The 143rd General Conference & Exhibition has new dates and a new city — Aug. 27-30 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
NGAUS leaders made the unprecedented decision to pivot the conference after meeting restrictions in the original location, Charlotte, North Carolina, looked like they could linger through the summer.
“Shifting the event to Las Vegas gives us a very high level of certainty that we can provide the type of conference experience NGAUS members and guests have come to expect and deserve,” says retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the association president.
Las Vegas is rebounding quickly after taking a major economic hit from the coronavirus shutdowns. Casinos that shuttered early in the pandemic are back open without capacity limits. As are the city’s abundant restaurants and bars. And marquees on the Strip tout the return of headline entertainers, such as Bruno Mars and David Copperfield, for shows this summer.
Not coincidentally, all of this is occurring as tourists return along with groups and organizations for in-person meetings and trade shows.
So NGAUS attendees can expect the full Vegas experience. They are also in store for all of the traditional events and activities that have made the annual conference so popular until the pandemic cancelled the in-person event last year.
“The conference is the premier National Guard event every year for networking and professional development,” says Maj. Gen. Ondra L. Berry, the adjutant general of Nevada.
Most meetings, social events and the industry exhibition will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The 120-acre destination resort features bars, restaurants, shopping and nation’s fifth largest convention center. And it’s on the famous Strip, which puts it within walking distance or a short cab or tram ride from many of the city’s other attractions.
There is a lot to do and plenty more to see says Col. Jerome Guerrero, the president of the Nevada National Guard Association and the host-state conference chairman.
But don’t overdo it. “Las Vegas in August is hot,” he says. Luckily, all the indoor facilities have the air conditioning turned on high. And as anyone who has experienced the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, which is also in the Mojave Desert knows — temperatures dip considerably at night.
Las Vegas is Spanish for “the meadows.” In the 19th century, areas of the Las Vegas Valley contained artesian wells that supported extensive green areas or meadows, hence the name.
In 1905, the railroad arrived in Las Vegas, connecting the city with the Pacific and the country’s rail networks. Vegas was incorporated in 1911.
Nevada outlawed gambling in 1910, but legalized it again in 1931, the same year construction began on the Hoover Dam, drawing thousands of workers. Casinos and showgirl venues opened up on Fremont Street, the town’s original downtown area, to attract the workers.
In 1941, the El Rancho Vegas resort opened. Other hotel-casinos soon followed, and the main street became known as the Strip. In 1946, mobster Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo, a ritzy resort that booked talent for its lounges leading to celebrity acts and guests. Siegel was murdered in 1947, but the template for success had been set.
Later, mega-casinos were developed by Howard Hughes and Steve Wynn. The casinos kept coming, and so did the tourists. By 1990, 20 million visitors would visit Las Vegas. Twenty-five years later, that number doubled. It was half that last year due to pandemic.
But Las Vegas attracts more than just gamblers and bachelor and bachelorette parties. It’s considered one of the nation’s premier destinations for meetings. Among the reasons is unrivaled facilities. The city boasts nearly 160,000 hotel rooms, which is more than Chicago and New York combined, and three of the nation’s 10 largest convention centers.
This the fourth time Las Vegas has hosted the NGAUS conference. The last time was in 2004, when the event hosted both presidential candidates for that year’s election — President George W. Bush and then-Sen. John F. Kerry.
Most visitors will arrive commercial via air at McCarran International Airport, which is three miles from the Strip. Transportation will be provided to/from conference hotels Aug. 26, 27 and 31, at a discounted rate. It’s less than 15 minutes from the airport to the convention center and conference hotels (see below).
Interstates 15 and U.S. 95 converge at Las Vegas making it drivable from several states in the Rockies and the Southwest.
The exhibition will be held in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center’s large Bayside space, and the professional development sessions (formerly known as business sessions) will take place inside the Mandalay Bay Ballroom.
The Sponsors’ Golf Tournament on Aug. 26 will be held at the Arthur Hills-designed Legacy Golf Club, which was selected by Golf Digest as one of the “Top 10 Courses You Can Play” in Nevada. The NGAUS Tournament on Aug. 27 will be played at Aliante Golf Club, which was selected “Best New Course in Las Vegas” by Vegas Golfer.
Later that day, industry representatives are invited to attend the Industry Workshop in the convention center.
Evening activities Aug. 27 include the Adjutants General/Sponsors Reception at the Skyfall Lounge, featuring a panoramic view of the city atop the Delano Las Vegas hotel; and the always popular Company Grade/Warrant Officer Mixer, scheduled for the Mandalay Beach, complete with wave pool, lazy river and multiple bars and food stations.
Guerrero says the Skyfall Lounge has “the most phenomenal view of Vegas.”
Also that evening is the Senior Warrant Officer Mixer in the Nevada Hospitality Room. Chief warrant officer 3s to chief warrant officer 5s are invited to attend. There is also a Field Grade Officers Mixer at Mandalay Bay’s Rhythm & Riffs Lounge.
The Fun Run begins events Aug. 28. Runners will meet at Mandalay Bay parking lot and complete a course along The Strip.
Later that morning, the annual area meetings and caucuses start at 10 a.m. The ribbon-cutting for the exhibition 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 begins at noon. As always, NGAUS will invite key lawmakers and defense leaders to speak.
The Governor’s Reception on Aug. 28 is set for the exhibit hall floor. Attendees can mingle and enjoy some food and drink while viewing the variety of products of our industry partners.
The conference continues with the Second Professional Development Session at 8 a.m., followed by luncheons, caucuses, elections, OPD and task force meetings.
Later that evening is Hospitality Night, historically held in several state hotel suites or nearby bars and restaurants. Everything will be within walking distances as all party locations are located in nearby hotels and casinos, mostly in the states’ hospitality suites.
You will need to get up relatively early the next morning for the Army and Air separate sessions at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 30. The last all-ranks professional development session will follow.
The Spouses Luncheon will take place at the popular House of Blues and the TAG Spouse Luncheon invites its guests to the Foundation Room. Both venues are located in Mandalay Bay.
The annual States Dinner will conclude the conference Aug. 30 in the convention center’s main ballroom. The attire is Vegas Casual.
BEYOND THE CONFERENCE
Las Vegas is a place like no other. There are 144 casinos in city, so you can always find an open table, place a wager on a game or take in a show, but taking a stroll down the Strip can be just as entertaining.
Most of the bigger resorts — and some of them are very big — have another attraction or two to draw crowds, some are free: the volcano at the Mirage, the Fountains of Bellagio or the circus at Circus Circus. Schedules may vary, but usually, the fountain shows are every 30 minutes during the day, 15 minutes at night. The volcano eruption is every hour from 8 to 11 p.m.
The Mandalay Bay property sits on the southern end of the Strip, so head north to check out other hotel/casinos: the Pyramid at Luxor (another conference hotel); the skyline of New York, New York; the Eiffel Tower of Paris; the canals (and shops!) at The Venetian — all the way up to the Stratosphere.
They all feature their own unique architecture while providing overload to the senses.
The Shoppes at The Palazzo, Miracle Mile Shops and Fashion Show are the top shopping destinations, but several high-end names, as well as bargain boutiques can be found in many resorts.
If you head downtown, the Fremont Street Experience offers plenty of free light shows and live music. It’s also a chance to see where Sin City started. And many prefer its smaller establishments and more pedestrian-friendly streets to the Strip.
Also downtown is the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, better known as The Mob Museum. Here you will learn history of organized crime, Prohibition and the business opportunity it provided, and Las Vegas’ first casinos.
Fans of history and photographers should also check out the city’s Neon Museum, which essentially is the boneyard for old, iconic Las Vegas signs. Museum officials say each sign has a unique back story that contributes to the city’s distinctive history.
For the more adventurous, check out helicopter tours in the air. Some will even take you to the Grand Canyon. There are also two zip lines in the city and even roller coasters built outside hotels. You can also fly in a real stunt plane over the city. Or explore Red Rock Canyon, located a few miles outside the city, featuring a 13-mile scenic drive and plenty of places to get on your hike a bit.
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.
The NGAUS conference — you were denied the experience last year. Don’t go another year without it.
Rich Arnold is part of the NGAUS communications staff. He can be reached at [email protected].
REGISTRATION, TRAVEL, HOTEL AND EXHIBIT INFORMATION
NGAUS members should register through their state Guard associations. Exhibitors and and other industry representatives must register at www.ngaus.org/conference. Conference registration is $180. This covers admission to all professional development sessions, the exhibition, Governor’s Reception, Company Grade/ Warrant Officer Mixer, Field Grade Officer Mixer, Senior Warrant Officer Mixer and States Dinner. Other paid activities include golf tournaments and Fun Run.
Attendees should use McCarran International Airport (LAS). 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, Aug. 26, 27 and 31. The cost is $7 each way and reservations need to be made in advance to ensure a seat. Taxis are an option for other days — average fare $25.
Luxor (Pyramid & Tower)
Delano Las Vegas
Daily room rates are $120 plus a discounted resort fee of $25 and tax at the Luxor properties and $150 plus a discounted resort fee of $25 and tax at the Mandalay Bay and Delano. Parking is free for conference attendees.
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 Las Vegas at www.visitlasvegas.com. Follow us on social media, including Twitter hashtags: #NGAUS2021 and #GUARDCON. And the always popular conference app will be available this summer.
The National Guard: All-In for America’s Defense