One of the things I really want to know about is what it will actually be like at the Convention. There is so little information available online, seriously. There’s not even a lot of information on what happened at the LAST Convention.
Well, that’s going to change. A little.
The 52nd National Convention was in Houston, Texas, at the George R. Brown Convention Center. As it happens, that is less than an hour drive from my house. Yep, I’m in San Jacinto Council, host of the last Convention. In 2011, I did everything I could at Convention since it was on my home turf! I volunteered to sew one of the historic uniforms for the Opening Ceremony (see, that’s why my daughter and I took a picture with the mannequin). I stuffed goody bags with our local Camp Rangers and Volunteers from the Utah Council who were in Houston seeing how the Convention was run before they had to do it (great policy, btw). I also volunteered to help out at one of the Delegate luncheons (but since GSUSA brought their own volunteers for that, I ended up directing traffic to the luncheon). I think my size contributed a lot to people thinking of me as a bouncer, because I also ended up checking credentials at a GSLI luncheon and guarding hundreds of stuffed goody bags. Yes. I was set to guard bags. And I had to chase girls away from them! 🙂
One of the perks of volunteering at Convention was that you got a free pass to the Hall of Exhibitors for each uniform you sewed or each 4 hour shift you participated in. I used two for my daughter and I to go the first day after school. We were going to stay for the Opening Ceremony, but we were exhausted! The Hall of Exhibitors was maybe half the bottom floor of the Convention Hall filled with booths from anyone and everyone you can think of in relation to Girl Scouts or girls in general. Joanns, Michaels, Little Brownie and ABC Bakers, all of the World Centers, camping gear, religious organizations, Hostels International, GEMS booths, everything! And they were all handing out stuff!
It was a good thing that we got the big tote bags with our entrance, because we filled them walking through the hall. Here’s a picture of some of the stuff I got the first night. Then I went back with my Troop on Saturday. More swag. I don’t have a picture, but I ended up with a stack of patches at least 2 inches thick, more food goodies, a purse from a long past Cookie Sale, a stuffed tie-dye owl, and oodles of other stuff. If you go to Convention, be prepared to say no to a bunch of stuff, or be prepared to bring a lot home!
My girls loved going, it was definitely a hard thing to top, since it came at the beginning of our year. They got lots of swag, lots of SWAPs, got to hang out with lots of cool Girl Scouts from around the world, and all the parents that came really appreciated it, too. We got to listen in on a conversation with Girl Guides from Kenya. We got to meet the first woman on the Harlem Globetrotters. We got to see the amazing mobile Council unit that our neighbor Council (Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas) uses to get information and program materials to girls in some of the far flung less populated areas of their Council. Some of my favorite moments:
My daughter playing with a circuitry kit.
Some of my girls dressed in saris at the Sangam World Center booth.
Little Brownie Bakers had a karaoke booth set up with Girl Scout songs.
One of my girls sat with these lovely Historians at lunch, and had a great conversation.
So, as a volunteer and a visitor, this is what you can expect. A lot of fun, a lot of great information (and some that is less useful), and a great experience for your Troop. The Hall of Exhibitors (or Hall of Experiences, as it is being called this year) was designed for girls to come and visit. If you are local, I would highly recommend it, but bring a lot of chaperones, and seriously consider Troop T-shirts, because there must have been a thousand Juniors running around in the uniforms, and easily double that in Older Girls. It will easily take you a whole day with your Troop to visit the Hall and do more than a cursory glance over at all the booths. There were crafts to make, samples to try, shopping to do, information to discuss, friends to meet, SWAPs to swap, games to play, and prizes to win!