FM Web Exclusive—The Home Sweet Home-Family Weekend held each spring at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA has been a tradition for a decade. Currently, the Family Weekend is held in conjunction with the Hospitality & Tourism Management Events class taught by Kimberle Badinelli.
As associate director of administration for communications and marketing in the division of Student Affairs, Badinelli utilizes the event as a learning lab experience for her students, putting them in charge of coordination, photography and decorations.
Badinelli and her staff collect the recipes—more than 200 were submitted last year—then a team of campus chefs determines a winner for each category. Anita Watson/Spencer Watson won for the Brunch category last year with Blueberry Biscuits, a favorite from their Cape Carteret, NC home, while Nancy Brandmueller/Natalie Brandmueller of Kennett Square, PA, earned top honors in the Comfort Food category with their Baked Pineapple Casserole.
Here are some secrets to a successful taste of home weekend event:
-Let all students participate and submit recipes, not just just incoming first year students
-Break the contest into categories (think appetizer, side dish, snack, even brunch)
-From all the categories, let chefs from several units choose a grand prize winner. At VA Tech, the grand prize is a two-night stay in an on-campus hotel for the winning family.
-Put together a special cookbook to commemorate the event. It can be printed by a company who specializes in such collections and can be a great marketing tool for the organization as a whole. Give the cookbook to everyone who participates, and sell more at the campus bookstore.
-Don’t be afraid to carry winning recipes over on the regular menu from year to year. A great memory (or menu item) should last for more than one school year!