The Sweet Way Candy Adams, aka The Booth Mom, Builds Relationships

December 18, 2019

Packing for a trade show is usually a laborious task for anyone, but especially so for Candy Adams. In addition to her suitcase for clothing, shoes and all her personal items, every trip she takes, she packs a separate hard case Samsonite. It holds 40 dozen cookies and usually weighs around 43 pounds — and though it sounds like a lot, she’s got it down to a science, after doing this for more than 25 years.

It all started back in 1993 when she was working for a company that made wide-format printers, and the CEO was making a tiny printer for the first Macintosh computer called the Sweet Pea. Adams ended up being their “Booth Mom,” as one of the sales team members named her, because she worked so hard to make the people working the booths feel appreciated.

“I found out after my first trade show, which was a total disaster, that those little Hershey bars didn’t cut it,” says Adams. That’s when she started baking cookies — something she’s loved to do since she was a seventh-grade student in 4H Club. She started taking cookies to shows she was working. “I call them my ‘friend makers,’” she says. “I’d make up excuses to call people and ask them questions I already knew the answer to, just to squeeze in, ‘By the way, what’s your favorite cookie?’”

Adams recently wrapped the 491st show of her career, and there’s only been one to which she didn’t take cookies. She bakes nearly 500 of them for each one, revving up her oven at 6:30 a.m. and tucking the final box of cookies into her suitcase by 8 p.m. the day before she leaves for a trip. Some of her recipes are ones she’s had since her teenage years that’s she’s tweaked along the way, while others are new ones that people have asked her to try (though a recent variety tried with candy corn was a total flop, she admits).

Candy AdamsSnickerdoodles and her famous buttermilk sugar cookies, as well as oatmeal raisin walnut cookies and a few kinds of brownies — from salted caramel to chocolate fudge and turtle — are always in the rotation. The location of a show dictates what kind she makes sometimes, too: For example, if she’s heading to New Orleans in the summer, she takes white chocolate chip macadamia cookies instead of chocolate chip because they have a higher melting point. 

The many people she’s met and worked with over the years look forward to receiving Adams’ special treats, which she packages in twos or threes in individual bags. She usually spends about a half day on-site delivering cookies and remaking her relationships with all of them. “I’ve never charged a client a penny for [any cookies]… it’s how I make my relationships that make things go easy at a show,” she says.

Once at a show in Las Vegas, she was written up by the fire marshal for having too many people lined up in a no-freight aisle (they were waiting for her cookies). Adams tracked him down and knew his writeup was tongue-in-cheek — it was written on the back of the note stuck to the cookies that read “Help yourself,” after all.

With her last show for the year complete, Adams is now in holiday baking mode, sending out a few batches of cookies to clients this week. Her latest hits are cookies made with Andes Creme De Menthe baking chips, which can be hard to find, so she’s been ordering them off Amazon. It’s clear to see that Adams, everyone’s favorite “Booth Mom,” is dedicated to her craft. For her, however, every cookie baked with love is about nurturing a relationship. “It’s just fun for me to make friends this way,” she says.

Adams graciously shared her famous sugar cookie recipe with TSNN for the holidays. Let us know if you whip up a batch by sharing a photo with us (and Candy) on Twitter!

Soft Buttermilk Sugar Cookies

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Cream shortening, sugar and egg. Stir in buttermlik and vanilla. Mix together flour, soda and salt; add to batter. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Frost if desired (Adams recommends cream cheese frosting.)

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.