Honest folks, I really enjoyed our convention just past! This was in spite of myself because, as a small exhibitor as well as an attendee, going into an unfamiliar venue to set up shop ranges from daunting to downright terrifying (depending on the moment). We had gotten extremely comfortable at Mandalay Bay, and familiar with the landscape. The Las Vegas Convention Center was…different. Different, too, was the headquarters hotel a vast distance from the convention venue.
From my limited perspective, it all worked amazingly well. Moving in (and out) was fast, efficient and generally courteous. I don’t know how everybody else solved the time/distance factor between the convention center and the evening events at the MGM Grand, so I’ll give you a little tip in case we find ourselves in that neighborhood again someday: The monorail was fantastic! We bought week passes. It was cheap, fast, timely and never crowded! Traffic at the show, at least at our booth, was steady and exactly what I look forward to at our SCI convention — lots of old friends and plenty of new friends.
On Sunday morning I got my vehicle to the booth earlier than I’d imagined, we loaded up and after brunch with the Burchell tribe, we put Las Vegas in the rearview mirror and it will be some time before we see it again, at least for an SCI convention!
Next year’s convention, 2019 in Reno, might be my 40th. I think I missed one or two during the Gulf Wars, but I’m not certain. They kind of run together. Back in the old days, we were always in Las Vegas. Then we were in Reno for many years, and for some time we’ve been back in Las Vegas. On some levels it really doesn’t matter. Donna and I are gonna be there, and as much as we lament it each and every year, at the end of the convention day we don’t have the energy to go to a show.
Typically, we drive to the convention, hauling books, booth stuff and, usually, evening wear that never gets worn. By an accident of geography called the Sierra Nevada range it takes us almost exactly the same amount of time to get from Paso Robles to Las Vegas or Reno. Las Vegas looks closer, but there aren’t any roads through those mountains, so to get to Las Vegas we have to drop down almost to Los Angeles. Reno looks farther on the map, but it’s a straight shot.
Yes, I know, there aren’t as many flights to Reno at there are to Las Vegas, and weather is a greater hazard. We carry chains when we drive to Reno, and we’ve needed them a couple of times. I’ve always breathed a deep sigh of relief when we head down out of Donner Pass—provided it’s not icy. If it is, then it’s white-knuckle time. But it’s all downhill from the top, and Cabela’s is always the last stop before hitting Reno. You never know what treasures might lurk in their gun library! Next year we’ll carry chains again, but flying will be better because Reno is laying on extra flights. You see, here’s the deal: Reno wants our convention. I understand that our gathering is the biggest thing in our world, but in glittering Las Vegas we’re just one more small convention. In Reno we really are the biggest show in town.
What that means to me is we’re welcome and we’re among friends! Honest, I miss Reno, and I’m glad we’re going back. Cab drivers, bar tenders, hotel staff, waiters and waitresses who know us and welcome us and can often tell hunting stories of their own. There are attractions in Las Vegas that Reno doesn’t have, true, but I go for the convention and I’m looking forward to being back in a friendly town that welcomes us and the business we bring. That may not matter to some of you, but it matters a lot to me because our convention is business as well as fun. Everything is more affordable in Reno!
I’m sure many of us are sad to be leaving Las Vegas. I’m not among them. For sure, I’ve enjoyed our conventions there, as I’ve enjoyed every single SCI convention for 40 years, and as I’ll enjoy it wherever it is. But I’m happy we’re going back to a town that wants us. Make no mistake, it’s not going to be like going home. It’s been so long now that, as exhibitors and attendees, we’ll be on unfamiliar turf once again. We’ll figure it out, and in Reno we’re going to have a lot of help.
Whether you fly or drive, when you get to Reno look for signage: “Welcome SCI.” We don’t see that in Las Vegas—we’re too small and they’re too big—but it was always there in Reno and will be there again. There are lots of hunting seasons between now and then, so we’ll have some stories to swap. I look forward to seeing you there.–Craig Boddington