Shifu Loretta Wollering is currently the head instructor of the Internal Gardens School of Classical Taijiquan (tai chi chuan). Loretta was inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2007 as a result of her contributions to Chinese internal martial arts. Currently, she is preparing to hold another Tai Chi event on September 26, 2010. Here’s her story and advice.
1. Tell us about your decision to create a large Tai Chi event. How did you get started in Tai Chi? Event directing?
“I began running this tai chi event while apprenticed to my tai chi chuan teacher, Master Jou Tsung Hwa. He founded a tai chi event called, “The Zhang San Feng Festival” in honor of the legendary founder of the healing and martial art of tai chi chuan in ancient China. In the 1990′s, I took over the direction and production of the event while still finishing college. The event was always held first weekend of June at my teacher’s rustic tai chi retreat on an old large farm property in Warwick, NY. I made a lot of improvements to the event and arranged a lot of improvements to the property. The event grew from 200 people to over 500 by 1998. The purpose of the event was to unite people in this rare niche, tai chi, and help them gain a sense of community and sharing. When my teacher died in a fatal vehicular accident in 1998, the event was in question. While married, I revived the event in 2003. In 2010 I renamed the event the “Tai Chi Gala” to make it easier for westerners to pronounce and remember! Now it is held in Albany, NY at a conference center in a nice, affordable hotel setting. I also hold lots of workshops and seminars in the martial arts and alternative health fields.”
2. What are some challenges and rewards of planning an event such as your upcoming Tai Chi event?
“Marketing it on a shoestring budget to keep it as affordable as possible for everyone. This is rough, and few attendees understand the amount of work, outreach and cost that goes into producing an event like this. I am lucky to have a lot of volunteer help from my school, and especially great work from my tai chi school’s assistant instructor who is also the Tai Chi Gala event manager – Ms. Deborah Mertrud.”
3. Please share some advice for other event directors about how to create a successful event.
“I can’t emphasize enough on planning and keeping organized. You also have to do your best to return every phone call and email you possibly can. Remember that your customers are the reason that your event can exist. Delegate and barter as much as you can if you have a shoestring budget. And be smart and use technology as much as possible. That is why, for example, I love to use ZapEvent. They provide fair pricing and excellent customer service. It’s important to know that you can depend on the people and businesses that are crucial to the quality and success of your event. Also, always remember that the devil is in the details. Make lots of lists and keep them organized!”
4. Share with us your most interesting, challenging, or humorous event director moment!
“When I was running the event on my teacher’s rustic retreat center – Tai Chi Farm. One attendee there had a real show-off meathead attitude. We tried to be as positive as we could, but this fellow was really carrying an attitude. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him racing across the field. Then, I saw an angry goose, with his neck sticking straight out and running after this fellow, trying to nip his legs! Well, so much for being a tough martial artist! I called the cadre of geese on the property my ‘bouncers!’”
5. Fun Question: If you had to eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
“Well, only if I didn’t die from malnourishment: Chocolate and beer. I count them as one, because you really do need a liquid to wash down all that chocolate. And I love a good Belgian beer. Yes, I know, this coming from a tai chi practitioner…”