As has become my conference tradition, ’tis time to recap this past weekend in Old Alexandria, Va, where the fourth Smart Girl Summit was held. I have to start by congratulating Teri Christoph, Stacy Mott and the rest of the Smart Girl leadership team and staff for putting on a fantastic event. The conference ran smoothly and featured a well-rounded group of speakers. The Westin offered very nice accommodations — and functioning elevators! (Attendees from last year’s Summit in St. Louis will appreciate that.)
I have to say this may have been my favorite conference experience thus far. Though I’ve enjoyed them all, this was the first one where I felt like I really had time to sit and talk with my fellow Smart Girls (and Boys) and truly enjoy their company. That may have been due, in part, to the fact that I spent the conference in the Bloggers’ Lounge, rather than attending the actual speeches and presentations — the downside obviously being that I missed out on some great speeches. Still, I was fortunate enough to sit in on — and even participate in — several interviews of conference guests. I actually got to wear three hats this time around — though none nearly so smart and spiffy as the infamous Jimmie Bise pork pie hat! First, I was there as an “Official Blogger” for the Summit (and I hope to do that title justice with this piece if I can ever get it written). Second, I got to assist my good friend Stephen Hamilton with a number of Radio214 podcasts. And third, I got my official start as “Gillespie” sidekick on FTRRadio.
Getting there proved, yet again, to be a less-than-stellar experience. The security line at Lambert when I arrived early Thursday morning was ridiculously long. Having cut it somewhat close time-wise to begin with, I was even more glad I’d opted to park at the terminal rather than wait for a shuttle. Not sure I would have made the flight otherwise. And, once again, we were advised about half-way through the flight that the flight attendants were going to have to buckle in as things were about to get bumpy. While popping Xanax No. 2, I wondered if I’d ever again have a non-turbulent flight. (Serious note: I don’t take the medication deal lightly. Unfortunately, my fear-of-flying has reached critical mass. At this point, I think it may be time to call in the professionals. Or else never fly again.) Needless to say, we managed to arrive at BWI in one piece, and I disembarked and quickly found Stephen, who was gracious enough to offer me and my most excellent roommate, Ms. Mary Chastain, a ride from the airport. Mary arrived only minutes behind me, and the three of us set out for Old Alexandria.
I don’t know that I’d ever been to that area of Virginia before. It was quite pretty, and a nice place to hold a conference. The down side being that the town apparently takes its quaintness rather seriously, which translates into a serious lack of gas stations. And Stephen was running rather low on gas. His truck is equipped with a very nice GPS system. However, after the condescending lady speaking to us through said system led us on several wild goose chases in search of a place to refuel, we began cursing her and calling her all manner of names. Finally, we found both a gas station and a McDonald’s and filled up both the truck and our bellies. Then onto the hotel to check in.
It was still fairly early in the afternoon, so Mary and I spent some down time, just chatting in the room — you know, kids, life, Fast and Furious. Eventually, I wandered downstairs and found several friends hanging out in the hotel bar. Later, a whole herd of us made our way to Foster’s Grille for burgers and such. While there, I noted the rather interesting decor…
Dinner complete, we again made our way back to the hotel and prepared for an epic two hours of radio on FTR, compliments of John Brodigan, Dina Fraioli and Thomas LaDuke.
While I’ll concede it a little strange to be hanging with one’s lap top in a hotel bar, earphones in, chat room open, while surrounded by some of the very people with whom you are chatting on-line, such is live radio from a conference!
Once the show was over, we remained at the hotel bar and, as midnight came and went, I began contemplating bed. Seriously.
Suddenly, however, it was announced that a group would be heading over to the Rock It Grill for some karaoke. Who was I to say no to such fun? I think our final contingent consisted of Holly Bacon, Andrew Staroska, Sam Rosado, Michelle Ray, Kristina Ribali, Lauren Fakes, John Brodigan, Stephen Hamilton and myself. (Curse me now if I’ve omitted anyone.) The bar was not packed, it being a Thursday, and we had no problem finding a table. Highlights from this outing included Holly Bacon bringing the house down with “Respect,” (kudos to back up singers Michelle and Andrew), and Andrew treating us all to his dramatic interpretation of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (from the table). In fairness to Andrew, his version was better than that of the people actually up on stage singing into the mic. Back at the hotel, we were treated to the late night arrival of Ben and Breanne Howe, complete with Ben’s video equipment and 80,000 inch Apple monitor. By then, it was after 2:00 a.m., and I knew it was time to call it a night.
The next morning, I enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the Jamieson Grille (a/k/a the hotel bar/restaurant) with Duke, Brodigan, Lauren, Hanna Drazich and Mark Warner. Mark, Hannah and I then made a quick Starbuck’s run before heading up to check in at the conference. Ran into lots of friends in the process. Love this pic of Dan Colby, Mark, Hannah, Demetrius Minor and me:
Goodie bag and blogger badge acquired, I made my way to the Blogger’s Lounge and set up shop with my iPad. FTR had one table (complete with banner).
Stephen set up at another, and I hopped back and forth between them as necessary.
The afternoon was fairly uneventful, though there certainly were some highlights. For instance, Duke and Mark found a way to hug it out…
Brodigan interviewed Rep. Tom Price, who spoke at the conference:
Duke interviewed Ben Domenech of Health Care News and the Heartland Institute, another conference speaker:
And I got to hang out for a few minutes with my pal, Demetrius:
Later, Hammy and I recapped our adventures in Alexandria (thus far) to Baked Flounder, for a fun Radio 214 podcast:
And Mark Warner stopped by to share his wisdom:
Very much enjoyed chatting with Jimmie Bise that afternoon. He is both great friend and inspiration. Also enjoyed meeting Dan Colby. And, as always, chatting with Jeff Donels. In all, it was a lovely day. And there was more fun to come Friday evening….
(To be continued…)
(Note: normally, I include Twitter handles with people’s names, but, as Twitter is currently in full meltdown mode, I am unable to double check for accuracy, so those will be added in a bit later.)