Conference Preview 2023
NGAUS is heading back to the Silver State.
This summer, the association’s conference returns to Nevada for the second time in 24 months. The destination is Reno, which will host the 145th General Conference & Exhibition from Aug. 18 to 21. However, attendees should expect a very different city than they experienced in 2021.
Both Reno and Las Vegas, the site of the 143rd General Conference & Exhibition, are renowned meeting destinations, with great conference facilities, hotels, dining and entertainment.
But “The Biggest Little City in the World” lacks the extravagances of Vegas, which is not a bad thing. In simple terms, it’s more chill, and that includes the weather.
Reno (population: 268,851) sits in the high desert (elevation: 4,500 feet) at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the northern part of the state. Summer temperatures are more pleasant than in Vegas. One will enjoy the many outside activities here, rather than avoiding the sun.
Another plus: Reno is considered much cheaper than Vegas.
The Nevada National Guard Association has been planning the event for nearly five years. It had only about three months to prepare and fundraise for the 2021 gathering after volunteering to host the conference when an alternate site became necessary due to the pandemic.
But let’s take it back several more years.
Reno began as a visiting point for travelers heading west to California during the gold rush of the mid-1800s. It enjoyed its own rush of mining and agriculture when the Comstock Lode of silver brought thousands to the area hoping to strike it rich in the years that followed.
The city was officially established in 1868 when the transcontinental railroad was built though town. Its slogan reflects the large variety of amenities available to a relatively small population.
Reno became a tourist attraction after Nevada legalized gaming in 1931, a time when gambling was largely prohibited in other states. Guest traffic increased in the fifties with the opening of the transcontinental Lincoln Highway, bringing visitors in automobiles from all over the land.
Tourism continues to be an economic driver, as Reno frequently welcomes big conventions and social retreats. This will be the third time the city has hosted the NGAUS conference. But Reno is also a destination for art, culture and tech innovation. Google and Tesla have set up large operations here in recent years.
For those who have never attended the NGAUS conference, the event is the association’s annual meeting. NGAUS members nationwide gather to conduct association business, hear from
Pentagon leaders and see the latest offerings from the defense industry.
Social events and group activities are also a big part of the program, and there are ample opportunities to network. Many attendees also take time out to experience what the host city has to offer.
Reno’s attractions downtown include shopping at boutiques in the Midtown District, retail shops in Meadowood Mall and outlets at The Outlets at Legends. The Basement houses local businesses in the basement of Reno’s historic 1932 post office.
Public art takes form with more than 100 murals throughout Midtown, so you can find hidden gems around every corner. For bowling fans, The National Bowling Stadium, once called the “Taj Mahal of Tenpins” is the only facility of its kind in the world.
The Truckee River flows through Reno, so attendees can grab a tube and float downstream from one of the many city parks. Kayakers can tackle the challenging Truckee River Whitewater Park. Additionally, many local trails are suitable for hikes or bike rides.
Whatever your pleasure, make sure to stop by the Riverwalk to grab some refreshments.
Or head to Pigeon Head Brewery for a large selection of beers. Wine lovers will want to visit Midtown Wine Bar and cocktail lovers should grab a seat at Reno Public House.
But some of Reno’s biggest attractions are just outside the city. One is sparkling Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America. It’s only 20 minutes away by car. Others are Carson City, the state capital, and Virginia City, an old mining town that prospered during the 1870s.
THIS WILL BE the seventh NGAUS conference in Nevada, and the fourth in the last 20 years. Reno previously hosted the event in 1990 and 2012. Besides 2021, Las Vegas hosted the gathering in 1961, 1980 and 2004.
It’s rare for a state to host two conferences in quick succession. The only comparable time in association history was in 1950 and 1951, when the District of Columbia hosted the event in successive years.
Lt. Col. Shaun Cruze, the president of the Nevada National Guard Association and co-chair of the state’s conference planning committee, says the lessons learned in 2021 will be invaluable. “We have the experience that most states don’t get to utilize when hosting a conference,” he says.
That experience appears to have given the Nevada Guard association the confidence to add activities and, with the permission of the NGAUS board of directors, break the traditional sequence of conference events.
Most attendees will arrive via Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), located just five miles from downtown. Free ground transportation will be available between the airport and official hotels.
Those who attended the NGAUS conference in 2012 will notice several major changes in Reno — all for the better.
“There has been a lot of growth and expansion since the last one,” Cruze says. “The area is rebuilding. The hotels are the same, but they’ve undergone some nice renovations.”
Accommodations for most attendees will be downtown at either the Silver Legacy, Circus Circus or Eldorado. The three connected hotels are now owned by Caesars Entertainment, which has invested some $300 million into the properties to upgrade facilities and refurbish most of the rooms, according to a company official.
The Row, as the complex is called, boasts more than 4,000 rooms, 25 restaurants, 23 bars and lounges, 11 other nightspots and 227,000 square feet of casino space.
Room rates are $153 a night for a standard room and $163 for an upgraded room with taxes and the resort fee included. All three hotels will honor the special rate three days before and three days after the conference for attendees to experience more of Reno, Cruze says.
Conference events begin Aug. 17, with the Sponsors Golf Tournament at the Toiyabe Golf Club. The NGAUS tournament will be held the next day at Lakeridge Golf Club, which features an island green on Lake Stanley on the par-3 15th hole. Both courses are a short bus trip from Reno and offer scenic views of the surrounding valley.
Perhaps the signature event of the conference is also set for Aug. 18 — a hike on nearby Mt. Rose, which overlooks Lake Tahoe. For those who would prefer seeing the area on two wheels, a motorcycle ride is also planned. Organizers call it NGAUS Vibrations.
Social events start that evening. The Adjutants General Reception returns to the Nevada Automobile Museum — the same venue as the 2012 function. Considered “one of America’s Five Greatest Auto Museums,” the facility has enough space to host both the TAGs and the field-grade officers who will enjoy their own reception in another part of the building.
That same night, company-grade officers and warrant officers are invited to the lively Freight House District and the adjoining Reno Aces Ballpark for their annual mixer. Guests will enjoy pregame food and beverages before taking in a minor-league baseball game. A Nevada Guard flyover will precede the event.
If you can’t get to the ballpark for the mixers, then stop by any other night during the conference, as the Pacific Coast League affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks has home games Aug. 15–20.
The conference fun run is Aug. 19. Cruze says the planned five-kilometer course will take runners through downtown.
Meetings and the industry exhibition begin later that day in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, which is only a few miles away. The Nevada National Guard Association will provide transportation from official hotels to the convention center and other event sites.
The break in the traditional schedule involves the States Dinner, which usually concludes the conference. In Reno, it’s planned for the evening after the First Business Session on Aug. 19 at the Reno Events Center downtown, just a short walk from The Row. Western Wear is the recommended attire.
The popular Spouses Luncheon is the next day downtown at the Reno Ballroom. It will have a 1920’s/Speakeasy theme.
The Governor’s Farewell will end the conference Aug. 21. It’s also set for the Reno Ballroom. Cruze says organizers are working to schedule some headline entertainment that will be announced at a later date.
“Northern Nevada is looking forward to rolling out the red carpet,” he says.
Rich Arnold is on the NGAUS communications staff. He can be reached at [email protected].
REGISTRATION, TRAVEL, HOTEL & EXHIBIT INFORMATION
NGAUS members should register through their state/territory Guard association. Exhibitors and industry representatives must register at www.ngaus.org/conference. Registration is $180. This covers admission to all business sessions, company-grade officer professional development, the exhibition, the mixers, the States Dinner and the Governor’s Farewell. Most other activities are extra.
Attendees should use Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO). It provides easy access to the city. More than 50 airports nationwide provide nonstop or one-stop service daily to Reno-Tahoe.
Hotels at the Row provide free shuttles to and from the airport daily. They will be augmented by buses contracted by the Nevada National Guard Association, which will also provide buses to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and other conference events and activities.
Atlantis Casino Resort Spa (Headquarters Hotel)
Circus Circus Hotel Casino
Eldorado Resort Casino
Silver Legacy Resort Casino
Contact your Guard association executive director for state/territory hotel assignments. NGAUS registers distinguished guests.
Exhibit Booth Sales
An exhibition prospectus, registration forms and a map of sold booths on the tradeshow floor are available at in the “Exhibitor” section at www.ngaus.org/conference. Prospective exhibitors should contact Hilary Manning, the Tradeshow Logic sales account manager, via phone at 770-432-8410 extension 152 or via email at [email protected].
Visit www.ngaus.org/conference for the latest information on conference events. National Guard and Washington Report, the association’s weekly e-newsletter, will also provide updates. So will NGAUS social media channels, including Twitter hashtag: #NGAUS2023. The business and company-grade officer professional development agendas will be posted Aug. 1. Many state/territory association websites will post their specific plans for the conference. Learn more about Reno at www.visitrenotahoe.com. The conference app will be available in July.