National N Scale Conventions
How we choose a convention location
by Dick Ollendorf
Where do we go next? — One of the questions I am often asked are how do we pick the convention location. The real answer to this question is you, the NSE membership. A few years ago we conducted an online survey that helped us modify our convention to fit the needs our membership. Its time again to do a survey and pick the next convention locations. As part of our NSE web site there is now a permanent tab on the main page that you can use to email your preference for convention sites. You can also tell us what you are interested in seeing. If you want to offer yourself, your club, or business as a anchor let us know. From time to time I will report what locations are being suggested as future sites.
The N Scale Enthusiast Conventions are full of traditions and friendships and we continue to create them. When we were but a young group, we started doing the things that our members wanted, and that developed into a set of standards that have become a loose framework for all of our conventions. This is not to say that we do not vary, as our group has grown with new members and new ideas that we try to incorporate into the schedule. However, the basic schedule for the convention hasn't changed dramatically in years, and the events are pretty much what folks have come to expect. Yes, we switch days now and again to accommodate an attraction’s availability, but we pretty much stick to the same kind of schedule throughout. We do make exceptions for times when we can be the “National N Scale Convention” in association with another N Scale groups.
The gathering of the tribe is an unusual convention that travels to many locations. We try to rotate our visits West, East, and Central US. In 2015 we attended Sacramento, CA in the West after we did Roanoke, VA in the East and before that Milwaukee, WI in Central US. Here is your chance to pick one of the NSE convention locations. One thing you can count on is where ever we go, if you like to buy, talk, trade, or live N Scale, there is more fun per square foot than at any other regular convention.
To help you decide if your location would be suitable for a convention, we have made a wish list of our convention requirements. It is not mandatory to include complete compliance in each of these areas but the closer the better. One thing to keep in mind when thinking about a hotel, can we bring the family, meet with friends and have a great time.
Dates — Since our group has grown, the hotel requirements have increased too. So finding a hotel with the convention dates we need have increased in difficulty. We are now looking 2 and 3 years into the future to find a hotel and the dates we require. We have tried July and August but found that with most schools ending in mid-June and the heat factor, the best time for the NSE is the last full week in June.
Local Convention Anchor —The most important person on site is the person who knows the area. The local anchor is the liaison between the N scale groups and the NSE convention staff. This person is key in the section process. Before the location is selected this person and any groups and NSE member need to be onboard. Only these people can give us the input to local tours. After the convention location is set, they provide onsite coordination between the local groups and the convention director. Lest this look like too much work, the NSE has a very precise program with tight parameters that has been developed over the years, so the job is big, but manageable. I won’t say that we’ve run into every possible problem, but there have been many, so the team is well equipped to deal with issues, and to take that weight off of the local anchor’s shoulders.
Hotel —the hotel that is hosting the convention needs to be in a convenient location for travel. It needs to have sufficient rooms, 250 to 300 will work for our usual size NSE convention. One important aspect of the convention hotel is access to local restaurants within walking distant. Big is not always what we want in a hotel but having a second ballroom for our Swap-A-Rama and layouts is a big plus. We now work with the local tourist bureau in the towns selected to pick the hotel. If you know of a hotel that meets our requirement please make the suggestion, the more input you can give us the better. Then we make contact with the hotel with our formal RFP (Request for Proposal) form to the hotel.
Local clubs — Along with the anchor, these are the folks that help the show go. Working with our layout coordinator Skip Hayes, they are invited to set up a modular layout at the hotel. I always need help with door duties, bus captaining for trips, set up-, and host of other jobs that need doing. Most importantly, they ride the busses on our tours to point out sights of interest, and to manage the situation in case something goes wrong- after all who would know where to go if the bus driver gets lost unless they are local? (It has happened!)
Rail fan Interest — One of the traditions that we have is a rail trip of some sort during the course of the weekend. Whether it is a short line, a dinner train, a logging line, or a narrow gauge special, our group loves to go for a ride and to take pictures of trains. This feature has been with us since our second convention.
Fascinating Tours — On some years it is a factory tour of a manufacturer of N Scale products, on other years it is a major shipper of rail borne goods. Our folks are fascinated with “the way things work” and like to see both model and prototype functions. This tour should be within a short drive of the hotel, and allow for in depth learning about a rail related subject. On some occasions, we have spent the day at a major rail museum.
Home Layout Tours
—In the past few conventions this has become a most wanted event and the hardest to schedule. Most home layout locations are in residential neighborhoods where it is hard to park full 55 passenger buses. We have found it better to pick the top 3 layouts and repeat the tour over 2 days. Using 29 passenger mini buses we can accommodate all the attendees and no one misses out.
Other trips of interest- our convention is very family oriented, and sometimes the “rest of the family” needs something else to do. We often have historical tours, shopping tours, or other interesting museums available for those that don’t wish to attend the Swap-A-Rama or go on the rail related tour. We have found that everyone wants to go on the train ride, though!
Good Travel Access — We have found that in order for our convention to be successful, travel needs to be easy from all over the country and even the world. That means major airlines have to be involved in the destination, and the hotel needs to have a clear transport path from the airport.
Fascinating area — Many of our attendees spend their vacation around the convention, so being close to a recreation area is important. If the location is not near “vacation destination” it probably will not fly. If you have all of these things, and would like to host a convention, we’d love to hear from you. Our conventions are open to any member to propose a convention to the group, and we welcome your ideas.
One of our mandates is to continue to improve our conventions for our members, and we are striving to do just that. From the first Medford convention, twenty plus years ago, to the upcoming convention it has been hard work, but fun. The friendships made at these conventions are lasting, and we try to have a good time at each and every one of them. We hope to see you there, perhaps as the local anchor host of the next N Scale Enthusiast Convention!
See you in June . . .
NSC/NSE National N Scale Conventions