Interesting Problem

I make the same mistake every year. No matter what strategy I try — arrive early, avoid the food, keep moving — I can never get around to meet all of the Most Interesting People at our annual party.

Each year, we invite them to a little shindig that allows them to mingle, get their photograph taken (our primary motivation) and receive a lovely parting gift (a warm brown and orange blanket this year to go along with the Cleveland Browns Stadium venue).

I've always said the gathering is like throwing the best cocktail party in the city, with people of different backgrounds (chef Bac Nguyen was born in North Vietnam), ages (tennis pro Lauren Davis is just 18), interests (restaurant owner John Owen has a slight obsession with bloody marys) and accomplishments (Eric and Hallie Bram Kogelschatz launched the city's successful TEDxCLE event) all in the same place.

And asking each person to bring a prop representing why he or she is being recognized makes for easy conversation starters. Artist R.A. Washington brought his typewriter, Courtney Bonning, of Bonbon Pastry & Cafe, brought a big sugar jar, and the Natural History Museum's Evalyn Gates lugged along a model of a dinosaur skull.

As a fan of History Channel's Top Shot, I was hoping Season 3 contestant and Homeland Security agent Gary Quesenberry might bring a crossbow or some other exotic weapon. He left his hunting bow in the car (probably the right move) and instead showed off his Triple Nickel award — one of 89 worldwide.

And as you might expect, it's easy to get swept up in conversations. Like talking social media with the Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins who's using Twitter (follow her @RevCCJ) to get the word out about what's happening at her historic church. Or discussing sports with Fox 8's Allie LaForce and 92.3 FM's Dustin Fox. Or, as we were being shooed out of the stadium at the end of the night, mistakenly suggesting Drink Local. Drink Tap.'s Erin Huber dump the water out of the yellow 5-gallon jug she'd brought as a prop so it would be easier to haul home. "That's the point," her friend remarked somewhat disgusted, "getting people to realize that water's valuable."

Right, good point, I thought. I guess if I didn't get to say hello to everyone, at least I learned a few things. And since we live in Cleveland, there's always next year.

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