By Nelson K. Stubbs, F107765, National Senior Vice President
The Convention Committee has a slightly different makeup than we have enjoyed for the past few years. All members currently serving on the committee are members of the Executive Board, with the senior vice president serving as Convention Committee chairman.
The area vice presidents serving were selected based on several factors, including their past, present, or future roles as convention host area vice presidents. The host of the most recent international convention is included to provide insight based on his or her experience in that position. Those vice presidents whose areas will be hosting the next two conventions are selected to help them prepare for their roles in that capacity, and enable them to provide suggestions and information that may be unique to their areas’ venues. In addition, one vice president is selected to serve as liaison or advocate, if you will, for our members with special needs related to physical limitations.
Current committee members also include Tom Ainsley, Western Area vice president; Jay Blumenthal, International Area vice president; Fred Kennedy, South Central Area vice president (liaison for the handicapped); Charlie Schrenkel, Southeast Area vice president; and Al Talbott, Midwest Area vice president. FMCA national president Connie Pool serves as an ex officio member of the committee, and FMCA executive director Don Eversmann and Jerry Yeatts, director of conventions and commercial services, serve as advisers. The committee meets twice a year in Cincinnati during the biannual Executive Board and committee meetings in the spring and fall when we have the added advantage of multiple convention department staff members being in attendance.
The Convention Committee functions under Bylaws Article XI (4) and Policy and Procedure #4004. Our responsibilities include, but are not limited to, seeking out, locating, and inspecting potential convention sites to determine feasibility and availability. The Convention Committee may make site recommendations to the Board of Directors, who in turn endorse the site for Governing Board approval. The committee also makes recommendations to the president relating to entertainment and various convention procedures.
Possibly the most important duty of the Convention Committee pertains to site selection recommendations. Over the years a list of specifications has been devised by the Convention Department staff and committees. Among other criteria, timing is important, for many reasons. We try to schedule the first convention of the year before Easter, with late February through March being our target dates. For the summer conventions, dates between July 10 and August 20 are preferred. We currently are looking at the possibility of planning our dates to include at least one weekend day.
Also on the list of criteria for a convention site, obviously, is parking for up to 5,000 coaches, including display coaches, as well as other commercial and family vehicles. This requires between 215 and 300 “parkable” acres.
Other areas for consideration in evaluating a site include an indoor exhibit hall(s) with a total minimum of 100,000 to 120,000 square feet of air-conditioned space; an arena or grandstand for evening entertainment that will seat approximately 8,000 to 12,000 people, with an inside, air-conditioned venue preferred; a 20-acre flat, solid area to be utilized as a holding area; air-conditioned seminar rooms, of various capacities, to accommodate 10 concurrent sessions each day; adequate hotel/motel accommodations within a 30-mile radius; availability of approximately 200 rental cars in the area; sufficient office and special event space; a major airport within one hour or less of the site; utilities such as a sewage dumping area, and/or on-site pump-out trucks, and the availability of electricity; a number of campgrounds within a 100-mile radius; availability of the site for setup and tear-down days; and grounds exclusivity. This is a summary of the multitude of criteria for a convention site to be considered for selection.
The goal is to schedule future convention sites at least two, and if possible three, years in advance. This month’s summer convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, will take place July 14 through 17. Next year, we’ll meet March 16 through 19 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in Perry, Georgia; and July 20 through 23 at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. We try to schedule conventions in eastern, central, and western locations on a rotating basis.
Planning and executing two international conventions each year is always a work in progress and requires the cooperation of all involved. Thankfully, we have an experienced and very talented convention staff, headed by Jerry Yeatts, at our office in Cincinnati; hard-working committee members; and hundreds of willing and able volunteers who help to put on each convention