitor. From 2008-2013 I labored on the streets of Spokane helping to keep order on various courts. Each year brought different challenges and different memories. I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store.

This is me wearing the 2015 Hoopfest t-shirt and shorts while holding the 2015 Hoopfest ball.

This is me wearing the 2015 Hoopfest t-shirt and shorts while holding the 2015 Hoopfest ball.

To be honest, this year has already been memorable. This morning when we went downtown to pick up my court monitor equipment and gear, Sidney and I were interviewed by Grace Ditzler of Spokane news station KXLY. She told the tale of a “Hoopfest Love Story” in which Sidney and I traveled all the way to take part in this marquee event, making it our first major activity since our engagement. The report turned out awesome. Click here to watch it.

Sidney and I on the news this evening. KXLY interviewed us this morning. The report turned out great.

Sidney and I on the news this evening. KXLY interviewed us this morning. The report turned out great.

This year my assigned court monitor post is once again in the Main and Washington area of downtown Spokane. My court backboard is Langenhorst & Self CPA’s. I have an adult male court so you can be sure that the competition will be hot and contested. And believe me, I am not kidding about the “hot” part. The forecast calls for tomorrow to hit 104 degrees and Sunday to reach 106 degrees. The hydrating for me starts right now.

2015 Hoopfest court monitor t-shirt with my bracket book, the ball, and shoes.

2015 Hoopfest court monitor t-shirt with my bracket book, the ball, and shoes.

To anyone in town for Hoopfest, please don’t hesitate to stop by and say hi. I am so excited to be back in town for one of my favorite events and I can’t wait to share it with Sidney who will serve as my scorekeeper. Enjoy the weekend and I hope to see you on the streets of Spokane. Don’t Blink.

Heading Home for Summer Vacation

It is the eve of another long trip out west for me. Don’t take that as a complaint by any means, I am stoked! Whenever you get to go home it is a joyous occasion. Tomorrow after work I will rush to my place, grab my bags, and head off to the airport to begin my trek to Spokane.

This particular trip, just from the travel standpoint, will differ a little bit from my flights during the holidays. First off, I will have a travel partner! Sidney (more than just my travel partner) will be at my side the whole time. Although she visited Spokane for a short period during the Christmas holiday, this occasion she will be with me every step of the way starting when we take off from Myrtle Beach tomorrow to when we return on July 8. Additionally, we will tough it out through an interesting experience as we spend the night in the Seattle airport. Throughout my flying career I have never spent a whole evening at the airport but that is the price you pay when you fly weird times in the middle of the week.

It will be very well worth it. We have a lot planned over the next two weeks. After a one year hiatus, I will once again volunteer at Hoopfest, the planet’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world. Back for my seventh season as a court monitor, I am excited to once again be part of my hometown’s signature event. After Hoopfest weekend, we will venture outside of Spokane and make visits to Missoula, Seattle (outside of the airport), and Walla Walla. I can’t wait to show Sidney these western cities!

Of course the best part of this impending trip is the opportunity to see my family. In addition to my parents, brother, and sister, I will be reunited with my niece who is now 9 months old. She has grown so much since I last saw her at Christmas. Snapchat videos can only do so much justice. I will also meet a new member of the family for the first time. My parents welcomed a kitten into their home about three months ago and I can’t wait to meet and play with her.

There is one thing awaiting us out in Washington state that I didn’t anticipate a couple weeks ago, however. The area is expecting record heat throughout the next several days. Hoopfest weekend has forecasted temperatures for 100 degrees and 104 degrees. Sure the humidity won’t be as intense as I am used to down South but let’s not kid ourselves….100 degrees is 100 degrees. When we arrive on Spokane soil we will be fully expecting a scorcher.

But it doesn’t matter, 0 degrees or 100 degrees, I am so excited for a vacation with my loved ones. For those of you who live in the places I mentioned, I hope that we can connect. Over the next couple weeks my posts to Don’t Blink might decrease a little bit. Never fear, I will be back at it after that first week in July. West coast here I come. Don’t Blink.

Spokane Hoopfest 2013: Smoooooth

This past weekend I concluded my sixth year as a Spokane Hoopfest court monitor and I can say that it will go down in the books as one of my smoothest tournaments ever. I had zero major issues and for the most part, everyone kept it cool in my bracket. While Hoopfest 2013 will mostly be remembered as a successful and smooth tourney through my eyes, I will also remember it for a few other reasons. Here is my Hoopfest 2013 recap.

Even though I was assigned to the exact same court I monitored on last year at Washington and Spokane Falls Boulevard, I got a totally different assignment. For the first time ever, I was in charge of a family bracket. The teams that made up my bracket consisted of adult males between the ages of 18-60 who were all related to each other. Mostly I had teams with a dad and three sons or I had teams that had two older brothers each with one of their own sons. I also had teams where I had absolutely no idea how the family connection worked, even after a lot of my own analyzing.

As a court monitor this year at Hoopfest, I presided over a family bracket.

As a court monitor this year at Hoopfest, I presided over a family bracket.

It was fun watching my bracket battle it out. There is a certain chemistry between families on an athletic court/field and it showed during Hoopfest. Most of the teams on my court utilized awesome teamwork throughout the weekend and motivated each other in a respectful and effective manner. The respect that the families showed one another on their own teams also extended to their opponents as well. Although arguments and tense moments definitely occurred between teams during play, good sportsmanship mostly always prevailed and always when the games concluded the opposing teams congratulated each other and left everything on the court. After last year, it was definitely refreshing to see.

 

My sixth year as a court monitor at Hoopfest went very smoothly.

My sixth year as a court monitor at Hoopfest went very smoothly.

I think only two controversial moments happened the whole weekend.

1. On one of the late Saturday games, one of the teams went a little crazy when they heard that their game was headed to overtime. They thought that with regulation over and with them holding to a 19-18 lead that the game was over. I explained that the game would continue in overtime until a team reached 20 points. Although angry and feeling like I was against them they finished the game, ultimately winning. Afterwards they apologized for their little freak out session, even before I put the exact rule that I correctly applied right in front of them.

2. A team was convinced that the score reflected on the red and blue scorecard was incorrect. I guess I shouldn’t even say “team”…it was a player on a team who was later joined by another one of his teammates in the mini dispute. They thought the scorekeeper (my dad) took away one of their points and gave it to the other team. After explaining the last few possessions with the players and reaching the score that we originally had reflected on the scorecard, they grudgingly gave up their fight.

I will definitely remember Hoopfest 2013 for the weather. All week long the forecast stated that both days of Hoopfest Weekend would be hot, with temperatures reaching the mid-nineties. While Sunday lived up to its billing, Saturday did not. I woke up at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning and looked out my window at the overcast, drizzly sky and asked myself “What’s going on here?” My mom assured me that it would blow over but it never did. For most of Saturday, the streets of downtown Spokane had dark clouds hovering above with several different periods of rain off and on. At one point, the whole tournament stopped for about 10 minutes for the sake of safety as it poured down rain.

A lot of my time on Saturday at Hoopfest was in the rain.

A lot of my time on Saturday at Hoopfest was in the rain.

The intermittent rain had some unpleasant results. First off, I had never seen so many nasty slips and falls in any other year. The wet courts slowed down play but it still couldn’t stop players from sliding around. Probably every player had at least one experience where they found themselves sitting on the cold, unforgiving pavement. Also, majority of the courts were sent into disarray as the tape markings could not withstand the rain coupled with the warming of the courts when the rain would let up. This resulted in many court with no markings whatsoever. My court actually held up pretty well but there was still confusion and cheap blackboard chalk could only do so much. But once Sunday came along the clouds disappeared and the bright sun shined down on us for the whole day, bringing the type of weather that is typical, and preferred, for Hoopfest.

Come Sunday morning, "real" Hoopfest weather appeared.

Come Sunday morning, real Hoopfest weather appeared.

I will also remember Hoopfest 2013 for having a little more downtime than usual. I only had 12 teams in my bracket as opposed to the standard 16 so my Saturday ended at 4 p.m. as opposed to 6:30 p.m. This allowed me to watch my brother’s Saturday night game but more on that tomorrow. Anyway, in 6 years I had never had the chance to watch a Hoopfest game as purely a spectator so that was a nice little treat.

Paige got to enjoy Hoopfest with me this year.

Paige got to enjoy Hoopfest with me this year.

In the end, a team called Me and My Three Sons won my bracket. They went undefeated and blew out their opponent in the championship game. I can go into the Hoopfest offseason with a great taste in my mouth and great anticipation for Hoopfest 2014. Thank you Spokane for always putting on such a great event. Don’t Blink.

Hoopfest Eve 2013

On a scale of 1-10, my enthusiasm level right now is at a roaring 10! It is Hoopfest Eve and everyone in the city of Spokane is gearing up for the best weekend of the summer. Starting tomorrow morning hundreds of thousands of people will converge in downtown Spokane to celebrate the biggest and best 3-on-3 basketball tournament on the planet.

Out of the 300,000 people on the street tomorrow, you can count me in as one of them. If you are trying to find me, look for a dude in a bright green dri-fit fluorescent shirt. For the sixth consecutive year I will serve as a court monitor at Hoopfest. I take great pride in doing my best to make sure that at least 1 of the 450 courts at the event runs smoothly. Because I do take so much stock in what I do, I want to make sure I improve on my performance from last year when a few fights derailed the sportsmanship and solid game flow that I do my best to uphold during the tournament. Take this as my redemption year, if you will.

I am pumped up for Hoopfest 2013!!

I am pumped up for Hoopfest 2013!!

You know one of the main reasons why I love Hoopfest so much? Because every year they try to improve, something that gets kind of hard to do when you are already running an awesome event. The improvements can be seen everywhere, even when it comes to us volunteers. This year Hoopfest again outdid themselves with the gear they gave all of us court monitors. Everything reflects the hottest trends within Nike right now. The shoes are that mesmerizing dark yet light blue color with fluorescent green shoe laces. The hat matches the shoes with a blue cap and a hot green swoosh. The shirt that I will wear for two straight days is fluorescent green with the current popular Nike slogan of “(Spokane Hoopfest) Never Stops” printed on the front. The shorts might be the coolest pair of pants I now own as they are gray with a fluorescent green and blue design incorporated. I will have to pay special attention that no one at the court steals the ball as even that is pretty sweet! Who has ever seen a basketball that alternates between brown and orange and has fluorescent green mixed in?

 

Hoopfest goes all out for its volunteers. Great gear this year.

Hoopfest goes all out for its volunteers. Great gear this year.

We got quite the forecast this year too! Both Saturday and Sunday call for temperatures hovering around the low 90’s. Saturday there is a chance of a thunderstorm or two in the afternoon and Sunday is supposed to be all sun, baby. I love the heat and welcome the rays all weekend long.

Hoopfest Family Headquarters will once again be at my parents’ house. My brother already has his team here at the house where they will stay for the weekend. My cousin is due here later tonight with her two youngest daughters who will both be competing in the tournament. Then there is Paige and I who just arrived. This weekend Paige will experience her first ever Hoopfest! I tried telling her a little bit about it but just like with Las Vegas I told her that she would just have to experience it on her own to really see what it is all about.

While I thought my on-court performance last year was a little lackluster, one of the high ranking Hoopfest officials thought differently. During the 2012 tournament when all the chaos was going on he told me he was going to assign me to the exact same court the next year because it took a special monitor to handle it. I thought that was just something he was just saying and would forget about…no and no. Once again I am at Washington and Spokane Falls Boulevard at the KXLY 4 #1 court. Please come see me and say hi! If you do, I might give you a coupon for a free Big Mac.

Let’s get this weekend started! Have fun everyone, protect yourself from the sun, practice good sportsmanship, and be safe. Hoopfest 2013…LEGGGGGGGO!!!! Don’t Blink.

Same Date, Ten Different Years

I have said before that if my apartment ever got caught on fire the one thing I would go back in for would be my journals. Since the seventh grade I have kept a daily journal and since that time there is not one day of my life not documented. Thousands of pages and about 12 different journal books chronicle the better half of my life.

A few days ago I started thinking about ideas for blog posts and the concept of sharing a brief summary for a specific date of my life over a five year span popped into my head. I decided to run with it. I designated tonight as the evening that I wanted to write this post and a couple hours ago while I was researching through my journals I realized I have more here in my possession than I thought (I have several in storage at my parents’ house). In fact, I had double the amount of years available to me. So instead of five quick recounts of the various June 26th’s experienced by Brent Reser, you will get ten even quicker recounts of the various June 26th’s experienced by Brent Reser.

I probably should have waited a week or two to put this concept into action because the last weekend in June is Hoopfest weekend, something that I always participate in. If I could contain my excitement for this blog post a little longer I would have waited, but I couldn’t, so please don’t get too bored with the continuous Hoopfest mentions you will see throughout the years. Now if you will, please come on this journey with me as we go from a young teenager Brent at 17 years old in 2004 to the mid-twenties adult Brent in this present year of 2013.

 

I treasure my journals more than anything.

I treasure my journals more than anything.

 

Saturday, June 26, 2004:

I was participating in the Washington State Football team camp in Pullman, Washington, during my senior year at Mead High School. I got up at 7 a.m. and got a bagel for breakfast and then got ready for the last day of football camp. For the final day, all teams played mini games against the other schools present. Because we had performed well the previous days, we played against the other dominant teams. We tied against a team made up of solely all-stars (athletes who were invited by WSU to the camp) and lost on the very last play to a team called Liberty. After camp awards we had a BBQ right outside the field house and then we took the bus back to Spokane. We got back to the school and I took my teammate and friend Erik Lowe back to his place and then I went home and slept.

Sunday, June 26, 2005:

It was the Sunday of Hoopfest and my team had made it to Sunday. I was on a team with my friends Corey Langill, Cole Steinbach, and Cody Lorenzen. Corey picked all of us up and we went downtown for our 8 a.m. elimination game. We played against one of the most bush league teams you will ever encounter and ended up losing in overtime in a defensive (foul fest) match, 12-10. After getting eliminated the four of us watched as a team that only had two players defeat a team that was at full strength. After that great athletic achievement I went home and made it in time for 11 a.m. mass at St. Thomas More. Our pastor at the time, Abbot Adrian Parcher, was saying his last mass at our parish. Later in the day I went to Lilac Lanes with Corey and Jordan Brink.

Monday, June 26, 2006:

I got up at 9 a.m. and went to Gold’s Gym where I got my arms workout in. A couple hours later my brother and I went to Taco John’s for lunch because I had a couple gift certificates there. Glen and I then came back home and played a couple games of “Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball” on Nintendo 64. Glen then got suited up in his real baseball uniform and I went and watched as his team (Mead) played Newport in summer ball. I left a little bit before the game was over and went to Northwood Middle School where I would always run during the summer. After my run I came home, showered, and then I went over to Michael Hoover’s house where I played in a $10 Texas Hold ‘em tournament with Hoov, Zach Nichols, Cody, Mike DeLaMatter, and others. In my entry I wrote that I got “sucked out” so obviously the outcome didn’t go too well for me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I got up at 6:55 a.m. and Cody and I went to the lobby of our hotel where we ate breakfast. We were in the Portland, Oregon, area doing road construction work for Cody’s dad’s company, Blackline. We picked up the equipment we needed in the Woodland area and then drove to Hillsboro where we worked the whole day grinding paint off the roads. It was such a hot day that we had more trouble than usual with the debris that we grinded up sticking to our shoes. For lunch we ate at an incredible little place called Aloha Teriyaki. We stayed at a hotel that night in Hillsboro called The Dunes and ate at an Italian restaurant called Amelia’s where I had spaghetti and meat balls. Cody and I then went back to the hotel and watched the Mariners-Red Sox game.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I woke up at 8 a.m. and went to Gold’s Gym where I did squats and auxiliary lifts. I then went to downtown Spokane where I donated plasma at one of the dirtiest, sketchy centers you will ever come across. On this day it was a complete zoo as the ATM machine broke down and people were going nuts. I checked in, got processed, and by the time I donated the ATM machine was working and I had $40 in my pocket!! From there I picked up my gear for my inaugural year as a court monitor for Hoopfest. I then came home and watched as Derrick Rose was selected as the #1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. I then did my running at Northwood and came home where I did another money-making scheme I utilized that summer…working as an answer guide for the online service ChaCha.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Living fulltime in Missoula, Montana, I woke up at 6:45 a.m. and made it to work at Grizzly Athletics where I was working in an interim position. I left the office at 3:30 p.m., put some gas in my car, and headed off to Spokane for Hoopfest weekend to court monitor for the second straight year. I made it to my parents’ house and we went out to dinner at a fabulous Chinese restaurant called the Cathay Inn. I feasted on almond chicken, fried rice, chow mein, prawns, and chicken noodle soup. We then came home and sat out on the front deck and watched as a neighbor dog named Skittles continually barked at our cat, Nabisco. Shortly thereafter, my cousin Kelly and her three daughters (Taylor, Emily, and Katie) arrived at the house as they would be taking part in the Hoopfest festivities the next day as well.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I woke up a little before 6 a.m. and my dad, Glen, my cousin Cole, and I all went downtown for the first day of Hoopfest. I was assigned a “50 and under”, 6-3 to 6-4 bracket. I monitored 20 games that day with majority of all the action going very smoothly. The day started out overcast and windy but by the afternoon it was sunny and warm. When the action on my court ended for the day after the 20th game, I still did not have enough basketball in my system so I watched a random game on another court that was still being contested. We then came back to my parents’ house and we had a big backyard BBQ of hamburgers and hot dogs. I then promptly passed out from pure exhaustion.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wouldn’t you know it that I would be at Hoopfest again!? I woke up at 5:40 a.m., had a chocolate muffin for breakfast, and then went downtown for the Sunday of Hoopfest. As it was the second day of competition, the games got pretty competitive. The previous day I met a new friend, Carissa, who was assigned to my court to monitor as well. On this day it was her birthday and we had a fun time celebrating it with the players in our bracket. A team called Four Locos came out of the loser’s bracket to defeat a team called the MFI All-Stars to take the championship on our Hot 96.9 court. After all the action I came back to my parents’ house and blogged and ate nachos that my dad made. I then went to the Elk in Browne’s Addition where I met Carissa and her friend to further celebrate her birthday.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I got up at 6:45 a.m. and went to work at Grizzly Athletics. It was a Tuesday so I did a lot of the beginning of the week type things such as updating website features, drafting a web report, turning in travel reports for our mascots, etc. I went to the rec at noon and did arms and ran a mile. I came back to the office and ate my peanut butter sandwich for lunch, attended a meeting at the I.T. Center on campus, and worked until 5 p.m. I then went home, wrote a blog post, and then went to the Tamarack where I met my buddy Eric Fulton so we could do some stuff to my blog. It turned out that we could not access internet at the Tamarack so we moved to the Iron Horse where we ate dinner and created the current version of my blog. We got my site hosted by WordPress and I finally purchased my domain name, www.brentreser.com . Thanks so much to Mr. Fulton.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Finally we are to the present! Throughout the past 10 years of this date, I got up the earliest today. I got out of bed at 5 a.m., got ready, did my morning routine and made it to work by 7 a.m. I took care of some things I needed to take care of and had a productive morning. At noon I went to the rec center and did the exact same workout that I did a year ago…and then came back to the office and had the exact same lunch I had a year ago as well. The afternoon went great and I came straight home after work, cleaned up my apartment, and read Entertainment Weekly. I started this blog post about 90 minutes ago and am almost done. Once I publish this I am going to jump in the shower and wait for Paige to come over so we can hang out and drink a beer.

——————

Ten years of my life…wow! Depressing thing is that I didn’t do anything spectacular or noteworthy throughout any of those days. The uplifting news is that I have a memory of each of them and I had fun during them all too. I plan to do this again down the road, probably on a date where I had much more diverse activities going on over the ten years. But like June 26, please don’t expect anything spectacular or noteworthy. Don’t Blink.

A Taste From My Youth

If you read my blog often or know me personally, you know I am a smell guy. I love good smelling smells! I can’t get enough of the aroma of ice cream, fresh doughnuts, cotton candy, and cinnamon rolls. For me, a smell always makes me associate it with something. For example, going in order with the smells I just mentioned, I think of Baskin-Robbins, Krispy Kreme, Dahlberg Arena before basketball games, and Cinnabon. There is one smell that joins the above four in my top five. This smell will make your nose curl and tingle with pleasure. Not only is the smell superb, but the taste is too (can’t say that about cotton candy…smell is always way better than the taste). But what makes me really happy about this smell is that I associate it with fun, gatherings, summer, and festivals! I don’t think about in in terms of just one place, I think about it in terms of several places. I am talking about KETTLE CORN!

So why am I on kettle corn tonight? Well, last night we honored our basketball teams for fantastic seasons. We treated the fans that came to the event with complimentary kettle corn and soda. I couldn’t help getting up from my sound spot in the arena and walking over to where the kettle corn was and helping myself. After I ate a few kernels I became immediately aware again of how much I actually love the stuff. At the same time, memories rushed through my head and my nose was filled with that sweet smell. Today at work I brought yesterday’s very nice experience back by eating some of the leftover corn from the event. With the peaceful feeling returning to my body, I knew I just had to pay homage to the king of all popcorns…kettle corn!

Me enjoying some leftover kettle corn in the office today.

Me enjoying some leftover kettle corn in the office today.

Probably around the time I was in fourth or fifth grade I started noticing the tents with the giant black kettles popping up at major outdoor events and festivals. Before I noticed them with my eyes, I would always become aware of them first by my nose. The sweet smell would cut through the thin warm air and hit my senses from 40 feet away, just before I looked ahead and saw the inviting scene. Upon scoping the activity at the tent out, a large group of people would always be gathered in front of the stand. Some would be purchasing giant bags of kettle corn, some would just be marveling at the scene of the person behind the kettle stirring the popcorn mix with a giant spoon, while others would be taking advantage of the free samples.

Ah yes, nothing tasted better than the free kettle corn samples. Piping hot and overly loaded with the signature sweet and salty taste, nothing could stop anyone from buying a bag after enjoying a free sample. Except for someone like me, who during those initial years never had the $4 to buy even the small bag. However, when I did have my mom or dad with me and they did in fact buy a bag, I was in heaven. In the same way that a purchased box of a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts never tastes as good as that initial warm glazed sample you get when you enter the store, the same kind of holds true for kettle corn. The bag that they give you doesn’t taste as good as the five kernel sample they drop in your hands at the tent, but it is still good. I remember walking around with my family at whatever event we were at and all five of us chaotically taking turns plunging our hands into the bag, getting as much kettle corn to drop on the ground as we actually got in our mouths.

Kettle corn definitely started off as a novelty. At first it seemed like kettle corn stands were few and far between and you could only get the yummy confection at select events but once the taste started to spread, so did the amount of stands selling it. By the time I reached high school, kettle corn was a serious business. No longer could I go to Hoopfest, a food event, or the fair and see a single kettle corn stand holding court with a line a mile long. Instead there would always be multiple stands selling the stuff, all proclaiming to have the superior product. One stand would boast putting more sugar in their mix, another stand would claim that their product was fresher, another would try to win business by selling their bags for a dollar less. I would walk down Occidental Avenue on my way into Safeco Field and there would be 10 different places just on that street where I could buy kettle corn. So just like how any new creative product starts off elusive and in high demand and then explodes and kind of oversaturates itself, kettle corn was no different. But I never tired of the taste.

What was once a product you could only get at special festivals, KC transformed in to an item that you can now pull off the shelves at a grocery store. Contrary to the ideals that made kettle corn so popular, you can go to Wal-Mart and buy a big bag of the stuff that was popped months ago in a factory on the other side of the country. Who cares if it not hot or fresh, you can still enjoy that sweet and salty taste, right? Ugh. A better option for getting that special taste when you can’t get it fresh from a stand is the microwave version. Just like any microwavable popcorn, you simply heat it up and enjoy. Although loaded with sweet goodness, the microwave version definitely tastes different from the original kettle corn. For those adventurous types, there are about a million different recipes online that you can utilize to make homemade kettle corn and you don’t even need a kettle! Unfortunately kettle corn that is shipped across country, popped in the microwave, or created at home takes away from what made it so special in the first place…the experience and excitement of buying a unique product straight from the kettle.

I will always have a special place in my heart for kettle corn and I will still even eat the imposter versions that come from the store or in microwavable bags. The nostalgia that I have engrained in my memory bank of some new and tangy popcorn coated in a salty-sugary mix and only served at special outdoor occasions will always stick with me. When I trigger this memory, I crave kettle corn like no other. Good thing we still have a couple bags still leftover in the office. Don’t Blink.