Since it is Friday and the AOA office is closed on Fridays due to the extended days and 4-day work week, I’m sitting here in what I call my Friday office…Starbucks. Right now, I know that some of you are thinking there is no way that any work can get done in a noisy Starbucks, but with the right pair of ear buds and some good music, I actually get quite a lot done. For some reason, sitting at this table, on this hard wood chair, in this noisy business with three other people staring at me is more relaxing than going back into my office after already being there for 40+ hours this week. So I guess the change in scenery energizes me to finish out the week, and the coffee doesn’t hurt either.

Right now there are many exciting things going on each and every week. However, because Andrea Harrington, our Conference Manager was in the Lincoln office this week, we spent a good deal of time discussing the National Show. This combined with the announcement of the location of the 2015 National Show and the topics surrounding the national show that are currently being discussed on our new Online Community got me thinking that a blog message on this topic would be good.

There is a lot of planning that goes into each National Show that is held. It is a huge event that brings together AOA Members from throughout North America. The AOA National Show has some challenges not typically faced by a regional show. While providing the typical competitions like fleece, halter, skein, spin-off, and things like educational seminars and a silent auction, we also must plan for and have space to complete the AOA Annual Meeting, the National Auction, online herd sire auction, and gala dinner. Additionally, unlike a regional show, our members expect us to move the show around the country, instead of staying in one place which could decrease costs and confusion. This variety means our space requirements are quite large. We need 130,000–150,000 square feet of space for just the halter show. Then we still need space to have an auction that can seat 500–700 people at round tables, in a totally separate area not too far from the main barn, along with meeting rooms, seminar rooms, and a place for the Gala Dinner. These requirements, limit the facility options we have throughout the United States, which makes it difficult to find a space to accommodate our event.

Combining the challenges above with the geographic selection for the show adds one more level of complexity and limitation. The geographic location of the National Show is always a hot topic because each of you who show, would like the show to be nearer to your location. Unfortunately, in a country the size of the United States, that means that someone will always be upset. Many things have been discussed over the years to deal with this issue, but none completely solves the issue. Moving the show around the United States from east to west every other year has thus far not solved the problem. There have been suggestions from some members to have more than one National Show. While this sounds appealing on the surface, the budgetary and staff resources aren’t there to support two National Shows at this time. Additionally, once you create an east and west, then folks begin to want another show to determine a national championship anyway. Lastly, dividing the industry in such a way would severely limit the interactions between members and could potentially segregate the population even more.

The last major area of concern is the cost of the venue. This is a concern that permeates everything we do at AOA. As a non-profit, we work very hard to utilize member funds in a way that is most responsible for the membership, the organization, and the industry. For Nationals, there are certainly nicer looking facilities out there that would make the National Show look spectacular, and many would argue that it should be. It should be above and beyond all other shows in look, feel, and professionalism. Unfortunately, choosing a facility like this presents a number of challenges, with the largest being cost. Utilizing a facility like this would likely raise registration and stall fees for the events and they are often in cities where hotels are much more expensive, they require paid parking, paid electrical drops, paid tables and chairs, and everything else. You name it and there is a fee for it. This begins to make the show even more expensive than it already is for attendees. It’s difficult to make the decision as to what type of facility to choose because we get conflicting criticisms from members. We would all like to have lower costs, but a really nice facility and hotel. Unfortunately, these things are inversely connected to one another.

As such, we are at the same juncture that we always are. Where can we locate the show that provides the largest level of support, in a facility that is a nice as possible and meets our space requirements, at the lowest cost possible to the organization and members? This is an impossible requirement to meet, so we try to choose an option that meets as many requirements as possible and then work to make the entire event as spectacular as possible.

We try to utilize member feedback in all the decisions that are made. This past week, we spent a great deal of time debriefing the 2014 nationals and planning the 2015 nationals. The debriefing included reviewing and compiling the notes from the attendee survey that was sent out, notes from the Board, notes from debrief meetings with judges and contracted show staff, and the notes that we had taken ourselves. We spent a great deal of time meeting with these groups to gather as much feedback as possible because since this was the first National Show that I have overseen, it was important to me to get as much feedback as possible to see what we could do to improve in the future. This feedback was extremely valuable and I think that you will be pleased with some of the changes that we are discussing for next year. It will be an amazing event and should be a great deal of fun.

As you have probably seen, we announced in AlpacaGram 1.24 that the 2015 National Show will be in Grand Island, Nebraska, and will be held March 12–15, 2015. Yes, yes…I know, Nebraska in March? Having lived in Nebraska almost my entire life, I would agree that Nebraska isn’t the hub of tourism, particularly in March. I would much prefer to show off the state to you in the summer when the lakes are full, the corn is green, and the weather is warm, but we can’t have a full fleece alpaca show in the summer. Despite its flat and unassuming nature, Nebraska is a huge agricultural state with a low alpaca population, offering an opportunity for members in attendance to create relationships with Nebraska farm families that could translate into sales and expansion of the industry as a whole. It also offers a facility that is perfect for the National Show and meets many of the requirements listed above.

Grand Island is located on Interstate 80 and is nearly the geographic center of the United States mainland. In reviewing past AOBA surveys and comments from our most recent survey, many of you asked for a centrally located show that would provide equal access to both coasts. Nebraska provides that. While still a livestock facility, the facility is very new. It was constructed and opened in 2010 when the Nebraska State Fair relocated from Lincoln to Grand Island. In addition, they were very aggressive on pricing for the facility and hotels are much less expensive than many locations. This was no easy decision, as more than 20 different facilities and geographic locations were considered. Most were quickly eliminated because of cost, or availability, and the list was narrowed to just a couple. The other option was then eliminated because of cost and concerns about its highly polished floor that would not be suitable for the alpacas. You will be seeing more information in the coming months about exciting changes to the show weekend’s format, events, pricing, and other activities.

I hope that you will all mark your calendars and plan to attend, because this will be a spectacular event, hopefully unlike any nationals you have seen in recent history! We are going to have a great time!

I hope you enjoyed this first blog that is about an actual topic. I enjoyed writing it, but my coffee is gone and there is a gentleman trying to use his laptop while sitting in one of the big leather chairs who is glaring at me like he wants my spot at the table. I think I’ll wrap-up and give it to him. He looks a bit stressed.  Have a great day everyone!