Q&A with Laura Gainor, founder of Official MomFest, about creating a fun community for moms and what the quarantine has taught her about family
By Trent Modglin
Laura Gainor, Park Ridge resident and mother of two, recently launched Official MomFest not only as a way to provide inspiration and support to hard-working moms out there, but also give back to the community, create opportunities to get together with other families, and let moms take a break and enjoy life as well.
Laura is also the founder of own marketing consulting agency, Vossberg Gainor, and is actively involved with her kids’ school, the Have Dreams Task Force and as a junior board member for Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.
Q: What gave you the idea to launch Official MomFest initially? Was there an initial “Aha” moment, or more of a general realization there was a void out there?
A: Initially, MomFest started as a one-day Amtrak trip up to Milwaukee with two other friends. I had just met Danielle and Jen because our daughters were in kindergarten together, and I wanted to support Islands of Brilliance at the annual Midwinter Brewfest, an event that brings together local breweries to benefit the charity. So, as we barely knew each other, we had one of the most fun days exploring Milwaukee and dancing with the Wisconsin Badger Alumni Band at the Brewfest and became close friends laughing so hard about the day.
Since that first kindergarten year, our kids made new friends, and all of us moms kept expanding our friend circle and soon, we were continually planning girls’ nights out, Bunco nights in the neighborhood, afternoon playdates, and just loved seeing everyone at school dropoff and pickup.
After the first year, I designed an official MomFest logo, made t-shirts, booked a party bus, and we then had 17 moms that made the trip up to Milwaukee for the Midwinter Brewfest to support Islands of Brilliance. And the most recent trip, we got a larger bus full of 32 excited moms, new shirts, and a special event lunch at Blue Bat Kitchen in Milwaukee before we paraded into the Milwaukee Ale House for the annual event for Islands of Brilliance.
We kept expanding for each event, and due to the limited number of people allowed on the bus, we had to limit the number of moms that could make the trip. So we hope when this (pandemic) is all over, we can have a record-breaking MomFest trip to get as many involved as possible.
With each year’s event, more people kept hearing of MomFest and wanted to be a part of it. That’s when I realized there was a larger opportunity to make this more than a one-day event, and instead a community of moms that were there for each other all year to host social events, support each other’s causes, plan charity event group outings, monthly girls’ nights, host activities for our kids and connect online to share recipes, fitness goals and more. So OfficialMomFest.com was created at the most perfect time — right when we needed the online community — a year after the domain was purchased.
Q: Are your MomFest events half as fun as they appear to be?
A: Planning our annual MomFest event is so fulfilling for me. I love planning events. As a marketing consultant, it’s a creative outlet for me on top of my personal business, Vossberg Gainor. I love bringing people together. I love swag and seeing our MomFest brand on more than 30 moms as we take over a bar with 20-year-olds saying, “I want to be a cool Mom like that when I’m older.” It’s one of the most fun days of the year that we all look forward to, and I hope by February 2021 we can go back to being in large groups again for our care-free moms’ day!
Q: We love the fact your site has become a landing spot for so many virtual activities and blogs to help people cope right now. How did the quarantine alter the plans for your website?
A: It was the quarantine that made me realize it was the perfect time to get the website up and running. I had purchased the domain in 2019 with the dream of creating the brand and a place for all of us moms to connect here locally in Park Ridge, and also expand to other friends that live around the U.S.
In March, when school was cancelled and all of us moms had to take on the responsibility of working with our kids’ teachers to teach at home, entertain them while we all did our own job responsibilities, and work with our husbands to keep the whole family fed and alive, I realized it would make it a little easier on all of us if I created one site where we can have a list of virtual events and inspiration to get through the #MomFestQuarantine in one place.
I learned to appreciate the fact that we didn’t have to run to multiple kid activities and instead (we could) enjoy our time at home. Enjoy the little things like going for bike rides, walks with friends, movie nights, zoom hangouts with extended family and making more dinners at home.
Q: As a working mom of two children yourself, what have you learned about what it takes to successfully raise a family during these last few months?
A: Every day was different when this first started. We went from a super fast-paced life with activities every day for all members of the family to spending every day and night at the house in cold Chicago weather. We each missed our independence of learning from our teachers and friends at school instead of mom and dad, being able to focus solely on our work during the day, friend outings, attending events, playing pickleball, date nights, babysitter nights… all of it. I learned patience.
After I got through some days where my head was spinning like crazy trying to do it all at once, and knowing the next day would bring the same head spinning, I learned to appreciate the fact that we didn’t have to run to multiple kid activities and instead (we could) enjoy our time at home. Enjoy the little things like going for bike rides (once the weather finally warmed up), walks with friends, movie nights, zoom hangouts with extended family and making more dinners at home.
A lot has been happening in our world and things will never be the same, which could also be a good thing. We will appreciate our independence more, be more caring to others, have an open mind. And I know the MomFest community will be even closer and appreciate our time together.
Q: What’s something you’ve come to appreciate more about our Park Ridge community during the pandemic?
A: I already knew this, but we are so fortunate to have one of the largest friend networks. Park Ridge is such a welcoming community, and it’s incredible that each day we were struggling, there was always someone to call to talk through it who was experiencing the same.
Since we moved here four years ago, I know it can be our forever family spot because of the community. Community makes me happy, and I love seeing my kids go outside to play. They have a group of friends near them to play with, we can go to a restaurant for dinner and run into so many people we know, we can organize an event to support someone in need and there are a number of families that come together. It’s a family city.
The exciting part about Official MomFest is that we can make it what we want it to be. Right now, it’s a community of moms, and the topic of conversation keeps evolving.
Q: Where does OfficialMomFest.com go from here? What’s in the short and long-term plans for your blog/company?
A: The exciting part about MomFest is that we can make it what we want it to be. Right now, it’s a community of moms, and the topic of conversation keeps evolving. When I launched the website, it was labeled as #MomFestQuarantine to help us all get through the shelter-in-place order together, virtually.
Now we can shift that conversation as we finally finish up remote learning and move onto summer and safely open up our city a little at a time. The last three months have focused on the kids’ school and helping them get through the end of the year without their friend socialization, and now we all hope to get a little bit of that in-person socialization back… for moms and kids (mostly for the moms).
We’ve quickly seen how happy our kids are getting back together with a few friends at a time, and the same goes for us moms. A group of us went on a social distancing bike ride for two hours like we were teenagers again, and we were so happy laughing with our friends and appreciating the simplicity of being together in person.
So OfficialMomFest.com will continue to be a resource for moms as we patiently wait for the chance to plan the largest MomFest one-day event in February 2021, as well as providing…
**Community interviews with moms to shine a spotlight on each mom, and how they inspire others, and continually building up the “Meet the Moms” section on our website
**Virtual and in-person events
** #SweatingandMomFesting (founded by MomFest member, Erin Gilfert) — Motivate each other to balance our “festing” with healthy workouts and recipes
**Volunteer opportunities to give back locally and nationally
**Interviews with influencers from around the U.S. and how they personally, and the brand they work for, help the MomFest community
**Activity ideas for our kids
**CCG & Friends — A show started by Clara and Garrett Gainor continues to provide a kids’ perspective on the world with the helpers and friends they interview
**Plans to get OfficialDadFest.com up and running (We’ve heard you, dads. Your time will come.)
Q: Finish this sentence: Being a mom in 2020 is a lot like…
A: Something we’ve never experienced before and, hopefully as we look back on this year with every new challenge that came up, we can say we survived and brought everyone together in the community to create positive change. And have the biggest MomFest celebration as we turn over to 2021 and get this year over with.
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