By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For The Birmingham Times
Organizing mass events has become second nature for Cecilia Pearson, a former executive who has worked for a number of publications as well as a New York-based company that handled marketing for thoroughbred racing’s Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup, college football’s Sugar Bowl, and the NBA’s Miami Heat where she was part of the nucleus that produced major campaigns and public affairs for highly anticipated annual sports events.
“My DNA is events, my passion is events that bring people together, from my theme-based house parties to Babypalooza,” Pearson said.
Babypalooza makes its return to the Magic City following a two-year hiatus following the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday, Aug. 26, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex [BJCC]. The annual one-day baby and maternity expo is free to the public [registration required].
The Expo sprawls the convention center floor, hosting national retailers, local and national exhibitors from the health and wellness, childcare, and financial industries, boutique baby and maternity vendors, swag, games, prizes, and fun for the whole family.
Pearson, founder / CEO and organizer, hosted her first big expo at Brookwood Village in 2006 and with more than 100 vendors and since then learned that people were driving over 200 miles for her events. “And we asked [attendees] ‘why are y’all coming up here for a local baby show?’ and they said, ‘because we don’t have one.’ And at that point, we started the Babypalooza tour in other [Alabama] cities [such as] Mobile, Tuscaloosa, and Huntsville.”
The tour expanded to Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Tennessee and 12 cities before the COVID-19 pandemic took it virtual. “So we had to stop [in-person expos] for two years and we’re just now getting back to where we were. This year we have [stops in] Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, and Nashville, Tennessee, and we will be in Phoenix, Arizona in October,” Pearson said.
Pearson credits her ability to travel and offer services to ongoing support and contribution from Chicco, the largest brand for car seats and strollers, she said. “They actually started doing virtual events with us during COVID, which is how we managed to stay afloat during [the pandemic] …,” Pearson said. “But after that, they were so impressed with what they found in the virtual expos that they now fly in from Pennsylvania and travel with us and do every show we do whether it’s Mobile, Birmingham . . . they come because [families] are coming to learn and be engaged.”
App And Online
The Jacksonville State University alum earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1990 and a masters in counseling from the University of Montevallo in 1993. “I also happen to be a super geek. I built the Babypalooza website and app and I started coding when I was 12. …right before COVID we created the Babypalooza app, and that’s because I realized we were having these one-day events and seeing people and then not seeing them again until the next year or not ever. I created the Babypalooza app so that we can have an online community where we could be there 24/7, Pearson said.
The website and app offer a whole guide of everything that parents need from zero to 36 months for their children, said Pearson. “And a lot of the information that you can get at the expo you’re also able to get online… we create a directory [of all the exhibitors] at the expo, so you can still connect. And we also do emails. Once you sign up you give us your due date we’re going to use that and send you the information that you need month by month.
“For instance, when the baby turns one, we’re going to say, ‘now’s the time for your baby’s first appointment to the dentist. And here’s a list of pediatric dentists in your area.’ So again, we’re going to keep guiding them. Community is what we’re trying to create and what we have to offer.”
It all began in 2005 when Pearson said she wanted to do her “own thing” and decided to start a magazine for an underserved market: the baby/parenting. That was a demographic for families that wasn’t being filled at the time, she said. “There was nobody else doing anything in that space [in Alabama] and I wanted parents to have a glossy newsstand publication,” she said.
While Pearson’s publication is not a “Black” publication she does use it as a vehicle to drive for inclusion, she said.
“As a Black female I want to make sure that Black parents are always represented in everything that I do. If you ever go to the website or to the magazine, you’re always going to see Black parents. Representation matters — being seen and heard,” she said.
At the expo, Pearson said there’s so many resources that are available in Birmingham that people don’t know exists, from seminars and information on recognizing child abuse, to poison control, and lead poisoning, and car seat safety.
‘I guarantee you most people don’t know that there is a free-standing clinic just for mothers who have morning sickness; there’s the Mother’s Milk Bank [where you can donate or receive] breast milk, all of these resources are going to be at Babypalooza. When people leave they feel supported and equipped, ‘they’re like okay, I got this, I know when I should call my doctor and when I shouldn’t. I know about March of Dimes, the diaper clinic, the milk bank, infant CPR…’”
Babypalooza, Saturday August 26, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex [BJCC], 2100 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North, Birmingham, AL 35203. Free to the public (registration is required: https://babypalooza.com/event/birmingham-babypalooza-baby-expo/). For more visit www.babypalooza.com