I wear many hats in this fraternity of ours. I'm involved with many organizations, and I handle a lot of different tasks for the Masonic Youth Groups. From newsletters, to websites, to this very blog, my duties are all over the board sometimes. Today, however, I want to put on a specific hat, that of the Director of Convention for PA DeMolay, and discuss some of the upcoming changes in that program, and why they were made.
As many of you already know, PA DeMolay Convention is slated to undergo its first major change in about 10 years. The Convention that most of us have gone to consists of spending Thursday through Sunday in a hotel, with some fun activities thrown in beside some workshops, meals, and the business session. This format worked very well for us for several years, and it's thanks to "Dad" Randy Knapp, my predecessor, that the program is so successful.
When I took over the job of Director of Convention I made a promise to myself to listen to the young men (within reason) and to attempt to give them more control over the Convention schedule and process. Unfortunately, many of the functions I perform as Director cannot be handled by active members for several reasons, most of them involving signing things and other boring topics. While this may be a glitch, I found that I could still listen to the members and try to improve the program and experience that they come to each year. So, I started planning.
One topic that almost always came up as an issue was the amount of "boring," or as the Convention staff calls it, "business" events on the schedule. We have Convention to conduct business, plain and simple, so I can't cut it out completely. I can however attempt to streamline that process as best as possible. Hence, last year we introduced the electronic balloting system that made the election process almost 75% faster than it had been in the past! You can thank "Dad" Greg Schaeffer for that one! It still wasn't enough for me, and I decided that Convention 2010 needed a radical change.
I talked with "Dad" Labagh about what the Convention program had to be, and we decided that we needed to give out awards and elect State Officers, other than that, it could be anything I / the members wanted. So, I sat down with proverbial hatchet, and began trimming what I saw as unnecessary in the program. My vision for Convention was formulated during this process, a vision for which I have taken some heat from adults. In my eyes, PA DeMolay only has one event a year that is mostly "fun" for the members, and that is Convention. Some people find sports fun, they are competitive, and it's a different vibe. Some people find Spring Leadership Fun, but others see it as boring workshops. Some see our Induction Classes as fun, but others find them to be a drag. Convention on the other hand can be fun for everyone, and that, to me, is the appeal of the program. It's a time for DeMolays to get together, from all over the Commonwealth, and just have fun. Many people believe that I have watered down the Convention program, by eliminating all but one workshop, and having too little "education" in the program. Others think that the removal of our annual banquet is sheer blasphemy, and that without it Convention just won't be the same. You know what? They might be right, but I need to see if it fails first.
So what specifically did I do? Convention 2010, held at the Four Points Sheraton Pittsburgh North, in Cranberry (Mars) will be an experiment to say the least. The event will run Friday to Sunday, July 23-25. The first "scheduled" event is an optional paintball outing on Friday afternoon. Following that outing will be some time for degree practice, but the show really gets kicked off with dinner on Friday night. I didn't want to serve the guys some boring old banquet food, so I've arranged for a full on "Make Your Own" Taco bar! Let's start this thing off right! Following dinner we'll head out (using your own transportation) to Fun-Fore-All, an arcade on steroids! Not only will you be able to play all of the video games you want (ticket games excluded), you'll be able to play an unlimited amount of mini-golf on, two courses! Am I not getting your attention yet? Well how about hitting as many balls as you want in the batting cages! Still nothing? Fine, I'll throw in unlimited use of the go-kart track! Did I mention that it's an over / under track, with a figure 8? I'm thinking that should start the event off well and be enough for Friday!
Saturday we have to get down to business, but not too much! Your day will start with a workshop, but not any old workshop. PA DeMolay is bringing in "Dad" Brett Bean, of Maryland, who works as a professional stand-up comedian, to give you guys some insight on public speaking and improv. Following "Dad" Bean, two degree teams will induct new members, right there in Cranberry, thereby growing DeMolay! That's a lot of work for the morning, so it's time for lunch. We'll sit down to a nice plated meal of chicken with asiago cheese while the State Officers and Advisors present awards for the year. With our bellies stuffed, we'll jet over to the business session, where you elect State Officers to serve you for 2010-2011, using the improved electronic balloting equipment. This should take us to about 4 p.m., which means it's time to relax, and enjoy the hotel pool, sauna, and other amenities. Don't swim too long, because at 5:30 we're boarding buses and heading to the best amusement park in Western PA, Kennwyood! With coasters and rides galore, this will be a great way to finish up Saturday!
Sunday means it's time for a full buffet breakfast, a quick chapel service, and installing our State Officers. I think by this time you'll be looking back on the last two days and be going "wow, it's over already," and that my Brothers is exactly how I want it. Convention 2010, at least in my eyes, is the next generation of DeMolay fun and brotherhood, so won't you join me in giving it a try?
Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth C. Anthony