"Welcome to Boot Camp"
by Jack Penland
“Welcome to Boot Camp!” It was the opening line for Allen Cox as he greeted attendees of the 2018 International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association annual conference. Cox, the association’s vice-president, delivered the line because the group of writers were embarking on a conference unlike any they had experienced before.
The conference is held annually all over the world in places like Quebec, or Greece or big cities such as San Diego. They can literally choose anywhere they want to go for their conference and for this year, they chose the rural bounties of Whidbey and Camano Islands.
The experiment took things a step further, holding their meetings at the Camp Casey Conference Center – the former military camp that served as living quarters for the soldiers stationed at Camp Casey next door.
Auditorium “A” looked like something from a movie set, it’s military-straight frame and style contrasting with casually-dressed writers clutching coffee and bagels.
The writers received a first-class insider’s view of all we had to offer around here with so much information, even a couple of locals learned something new. The entire region was on display as representatives from the Olympic Peninsula, Seattle, Bellingham, and the San Juans were on hand.
Langley Mayor Tim Callison hands out miniature keys to the city as writers spend the afternoon in Langley.
A day of classes was followed by a day of fun as the group ate, drank, and played its way from one end of Whidbey Island to the other. They spent their nights in Oak Harbor, had play time in Coupeville, and got keys to the city while in Langley.
A group also headed over to Camano Island for a two-night stay. They were wined and dined there as well, with multiple offerings at the Camano Island Marketplace and a rustic overnight stay at Cama Beach followed by a luxury stay at the Camano Island Inn.
From Sunday through Friday, it was nonstop fun and food.
Boot Camp was never like this.