I had only heard about The Gentlemen's Expo a couple of weeks ago with a random email.
Upon checking the event's website, I realized why I'd never heard of it. This was going to be the first-ever Gentlemen's Expo in Toronto, and by the looks of it, it seemed pretty cool. Booze. Cigars. BBQ. Cars. All the stereotypes a gentleman should enjoy.
So I decided to attend the inaugural Gentlemen's Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend.
My first gentlemanly experience happened before I even got to the South Building where the expo was being held. A lady had dropped a $10 bill in the North Building and I picked it up to give it to her. It made me question if it was even possible for me to be any more of a gentleman. But there's always room for improvement, so on I went to get drunk. Drunk like a gentleman.
A day's ticket to The Gentlemen's Expo comes with a passport. Each passport includes six drinks which are stamped off by the vendors as you order. Once inside, an additional passport is $20.
They didn't need too many guards at the entrance except for this guy with a hand stamp and walkie-talkie because they were dealing with gentlemen here.
It wasn't very busy when I first arrived, which was good for taking advantage of getting quick drinks. But shortly after, long lines began to form for almost everything. Lines for booze. Lines for food. Lines for autographs. It seemed as though organizers weren't fully prepared for such long lineups. But the crowd established their own orderly fashioned first-come, first-served system because, like I said, they were gentlemen.
The most brutal line I saw was for the Stella Artois tent, which offered a near-half full Stella glass that you could keep. Didn't seem worth it to me. I can drink that shit and steal a glass anywhere.
So I sampled some Famous Grouse scotch, Hogtown Brewers, Budweiser Crown, Big Rock Brewery, and both Top Shelf Classic Lager and Spark House Red Ale from Lake of Bays Brewing Company.
No matter where you went, a drink was one stamp and sizes were about the same. It was different from the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo I had attended here at the MTCC last week, which was all about scoping the best booze-to-ticket ratio. In fact, this expo doesn't focus as much on alcohol as I had expected, with only a handful of beer and liquor vendors. The rest was dedicated to all things gentlemanly, from sports gear to grooming and fragrances, cars, clothes, food, poker, and golf packages.
Thumbs up to male hygiene!
There were things like the Casa Bubble, for example. Casa Bubble is the tent of the future...today! It would have been cooler if they had someone to show you inside Casa Bubble, and if when you took it camping no one could watch you have sex in it.
This 1918 Roamer reminded me of Boardwalk Empire and really had me contemplating buying a second passport so I could order some Canadian Club, so I ended up dropping another $20. The first six samples were more of a tease, really. Canadian Club was the premier sponsor of The Gentlemen's Expo, by the way.
This guy was pretending each target was one of his ex-wives.
This is from the 1977 movie SuperVan, which is about the custom van culture of the '70s because apparently people would trick them out and screw like crazy back then.
If you were to take an ultraviolet light to the interior of SuperVan, it would explode.
So after doing a bit of walking around, it was time to hit up the food area. They had several places to order, but most people had flocked to the two food trucks at the back: Food Dudes and Gourmet Gringos. And yes, both lines were long.
It sucked for these guys set up directly next to them.
But, you know, who wants this shit?
So I opted for Gourmet Gringos and ordered the pork, chicken and beef tacos because getting all three was smart. All three were good. Big ups to the Gourmet Gringos and be sure to look out for their food truck at various events all over the city!
Some of the seminars at The Gentlemen's Expo were fun too, like this one featuring part of the cast of Dragons' Den that began as I first showed up in the afternoon. There were question-and-answer periods hosted by Todd Shapiro for all seminars during the expo and this turned into a real-life Dragons' Den as some audience members tried to pitch ideas. The Dragons are a lot more tolerable of bad ideas in front of an audience than they are on the show.
The UFC seminar featured Georges St. Pierre's personal trainer Firas Zahabi and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones, hosted by UFC Central host "Showdown" Joe Ferraro. You could tell a lot of fight fans were at The Gentlemen's Expo just for this and the autograph signing with Jones afterwards.
When he showed up to meet and greet fans, Jones was a stand-up dude and took his time with each person. Humble guy.
After that, I was ready to head home. It was 6pm and this place wasn't showing the Leafs.
In all, the first-ever Gentlemen's Expo was a fun experience not without room for improvement. A larger space and more variety of things to see, do, eat, drink, and buy will help next year. $30 for a day pass with six (small) samples may be a bit much, but $5 from each ticket is donated to Movember Canada. And with so few seminars and celebrity appearances throughout the weekend, purchasing a three-day pass seems like overkill.
From an organizational standpoint, The Gentlemen's Expo ran very smoothe for its first time. Everything from the schedule of events to getting in and out were all without wait or hassle.
Check out more photos from the 2013 Gentlemen's Expo as well as our feature on official Master of Ceremonies Todd Shapiro, who gave us his top five gentlemanly tips. I'm looking forward to seeing what next year has in store.