At the end of many of the larger genealogy conferences, I often host a dinner for readers of this newsletter. The dinners are always held after the conference closes as I don't want to compete with any of the conference activities. I hosted such a dinner last Saturday evening, following the close of the RootsTech Conference.
Past dinners have usually been held in local restaurants. However, as the number of attendees became larger and larger, I found it more and more difficult to find restaurants willing to handle a crowd of that size on a Saturday evening. If it is a good restaurant, they probably already have a crowd on a Saturday evening! In past years, several restaurants have refused reservations for a large group on Saturdays. This time, I rented a banquet room in a nearby hotel and had dinner catered by the hotel. I was nervous about the change in venue. Would anyone come to a banquet room? I shouldn't have worried.
You can see pictures below of the dinner. Click on any picture to see a larger image.
Seventy-three hungry genealogists walked the few feet from the convention center to the Radisson Downtown Salt Lake City, and we started eating at 7 PM. We had attendees from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand. Dinner included roast beef, chicken, traditional salads, a fruit salad, and a number of fancy-looking desserts. We also had a cash bar. Feedback was excellent. I'd say the Radisson kitchen outdid themselves.
After our dinner plates were cleared, Kory Meyerink and his assistants took over with a rousing game of "Genealogy Jeopardy." Three contestants and all the dinner guests participated. The primary participants were Laura Prescott, Renee Zamora, and Alvie Davidson. A reproduction of Jeopardy's game board was projected onto one large screen while a scoreboard was projected onto a second large screen. As our game MC, Kory announced the answers to which the participants had to respond in the form of a question. All game questions were genealogy-related with a high percentage of the questions involving technology, in keeping with the theme of the recently-concluded conference.
The audience got to play along as well, with each person in the audience given a score card to keep track of his or her own results. The highest scoring audience members won prizes that were donated by RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, and myself.
The game itself turned out to be closer and more exciting than I would have expected. Renee Zamora pulled out to an early lead and, for a long time, it looked like she was going to win by a wide margin. However, on the final question of the game, Laura Prescott “bet the farm” and answered the difficult question successfully, pulling ahead of Renee to be declared the winner. Much applause followed. My thanks to Kory for providing us all with such delightful entertainment!
After the "Genealogy Jeopardy" game ended, a drawing for some door prizes produced still more winning attendees. Finally, the grand prize of an Apple iPad was awarded to one lucky diner. I'll write about that separately.
Was the dinner successful? I think so. When asked on Saturday evening, the attendees also agreed that the change in format from that of previous years was a positive experience.
Given last Saturday's success, I called the Radisson hotel this afternoon and reserved a dining room on Saturday following the close of next year's RootsTech Conference! The EOGN Dinner following RootsTech 2012 will be held on February 4 at the Radisson Downtown Salt Lake City.
Those who attended this year's event will know what I am talking about when I mention that next year we will meet in the "big banquet room" that was in use this year by the firemen. That room holds 160 people. The challenge is to fill it!
I also hope to hold a similar dinner on May 14 following the National Genealogical Society's annual conference in Charleston, South Carolina. However, I didn't dare to make plans for that event until I could assess the success of this weekend's RootsTech dinner. Buoyed by this past weekend's success, I am now calling hotels in the Charleston area.
I hope to do the same on September 10 following the Federation of Genealogical Societies' conference in Springfield, Illinois. However, I won't even start on that planning until after I complete the Charleston plans.
Stay tuned for further information.