A Royal Event
If you attended last year's NGAUS conference, you heard from four members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the new directors of the Army and Air National Guard, and the man who is now commander in chief. You also may have helped approve the resolutions that are basis of the 2021 NGAUS legislative action plan.
But while you probably enjoyed the professional development sessions (the new name for the business sessions) packed with key decision-makers., you couldn’t share a drink with fellow Guard officers at the Governor’s Reception or enjoy the hospitality of a great host state and others. You likely laughed at the humorous videos during the Roll Call of States, but you couldn’t catch the Hershey Kisses from Pennsylvania, the Mardi Gras beads from Louisiana or the rubber cows from Wisconsin.
You may have participated in the first NGAUS virtual 5K run, but you likely ran alone, with no new scenery or old friends at the finish line.
And you may have strolled through the virtual industry exhibition that included nearly 100 companies and organizations, but you couldn’t sit in a simulator, visit with corporate partners or collect chotskies from the industry reps.
The 142nd General Conference, live from the National Guard Memorial, the association headquarters in Washington, D.C., was a great event. All it lacked was the human contact and comradery associated with a NGAUS conference.
This year, as things get back to normal, so will the conference. The plan is to gather in person in one of the nation’s fastest growing and most youthful cities, Charlotte, North Carolina, Sept. 9-12 for the 143rd General Conference & Exhibition.
Neither the city nor the state has ever hosted the event. But local organizers promise the North Carolina Guard will provide attendees what they love about the conferences in the South — easy hospitality and food and drink that excite the taste buds.
“We are looking forward to getting everybody back together in person,” says Larry Coleman, the executive director of the North Carolina National Guard Association. “Charlotte is a great host city with everything centrally located and easy to get to.”
THE CITY Charlotte was settled by Europeans in the 1700s, mainly of Scottish and Irish descent, who dubbed it the Queen City after the wife of England’s King George III. A crown remains the symbol of the city and they are ubiquitous on signs downtown.
After the Battle of Charlotte, during the Revolutionary War, British General Cornwallis called the area a “hornet’s nest of rebellion.” Now, the hornet can be found on police uniforms, the NBA Hornets’ jerseys and the patch of the North Carolina Army Guard’s 60th Troop Command.
Charlotte has gone from a textile town to a banking mecca from yesterday’s NationsBank and Wachovia to today’s Bank of America and the new headquarters of Truist Financial, a merger created between BB&T and SunTrust.
Sports are a popular attraction with the local college teams and professional teams to go along with the NASCAR Hall of Fame — more about that later. The schedule has not been released yet, but there is a good chance the Charlotte Knights, a Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, will be in town during the conference. The Carolina Panthers may also be around. They, too, play their games in Charlotte and the NFL season opens that weekend.
THE CONFERENCE Most attendees will arrive via air at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) which is 7 miles outside Center City Charlotte. Transportation will be provided to and from conference hotels Sept. 8, 9 and 13, at a discounted rate — details to follow later. It’s less than 20 minutes from the airport to the convention center and conference hotels.
Interstates 85 and 77 converge at Charlotte making it an easy drive from several states in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and South.
Over a dozen hotels will accommodate conference attendees. The Charlotte Convention Center, which opened in 1995, will host most conference events. See your state association for hotel assignments. Ground transportation will be provided from the hotels and to all conference events.
Conference events begin with The Sponsors’ Golf Tournament on Sept. 8, which will be held at the Gary Wirth-designed Emerald Lake Golf Club, one of the top public courses in the area. The NGAUS Tournament on Sept. 9 will also be played at Emerald Lake, which is celebrating its 25th year in operation.
Evening activities Sept. 9 include the Adjutants General Reception at the Mint Museum, North Carolina’s first art museum; and the always raucous Company Grade/Warrant Officer Mixer.
This year, the host state is offering a “Choose Your Own Adventure” pre-conference event at the U.S. National Whitewater Center on Sept. 9. The outdoor center offers more than 30 activities, including kayaking, zip-line and mountain biking. You will need to sign up early as space will be limited.
On Sept. 10, the annual area caucuses begin at 10 a.m. The tradeshow ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. followed by free brunch for all on the tradeshow floor. Company-grade officer professional development is also scheduled for the morning before the First Professional Development Session (all ranks) begins at noon.
As always, NGAUS will invite key lawmakers and defense leaders to speak.
The Governor’s Reception on Sept. 10 is set for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, located next to the convention center. It’s an interactive museum with plenty of legendary cars to check out and videos to watch and hear. You can even test your strength changing a tire in the pit crew challenge. Guests will enjoy Carolina barbeque, adult beverages and some lively musical entertainment.
“There will be plenty to see and do in there,” Coleman says.
The conference continues with the Second Professional Development Session at 8 a.m., followed by luncheons, caucuses, elections, company-grade OPD and task force meetings. The day is the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Expect a commemoration of that infamous event and a celebration of the Guard’s contributions to national defense in the two decades since.
Later that evening is Hospitality Night, historically held in several state/territory hotel suites or nearby bars. The hotels are all within walking distance, so it will be easy to make multiple stops.
The annual States Dinner will conclude the conference Sept. 12. The theme is Mountains to the Outer Banks, and a classic Carolina beach-music band, will highlight the post-dinner entertainment. Dress is “beach casual.”
“We want to show everyone a good time,” Coleman says.
BEYOND THE CONFERENCE The city is divided into four wards and there is something for everyone in each.
Museums are a plenty, highlighted by the Levine Museum of the New South and Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. There is also Discovery Place Nature and The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture, which can be enjoyed by the whole family.
You can also shop new and old at Charlotte Premium Outlets and Sleepy Poet Antique Mall. Or find an assortment of souvenirs at the Paper Skyscraper, an ode to Skycraper Center, a sign of Charlotte’s growing technology.
Barbeque and brew is another way to spend your free time in Charlotte. The neighborhoods of NoDa, South End and Plaza Midwood are close by and home to more than 20 breweries. Midwood Smokehouse has topped some local polls for Carolina BBQ, which many in the city boast is the best barbecue pork, chicken and lamb on the East Coast.
Popular day trips include Hickory, located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and Concord, home to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy Lake Norman, the largest man-made lake in the state. While history buffs can visit President James K. Polk State Historic Site. Or see where America’s first gold rush occurred at Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site just outside of Charlotte.
Be sure to come early or stick around after the conference as room rates will be extended to three days before and after to encourage longer stays.
The Roll Call of States. The Governor’s Reception. Hospitality Night. You were denied them last year. Don’t go another year without them.
Rich Arnold is part of the NGAUS communications staff. He can be reached at [email protected].
Coronavirus & The Conference
NGAUS LEADERS ARE OPTIMISTIC association members will be able to gather in person for the 143rd General Conference & Exhibition. COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have declined dramatically the second half of the winter. There are now three approved vaccinations, and the president has promised that every adult nationwide will be eligible for their shots by May 1. All of this has many states loosening restrictions on gatherings. The pandemic is not over, but the trends have NGAUS optimistic for an in-person conference still many months of potential progress from now.
REGISTRATION, TRAVEL, HOTEL & EXHIBIT INFORMATION
NGAUS members should register through their state/territory Guard associations. Exhibitors and industry representatives must register at www.ngaus.org/conference. Registration is $165. This covers admission to all professional development sessions, company-grade OPD, the exhibition, the Governor’s Reception, the Company Grade/Warrant Officer Mixer and the States Dinner. Most other activities are extra.
Attendees should use Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). It’s one of the most convenient airports to fly into with its easy access to the city.
A shuttle will be provided to and from the airport on the main travel days, Sept. 8, 9 and 13. Reservations need to be made in advance to ensure a seat. Taxis are an option for other days — average fare $20.
Hilton Charlotte Center (headquarters hotel)
Marriott City Center
Courtyard City Center
Embassy Suites Uptown
Fairfield Inn Uptown
Hampton Inn Uptown
Hilton Garden Inn Uptown
Holiday Inn Center City
Hyatt House Center City
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 Charlotte at www.charlottesgotalot.com. Follow us on social media, including Twitter hashtags: #NGAUS2021 and #GUARDCON. And the always popular conference app will be available this summer.