This message is being written in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. This is the hotel attached to the Little Rock Convention Center, site of the 2009 conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, co-sponsored by the Arkansas Genealogical Society. It is now the morning of the third day of this four-day conference and I must say that it has been a successful event so far.
The first day of the conference consisted of presentations aimed primarily to officers of genealogy societies, to professional genealogists, and to those who operate Family History Centers. Seven simultaneous tracks of presentations were offered all day.
The second day of the conference is really the first day of what I would describe as “presentations for all genealogists.” The day started with the conference welcome and Keynote Session. The keynote speaker was Tim Sullivan, CEO of Ancestry.com. He talked about many of the recent changes in genealogy research and then compared them with techniques of 20 years or more ago. He pointed out that the methodologies may have changed, but the core values of accuracy and scholarship remain unchanged.
The Exhibit Hall opened immediately after the Keynote Session and was soon buzzing with activity. The Thursday sessions started at 11 AM and continued until 6 PM, followed by a “Night at the Ballpark" with a baseball game featuring the Arkansas Travelers and the Northeast Arkansas Naturals.
Day Three started this morning at 9:30 AM and will continue until 6 PM. Tomorrow will be the fourth and final day, with a similar schedule. You can see a listing of all the presentations and bios of the speakers at http://www.fgs.org/2009conference/index.php.
The conference center is a modern, state-of-the art facility with ease of access and good acoustics. I would, however, like to talk to the person who sets the thermostats. It is COLD in those rooms!
The presentation rooms do seem to be spread out in a somewhat non-logical manner. I consider that to be a minor inconvenience, however. Nothing is ever perfect and if that’s the worst thing I can say about the conference center then I’d say that things are OK.
This year’s conference appears to be a bit smaller than the FGS conferences of recent years. That’s no surprise, as this year’s event is being held in a smaller city. I haven’t heard any official count but I suspect it is under 1,000 attendees. The organizers expected a smaller crowd and I am told that they made adjustments to the financial plans in anticipation of a crowd of this size.
Speaking of finances, I have complained after some past conferences about the high cost of attending these events. The expenses of admission, hotels, parking, air travel, and all the miscellaneous fees keeps climbing year after year, with the result that fewer people can afford to attend. I must say that this year’s FGS event is a pleasant reversal of that trend.
The organizers have little control over airfare but the other expenses can be managed. I wouldn’t describe this year’s FGS conference as “cheap” but perhaps I can apply the term “reasonable.”
The admission price was as high as ever ($225 with Early Bird discounts available to those who register several months in advance). The official conference hotels were cheaper than recent years at $120 to $150 or so per night. That includes free wi-fi but parking an automobile is an extra $10 to $20 per night. Several parking garages are also available in the nearby area at lower prices.
NOTE: I am staying in a delightful La Quinta hotel about five miles away for $69 a night, including free wi-fi and free parking. It is surrounded by at least fifty restaurants, including almost every national chain you ever heard of. The restaurant selections run the gamut from fast food to rather up-scale dining. I had a great BBQ dinner for less than $12 last night at a restaurant that was within waking distance from my suburban hotel. The same area is full of shopping centers, strip malls, and more. I must admit that I prefer the suburban hotel with its low prices and other conveniences. The money I saved by staying there more than paid for the rental car.
The conference isn’t over yet but I am pleased with it and I believe that most of the other attendees would agree. I’ll write a bit more after the conclusion of this year’s FGS conference.