<posted March 12, 2015> It is no secret that our in-person AHS functions are struggling to meet the needs of our membership – especially regional meetings. Those who continue to religiously attend summer regional meetings note the rising registration costs (typically $119-$169) and yet also note the scaling back of tours, gluttonous food options at the hotel and in the gardens, giveaways, auction lists, printed materials, free plants on the bus, and the swankiness of the hotel.
Financially, local clubs are no longer able to fund the up-front costs required of such an event. Deposits for buses, catering and host hotel space can run in the thousands. Not only do they not want to come out of their treasuries to do so, they do not feel an allegiance to AHS to step up to do so. (a topic for another day.)
Here is my bold statement: you have to sacrifice something in order to create distinction: Old schedules, big names showing up all expenses paid with their dog-and-pony show, customers that demand more than you should give. Giving up old ways of thinking in the short term for higher profitability in the form of attendance and regional fellowship in the longer term is soul tearing. Saying ‘good bye’ to something that worked so well for a while (and may be still working somewhat) is extremely hard. Our biggest cost putting on the regional for 210 people in 2011 was the bus. It cost almost $70 per person for one day and a half for buses alone. But something has to change. I think we can only revive the past by reinventing the future. It wont be easy, and it wont be quick, but it will be done.
So, in 2016 our regional summer meeting will not be hosted by a club. It is hosted and organized by 6 individuals who wish to put on one heck of a party for Region 2. The regional board voted to subsidize our efforts with budget oversight and we are having a ball planning so far.
We're thinking along the lines of this:
Day One (Friday): An AHS-Accredited Daylily Show, (yes - a REAL show at a regional meeting) Open Gardens, Dinner on your own. A very structured "Meet and Greet" social evening event to let attendees catch up and prepare for the weekend. Several 15-minute quicky presentations from hybridizers in Region 2. Hospitality and Judge's Clinics held in the later evening to accommodate travel restrictions.
Day Two (Saturday): Sun up to sun down bus tour of gardens throughout central Illinois with lunch in one of the larger gardens, daylily sales in some of them and a shopping stop at a huge nursery along the way. Sit down dinner followed by Live Auction. No clinics, no meetings, no rush.
Day Two (Sunday): Regional Business meeting and Q&A served over full, hot breakfast buffet and omelet station. Attendees will NOT TOUR VIA BUS on Sunday, but instead choose four 30-minute Workshops from a list of 10 or more for education and fun. Open Gardens in the afternoon.
And we are shooting to do all that for a $100 registration fee. Can't be done, you say? We cant wait for you to see us do it.
I like this structure and I think it resonates with people's need for choice and control with their money and time.
Here are some topics we are considering for the seminars: