No one wanted to admit that social gathering restrictions caused by the pandemic might drag on for as long as they have. For Kendal Norris, founder of Mason Jar Event Group, her cannabis dinner pairing events had to switch to a virtual method to bring tokers and foodies together — a method she's still operating under as Coloradans wait for their COVID-19 vaccinations.
But Norris is happy to keep her events going as she lives out a dream.
Already familiar with wine pairings, Norris had a dream about creating a cannabis alternative and decided to turn her subconscious vision into a business idea focused on the concept.
“No kidding, I woke up one morning six and a half years ago and looked at my husband, and told him I was going to create a company that would feature cannabis pairings in unique rural and urban locations,” she remembers.
Mason Jar typically hosts luxurious dinner parties at rural and artsy locations around Denver and the Front Range, serving three-course meals from local chefs while diners light up joints and enjoy an edible or two with their food. Live music is played as guests learn about new cannabis brands and products, and each dinner party is crafted from a seasonal perspective. But over the past year, all of that went up in smoke after in-person cannabis gatherings came to a halt, and organizers have since taken the events online.
Transitioning to virtual alternatives created more pressure to engage audiences and reel people in for longer, according to Norris, who launched her own streaming series of events. As they would for Mason Jar's in-person dinners, guests drive to a participating dispensary to pick up their curated bag of cannabis goodies — but instead of pairing those goodies with dinner at a farm in Boulder County, guests take them home, along with food and drinks from the participating restaurant.
“I think you really have to sell it before the event with your marketing collateral, just to get people interested,” Norris says. “It's really been a dive into a whole new endeavor. The first thing we had to do was create the concept and pitch it to interested sponsors.”
Norris has never had a problem gathering partners in the cannabis and food worlds. For her next virtual gathering, Mason Jar: Unpacked Volume 2, on Saturday, March 20, she'll feature cannabis products from brands such as Terrapin Care Station, Keef Brands, 1906, Dadirri Extracts and SUM, while the three-course meal will be cooked by chef Daniel Asher at River and Woods, with craft beer from Sanitas Brewing Co. The event is slotted for an hour, with performances by Dave Johnston from Yonder Mountain String Band and cooking and cocktail demonstrations.
There are some small advantages to virtual events, Norris admits. She's currently able to dodge the venue decoration and cleanup parts, which require a lot of time and energy — but all of the extra work is worth the deeper connection that face-to-face gatherings offer, she adds.
“We are missing the smiles on guests' faces, and the serendipitous collision of like-minded folks and conversation over a shared Colorado-grown doobie,” Norris explains.
Mason Jar will host one more virtual Unpacked event, for the 4/20 holiday in April, partnering with LOVA Cannabis Co., Stillwater Brands and Dadirri, with a performance by Leftover Salmon's Andy Thorn and meals provided by chef duo Butcher and the Blonde.
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