Linda and I made the trek to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the 2018 Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association (GCICA) convention in April. This year’s event marks the 26th year that the association has held a convention, and the fourth year that Linda and I have attended.
What I like most about the conventions is having the opportunity to meet with other cast iron enthusiasts and talk and learn about the old pieces. I’ve made wonderful friends in this cast iron community. There is always a “show and tell” where collectors bring and discuss particularly unusual or hard-to-find pieces. There also is always a large “swap meet” where attendees have the chance to see hordes of iron and snag a few pieces for themselves.
Another highlight of the convention is always the auction. This year I restrained myself from making any large purchases, but in previous years I have certainly done some significant damage to my pocketbook at the auction. There are always great pieces to be had.
Bob Kellermann, great-grandson of Joseph Lodge and the immediate past CEO of the Lodge Manufacturing Company in South Pittsburgh Tennessee, came to the convention to talk with us. Bob was CEO from 1988 – 2018, when he retired. Bob regaled us with stories and information about Lodge. And, he gifted each of us in attendance with a Smokey Mountain cast iron skillet! Bob’s presentation and talk was definitely one of the highlights of the convention.
The cousin of Joel Schiff, an avid collector who passed away in 2015, also came to the convention and showed us a fascinating powerpoint recap of some of Joel’s huge collection. It was very cool to see the slideshow. Joel’s collection was massive; weighing more than 10 tons, all told. When packed, it filled more than 70 large wooden crates. You can see much more of the collection online.
At the end of the presentation on Joel’s collection, the cousin announced that the collection was going to would be donated to Lodge. Lodge is/was in the process of creating a 501(b)(3) company to accept the donation. They plan to create a “museum” or display to showcase part of Joel’s collection. Joel’s wish was to create a museum with his collection, and it is awesome that Lodge is stepping up to fulfill that wish.
Each year the convention has “hosts” – people who do all the legwork and planning to make sure that the convention is a success. This year the hosts were Clayton Mitchell and Malinda Fontenot, Julie and Douglas Soileau, and Brenda and Tommy Lewis. They did an amazing job – no detail was overlooked, down to GCICA drink cozies, GCICA styrofoam cups, GCICA stickers, GCICA wooden spoons, aprons, shirts, and oh so much more. It was a ton of work, and our hosts did an outstanding job. Thank you!
Clayton and Malinda – along with a small army of their friends and family – hosted a “pre-convention” party/dinner at their lovely Baton Rouge home the night before registration for the convention commenced.
Ours hosts put out a dizzying array of Southern food. I don’t even know what it all was! In addition to a crawfish boil, they served up fried catfish, jambalaya, alligator, red beans and rice, sausage bread, and much more. It was very cool to see the army of people cooking outdoors in giant cast iron cauldrons. You could tell this wasn’t Clayton and Malinda’s first time at the rodeo – one of their neighbors said, “they have a lot of parties.” I thanked some of the folks before we left, and one person who was helping said, “When Clayton calls, you come!” Clayton and Malinda are very gracious and accomplished hosts. It was a great gathering.
Clayton and company had built wooden stands to display part of his collection. It was an amazing sight; my photos don’t do it justice.
Linda and I took a little side trip during the convention to the Bluebonnet Swamp Conservation Nature Preserve. This was my first tour of a swamp. It was interesting to see cypress tree growths poking out of the swamp. There were also some odd built-up domes around holes in the ground – I still don’t know what they are. The bird songs were lovely, and we enjoyed seeing all of the flora and fauna. We were also very excited to see a water snake lounging in the sun. While we looked for ‘gators, we didn’t see any. I did sing the Jerry Reed “Amos Lee” song throughout much of our visit, however, surely to Linda’s consternation. “Gator’s got your granny…chomp…chomp chomp chomp.” Even now, the song still goes through my head at odd intervals.
At the end of the convention we headed down to the Big Easy – my first time in New Orleans. We did a quick tour of the French Quarter and of course tried the Beignets. Given all of the activity during the week we were tired and didn’t focus much time on our visit to NOLA, but it was cool to get a little taste of what it is like. I’ll be back again some day!