Virtual Celebrations

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

Birthdays. Anniversaries. Birth Announcements.

I don’t usually write blogs for Heart of the Desert from a first-person stance, but we are going to try something different this week. Why, you may ask? Well, it just seems appropriate to give a first-hand description of a virtual celebration. So, here we go…

About the Blog Author:
I’m Remi Gibbs and have been working with Heart of the Desert on their marketing and event planning for 6 plus years. The first two years were onsite, then my husband’s job moved us to deep South Texas, right on the Mexico border. I love Marianne and George Schweers, the owners of Heart of the Desert. How many people can actually say that about the people they work for? And, I genuinely believe in and personally enjoy the products they sell. My husband and I love the Corazon Gitano wine. I put Heart of the Desert pistachio kernels in everything, yogurt, oatmeal, encrusted salmon, in cookies, etc. When I get a hold of any of the chocolates, I’m so in trouble—a sugar coma is imminent. I’m happy to pay for the products and I often give them as gifts. So, when Marianne reached out after we moved and said, “we need you”—I was honored to oblige!

On with the story…I was faced with a looming birthday early last week, during the dreaded pandemic. I am one that usually travels for my birthday or at least has a party and I usually celebrate for two weeks. I figure, I am all about everyone else the rest of the year, my birthday is my time! A time to celebrate magical ME! Travel was pretty much out for this year and gathering would have to wait. The event planner in me had been itching to pull off some feat.

Someone posted something on Facebook that got me thinking: “10 Random Acts of Kindness You Can Do Today” by Holly Lebowitz Rossi. Click through that link for your own inspiration. I know I started out strong at the beginning of the pandemic pulling a group of ladies together to share items with and help each other stay strong. I was supplying my elderly neighbors with fresh produce—just because. Somewhere along these long, uninspiring, dreadful five months, I became ornery and pretty much became a recluse, rarely leaving my house. Not so much because I was scared, but because I didn’t want to deal with people and masks. Once again inspired, I decided to combine my birthday with a big surprise for my group of ladies, that when life was “normal” we gathered once a month to catch up and share adult beverages—we called ourselves the “Wine Divas”.

The Gifts
Sure, you are supposed to get gifts on your birthday. That’s fun…but I always get more joy out of surprising others. So, how do you get wine and cake to 8 households?! The wine was a no brainer for me. Of course, I would have Heart of the Desert ship the wine. Only a couple of my friends had had the pleasure of trying Heart of the Desert wine, so it was time to share with everyone. I knew who my dry red wine drinkers were and thought they would enjoy the Corazon Gitano, a couple would prefer the Chardonnay, a dry white, and one is a sweet red drinker—Viva La Roja for her! My husband and I shared a bottle of Chardonnay with dinner—crab legs (YUM!) and Corazon Gitano with our cupcakes (red velvet for me and German chocolate for him). Before I placed that order, I went in search of a baker that would also deliver the cupcakes. I reached out to someone that I had met through our local farmer’s market. Not only was she thrilled for the business, she was happy to accept the wine order and deliver it all together. Whew! That was fairly easy to put together. Now I had to verify everyone’s address and make sure they were available for a virtual call without giving too much away. Wine ordered. Check. Baker secured. Check. Addresses procured and availability confirmed. Check.

Virtual Platform
Now, I had to figure out the virtual platform. I’m familiar with Zoom having been in several virtual meetings, so I started there. You get 40 minutes free. I knew that wouldn’t be enough. I really didn’t want to commit to a monthly plan, so that wasn’t an ideal option. I decided to check out an old school option, Skype. It sounded great. It was free for as long as we wanted to gab, and we could have as many people on as we wanted. I committed to that and set up the group call. Well, it didn’t work so well. Not everyone would appear on screen even though they were there. We couldn’t hear some people. We gave it up after about 10 minutes of messing around and went to what we all knew…Facebook Messenger. It worked like a charm. If you don’t have all your participants on Facebook, it really wouldn’t be an option, so you might have to do some more research on what platform to use.


The Invitation
I knew I needed to get the link for Skype out to everyone and I wanted to make it as easy as possible, yet make it seem like an actual invitation. I could have made an event on Facebook and invited everyone to it, but I decided to go old school, yet again. Remember evite? It’s still a very viable option! They even have a service you can use for virtual calls. I didn’t really pay it much attention, but perhaps I should have. I created the evite and sent it out to everyone with a link to Skype and time details. They all responded that they were able to attend, so we were in good shape.

The Format
I went into the call with some plans. I didn’t know how well everyone would communicate in this type of call, as we do have some talkers in the group. And I wanted to keep it fun, so we planned to do some trivia and guess how much change was in a 132 pound bucket that my husband had just cashed in, to circulate some coin in the area. We kicked off with way too much COVID talk and a couple people dominating the conversation. So, I decided to play round robin and give everyone the spotlight individually to talk about what had been going on with them. This worked well. After downing ¾ of our wine, we were all ready to talk and maybe a little emotional. I finished it off with telling everyone how important they were to me and how thankful I was that they joined in to celebrate my day. The call lasted about three hours! We never got to the games, but that’s ok!

The Reviews
Everyone was surprised! They were thankful to be included. They enjoyed the wine and loved the cupcakes. It was so good to see everyone. Some I hadn’t seen since February. It did my heart good and I was fulfilled. This was about me anyway, right?!

A few of the follow-up comments:
“So fun. Thank you for doing that.”
“Feeling happy and blessed. Happy Birthday, Remi! Thanks for putting this together. It was awesome and perfect.”
“Gurl…You da Bomb!!!”

Final Thoughts
This format will work for most celebrations. You will just need to figure out what resources are available to you. Do you want to send out gifts or just tell people what to have on hand? You can bring in other outside sources as well, such as a sommelier to lead wine tasting, a mixologist to lead you in cocktail makings or even someone to teach an art class to the group. The opportunities are only limited by your imagination and pocketbook.

Until we can hug again and clink our glasses together in cheers, virtual events are what we have to work with. We need to make the best of these times. Remember everyone you care about. It will be good for your soul and their spirit.

Cheers everyone!!
Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.