I love spring. The snow (theoretically) stops here in Michigan, I can start leaving my coat at home, and if I’m lucky, I get to break out my flip-flops. The other great reason to love spring is that it’s “expo” season. The GFAF Expo is one of the largest traveling gluten-free shows in the country. They hold these events all around the country, and in spring they come to the Midwest.
While it’s technically called the “Chicago” location, it’s actually held in a quaint suburb called Schaumburg. This is great, because you don’t have to deal with Chicago traffic, hotel rates, or parking fees. In fact, there are NO parking fees at the GFAF Expo, which is something I greatly appreciate. Below are ten other great reasons to go!
1. Over 120 vendors
Imagine being in a room of over 100 businesses that are all gluten-free. I can’t even find my favorite 50 businesses in my own grocery store! I always discover new businesses here each year, many with whom I’ve built lasting relationships. It was at the GFAF Expo that I met the CMO of Enjoy Life Foods and their great staff.
2. Meet the people behind the business
When you have food allergies and dietary needs, knowing the person who makes your food takes on a new importance. In an age where businesses are jumping on the gluten-free trend, I place a high value on meeting the creators and learning the “why” behind the product.
3. Peanut-free side
If you or your kiddo has a peanut allergy, the show floor is divided practically in half, with one side designated for businesses that NEVER use peanuts. Have other food allergies? Each vendor is given a table tent to highlight what other allergens their foods are “free from.”
Seriously folks, more gluten-free pizza than you can shake a stick at. My favorite Sonoma Flatbreads will be there again, as well as Smart Flour, Daiya (dairy-free!), Freschetta, Doreen’s and more.
5. Bagels, Breads and Pita- Oh my!
If you’re new to Celiac Disease or the gluten-free diet, and you wonder if you’ll eat bread again, this event will settle your concerns. Make sure to try Canyon Bakehouse’s Everything Bagels, Udi’s Breads, and My Bread pita bread.
6. Egg Rolls & Dumplings
Think that egg rolls and dumplings are out of your life now that you’re gluten-free? Not true! Taste the new line of products from Feel Good Foods, including egg rolls, dumplings and frozen Asian meals. They are also dairy-free and void of MSG or GMO’s!
7. Bags FULL of samples
I suggest bringing a bag. A big bag. Leave storage space in your trunk, because you’re going to need it. Not only does the GFAF Expo give you a bag with free samples, most of the other vendors will too. Bring $$$ too, because there are lots of things you’ll want to buy as well.
8. Support Michigan-Made businesses
I wouldn’t be me unless I made mention of the Michigan businesses that will be at this show. Visit the Swanson’s at Full Flavor Foods, Jill at Ethel’s Edibles, Avery at Banza pasta, the Spencer’s at Gluten Free Delights, and the folks at Meijer.
9. Bloggers, Resources and Support
This event is about more than food. There are support organizations, bloggers, authors and so much more. Even standing in line talking to other attendees can be a huge source of info. Visit the Gluten Intolerance Group to learn about their certification logo program.
10. Lots of great gluten-free restaurants
You probably think I’m nuts for suggesting more food. Schaumburg is such a great city to enjoy -you’ll want to stay! Visit LegoLand, GameWorks, and local parks. Use the Find Me Gluten Free app to find area restaurants like Roti, Sweet Ali’s, and Maggiano’s.