As last week’s winter storm approached, Elizabeth and I fled for the coast. They called for 3-8” of snow in the Staunton and Waynesboro area as we were headed north for the ACA Tri State conference in Atlantic City, NJ. Atlantic City also had winter weather advisories and a flood watch. While Staunton got some snow, Atlantic City got rain, sleet, and high winds to batter the camping world in the largest meeting of camping professionals in the world. In spite of the weather, it was a great conference and a great learning experience.
So many sessions, so little time
This was my first time at a camp conference, and what an experience! It almost felt like summer camp for camp pros.
The days were packed full of great sessions. The exhibitors’ hall was a maze of food, toys, clothes, knick-knacks, and huge displays of which dreams are made. The food was terrific, and there were evening programs for networking with the camping world.
Each morning Elizabeth and I lamented how many great topics were being covered throughout the day. Why were we lamenting, you ask? We couldn’t go to them all! For each time block, there were three or four sessions we wanted to see. Making decisions was difficult, but at least we were choosing between great topics and great speakers. I gained so much knowledge about training, awesome new program ideas, working with staff, current trends in camping, and so many fun tricks and games that I can’t wait to play with campers and staff! It was nonstop action throughout the day. I laughed, I cried (some of the speakers really work your emotions), and I learned so much.
Our store manager, Ruth, made the trip up to the conference to visit vendors, get ideas for the store this summer, and keep up to date with all the latest crazes. Be prepared for some awesome Alleghany gear this year. Some vendors gave the classic carnival feel as they insisted you visit their booth, buy something, feel this craft, look at this paint (which ended up on my face), take a catalog, and sign up to win a prize. How often do you really win a big prize at a carnival? But they’re fun nonetheless, and it’s always a good time.
Old friends and new
I was most surprised by all the familiar faces I saw. It was great running in to old friends, hearing where the camping world had taken them, and telling them how lucky I am to be at Alleghany. In addition to the old friends, there are so many new friends and contacts, especially in the Virginias. I think Elizabeth knows everyone in the area. We caught up with friends from Twin Creeks, Carysbrook, Mont Shenandoah, Triple C, and more.
After a wonderful closing keynote from Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York, I had my last roller coaster ride of emotion. ACA raffles off big prizes for next year’s conference. Out came the winning ticket for hotel accommodations for…Camp Alleghany! But it wasn’t my name, and it wasn’t our Camp Alleghany (did you know there is a Camp Allegheny in PA?). My heart jumped out of my chest, then sank right back down as I caught my breath. Alas, that big prize at the carnival still eludes me.
The biggest prize, though, will be putting all the knowledge gained into action this summer, and watching all the smiles, laughter, and love that camp brings. I can’t wait!
— Casey Tucker, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls