Conference Preview 2022
NGAUS returns to the Midwest (some would call it Big Ten country) for the first time in eight years when the 144th General Conference & Exhibition convenes in Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 26–29.
While best known as the state’s capital and home to one largest colleges in the nation, the Ohio State University, Columbus is so much more. It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. It’s also the largest and the most visited city in Ohio.
Thrillist.com, a website that covers food, drink, travel and local cultures, calls Columbus “surprisingly cool.” The city, according to Thrillist, “has a thriving arts scene, a pulsing nightlife and natural beauty within city limits.” Another travel site concurs: “Columbus is a city that invites exploration,” says Tripadvisor.com.
The city is also rated as one of the nation’s top 40 meeting destinations, says Cvent, a leading meetings, events, and hospitality technology provider.
All of this has Ohio National Guard Association officials confident that attendees will enjoy a few days in the Buckeye State capital.
“The city has grown in the past two decades, says Col. Wayne Thomas, the state conference chairman. “We are excited to show off Columbus to the nation.”
This will be the third time the city has hosted the conference, but it has been awhile. It was the gathering spot in 1947 and way back in 1903. Previously, Cleveland (1979 & 1995) and Cincinnati (1884) have been sites of previous conferences, making California the only state to host more conferences in different cities (four).
THE CITY Columbus originated as numerous Native American settlements on the banks of the Scioto River. Franklinton, now a city neighborhood, became the first European settlement in 1797. The city was founded in 1812, at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy and laid out to become the state capital. It was named for Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.
By the mid-1800s, manufacturers propelled the city into an industry standard. By the late 1800s, Iron Buggy Company claimed to be the largest producer of buggies in the world. Now, Columbus is home to L Brands, Nationwide Insurance, Big Lots, as well as the heart of the state’s health and banking industries.
The many lighted arches over city streets also have a tie to the 19th century. One is included in the conference logo. Mostly decorative today, they were first installed for a purpose: keeping the downtown well-lit and safe during a big convention of Union Army Civil War veterans in 1888. The local police had been concerned about the big crowd attracting pickpockets and thieves.
The arches gave the city a distinctive look that grew popular. The original wood structures were replaced by metal ones. And Columbus was known for a time as the “Arch City.”
Sports are a big attraction today. The Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL and the Columbus Crew of the MLS are big draws. So are the Columbus Clippers, a farm team for baseball’s Cleveland Guardians (formerly known as Indians).
But the most popular team in town is the Ohio State Buckeyes, especially the football team, which attracts more than 100,000 spectators on game days to Ohio Stadium, the famous “Horseshoe,” on campus.
And the school could probably sell twice that many seats when arch rival Michigan comes to town.
THE CONFERENCE Fifty percent of the U.S. population lives less than a 90-minute flight from Columbus. Attendees flying will arrive via commercial air at John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH), which is located 6 miles from the downtown area.
Transportation will be provided to/from conference hotels Aug. 25, 26 and 30 at a discounted rate, which will be provided close to the event, according to Thomas. It’s only 10-15 minutes from the airport to the convention center and conference hotels.
Interstates 70 and 71 converge at Columbus making it an easy drive from several states in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and South.
At least five hotels will accommodate conference attendees. See your state/territory association for hotel assignments. Some are a short walk from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, which will house most events.
Conference events begin with the Sponsors’ Golf Tournament Aug. 25 and the NGAUS Tournament on Aug. 26 at courses to be announced. Under consideration are the Lanny Wadkins-designed Pinnacle Golf Club, known for its breathtaking views, and the The Club at Tartan Fields, an Arnold Palmer Signature Course that is considered one of the state’s top courses in Ohio.
The 5K run is set for the evening of Aug. 26 around downtown Columbus. It’ll be a “glow” fun run with runners suggested attire to include glow sticks, blinking lights and neon colors.
Evening activities on Aug. 26 include the Adjutants General Reception at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum and the always popular Company Grade/Warrant Officer Mixer. Receptions for senior warrant officer and field-grade officers are also planned.
This year, the motorcycle rally is back with a ride through the rolling hills of Southeast Ohio.
The business sessions and the industry exhibition get started Aug. 27. The tradeshow ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m., followed by free brunch on the exhibition floor. The first main session begins at noon. As always, NGAUS will invite key lawmakers and defense leaders to speak.
The Governor’s Reception will be held that evening and the ever popular Hospitality Night is on Aug. 28. As always, the States Dinner will conclude the conference Aug. 29. Recommended attire will be announced closer to the event.
BEYOND THE CONFERENCE Columbus is easy to traverse on foot, but you can always grab a scooter, Pedi cab or one of the hundreds of bikes in the city’s bike-sharing service.
From north to south, the city is divided into five eclectic neighborhoods called the Five on High. Luckily, the convention center is right in the middle between Short North Arts District and Downtown.
You can start at the top in The University District. It’s home to Ohio State University, so you’ll find the usual college hangouts on High Street. A can’t-miss spot on campus for golfers is the Jack Nicklaus Museum, honoring the OSU alum.
Or head south in the German Village, which is known for its great food and drink. There, you will also find The Book Loft, one of the nation’s oldest independent book stores, 32 floors packed floor to ceiling with books.
In between and around town, you’ll find much more. Of special interest to many attendees will be the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. It focuses on the stories of veterans and individuals rather than military accomplishments. The facility has two permanent exhibits and one temporary exhibit space, covering 30,000 square feet.
Also popular is the Franklin Park and Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, home to more 7,000 animals from more than 800 species.
Be sure to come early or stick around after the conference as room rates at the conference hotels will be extended to three days before and after to encourage longer stays.
Rich Arnold can be reached at [email protected].
REGISTRATION, TRAVEL, HOTEL AND EXHIBIT INFORMATION
NGAUS members should register through their state/territory Guard associations. Exhibitors and industry representatives must register at www.ngaus.org/conference. Conference registration is $180. This covers admission to all professional development sessions, the exhibition, the Governor’s Reception, the Company Grade/Warrant Officer Mixer, other mixers and the States Dinner. Most other activities are extra.
Attendees should use John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH). It provides easy access to the city, only a few minutes away.
A shuttle will be provided to and from the airport on the main travel days, Aug. 25, 26 and 30. Reservations need to be made in advance to ensure a seat. Taxis are an option for other days – average fare $13.
Hilton Columbus Downtown (Host Hotel)
401 NORTH HIGH STREET
Hyatt Regency Columbus
350 NORTH HIGH STREET
Sonesta Columbus Downtown
33 EAST NATIONWIDE BLVD.
Sheraton Columbus at Capital Square
75 EAST STATE STREET
Hampton Inn & Suites
501 NORTH HIGH STREET
Exhibit Booth Sales
Prospective exhibitors should contact Jenn Donovan, SPARGO sales account manager at 703-631-6200 or via email at [email protected]. A prospectus and registration forms are available at www.ngaus.org/conference under the “Exhibitor” section of the conference page.
Visit our conference website at www.ngaus.org/conference for the latest up-to-date information. Learn more about Columbus at www.experiencecolumbus.com. Follow us on social media, including Twitter hashtags: #NGAUS2022 and #GUARDCON. And the always popular conference app will be available this summer.