We have all been through a crazy and busy year, full of many challenges and, yet, we have so much for which to be grateful. We could all use a break from work and our families deserve a reward.
Someone recently told me they thought the Convention was our industry’s Thanksgiving celebration. An annual gathering of colleagues, friends and family to acknowledge the year’s efforts and successes. This is when we pay tribute to the traditions of the past, look into the future and reconnect with industry peers. I tend to see the FNGLA Convention more like Christmas morning: months of planning and anticipation followed by surprises and new memories.
This year’s Convention location and format are geared for maximum family time and fun! Once you check into the Hyatt Regency, there is very little reason to get back into your car until it’s time to go home. There are different pools for the very young, the family and just for adults. There is a lazy river, waterfalls and hot tubs to relax. The hotel marina will ferry you out to a private beach hourly, rent you kayaks or setup fishing guides for your pleasure. The spa and onsite golf course will help you burn off a few calories from the fine dining opportunities on the property. The kids, and more than a few adults, will want to try the rock-climbing wall, putting and chipping greens or the corn hole games.
To cool you off and get the evenings started, mojitos will await you in the FNGLA Frontrunners Chapter’s hospitality room. We will also have snacks and a full bar, sodas and water to keep you and your family hydrated. The Friday night reception will be very laid back with a Spanish guitar player in the background and hand-rolled cigars off to the side. This will be a great opportunity to catch up with industry friends and families. The Gala dinner will top off the weekend with a live jazz singer playing in the background and Florida State Representative and FNGLA Past President Halsey Beshears as our keynote speaker.
For those attending the FNGLA Convention for the first time, it can be an eye-opening experience. I hear it each year: “I had no idea FNGLA did so much for its members and the industry.” The influence and impact on legislative issues, research, education, certification and diversity of programs is absolutely amazing!
Many years ago, I attended my very first FNGLA Convention at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando. Certainly, the gorgeous venue with a variety of theme gardens, restaurants and pools under a ten-story atrium made a very big impression. Yet, I was more impressed by the volunteer leaders at the board of directors’ meeting and, in particular, the annual business meeting complete with the Industry Awards, FNGLA’s research endowment and the officer installations. It made me aware I was part of something bigger and more important than I had realized.
In June 2008, the FNGLA Convention was held in West Palm Beach at the Breakers. It was as if I was living in a beautiful museum for the weekend! The service was impeccable. Each event was meticulously planned and the professional salsa dancers were exhilarating to watch.
Yet, the memory I cherish the most took place after the evening’s events ended. Outgoing FNGLA president Dave Self, FNGLA’s staff Ben Bolusky and Jim Spratt, Past President Paul Polomsky and I sat on the seawall with beers/diet cokes and cigars - and just talked for hours. We talked about our families and businesses, as well as FNGLA and the issues of the day. At some point the others went to bed, yet Dave and I talked late into the night about our personal stories and our plans for the future. Dave eventually asked if I would consider higher office within FNGLA. I was shocked to be asked and honored to even be considered. Although I was not prepared to say yes at that time, the seed had been planted.
I have been to many wonderful FNGLA Conventions since then, yet that experience is my most memorable. Please consider attending this year’s FNGLA Convention in Bonita Springs to make your own special memories.