The 42nd Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree began today in Burbank. The weather was cool and overcast, perfect for an indoor genealogy conference. I don't know the attendance numbers today, but it was obviously a large crowd. Last year's attendance was about 1,900 over three days, including presenters and exhibitors. I'd guess this years numbers will be around the same, possibly a bit higher, if today's attendance was any indication.
I always enjoy the annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. First, the conferences are held in a great location: the Marriott Airport Convention Center in Burbank. The events are always a bit "laid back" and casual, probably caused by the fact it is held in southern California. Also, the Jamboree deliberately offers a lot of presentations for genealogy novices. Unlike some of the larger conferences held in the U.S., the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree seems to be especially good at attracting novice to intermediate genealogists.
Finally, unlike many genealogy conferences in the States, the Jamboree starts at Friday noon and continues through BOTH Saturday and Sunday. Other, multi-day conferences in the U.S. often are held on weekdays and Saturdays, but not on the one day of the week that usually attracts the biggest crowds: Sunday. I often hear organizers of other conferences speculating about the reasons their attendance is decreasing every year. Don't they realize that their doors are closed on the one day that should attract the most attendees: Sunday?
The result of the Jamboree's full use of the weekend is obvious: larger crowds.
This year's event had several nice touches. One was free wi-fi in the convention center for all attendees. I used that quite a bit today. Another was the "Tech Zone," a room with several computers, all connected to the Internet, and connected to ProQuest (HeritageQuest, Ancestry Library Edition, Historic Map Works, African American Biographical, and several other large databases), AccessNewspaperARCHIVE.com, FindMyPast.com, Footnote.com, Vital-Search-CA.com, AmericanAncestors.org, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, and some other online databases. Conference attendees could take these huge databases for a "test drive" to see how they operate. Jay Holladay and a number of other volunteers were on hand all day in the Tech Zone to provide assistance.
Another thing that I appreciated was the "bloggers' island" in the convention center, a place for bloggers to plug in their laptops, access the free wi-fi, and to post articles or Twitter "tweets" online, describing the Jamboree. I suspect many bloggers also checked their email messages also.
Of course, the biggest draw of any genealogy conference is always the presenters and the presentations. As I already mentioned, the topics at the Jamboree seem to be especially good at attracting novice and intermediate genealogists. Some of the best-known genealogy presenters in the country are offering presentations at this Jamboree. Ten simultaneous tracks are being held most all day long for two and a half days, along with several workshops. Tours of the local area also were available to attendees prior to the sart of the conference this noon.
Another great idea is the fact that the first sessions scheduled on both Friday and Saturday were "Welcome and Jamboree First-Timer Orientation." These were designed to make the newcomers feel welcome and to tell them what to expect. What a great idea!
As good as this event is, it looks like the conference may be outgrowing the conference center. Last year, a large tent was erected in the parking lot to handle the overflow crowds and it was used as a large lecture hall. This year, TWO such tents were in the parking lot. Actually, the result was good. The tents are airconditioned and turned out to be rather attractive places to listen to a lecture.
The exhibit hall also is overflowing. Some exhibitors were in the hallways, outside the primary room used for exhibits.
Finally, parking was at a premium. The one large parking lot serves the convention center, the attached hotel, and also serves as long-term parking for the Bob Hope Airport across the street. Parking spots were difficult to find by mid-day.
Success is a wonderful thing! This conference is obviously successful year after year, as the every-increasing size of the crowds attest. I doubt if the Southern California Genealogical Society will need to find a new facility in the next year or two. However, if the crowd continues to grow every year at the same rate as the past few years, I can envision the Jamboree moving to larger quarters in three or four years. That's what happens when you are successful!
I snapped a bunch of pictures today and hopefully they will give you a "feel" for the Jamboree. Click on any image to see a larger picture.
I LOVED the costume worn today by Claire F. Santos-Daigle (pictured above) of Photos Made perfect. You can see Claire's web site at http://www.PhotosMadePerfect.com.
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