Most every NWTF employee has a National Convention alter ego. What I mean is what we do in Nashville for that week in February (and the weeks leading up to it) is different than our daily jobs.
Take me, for example. Everyday job: Turkey Country editor. Convention job: Live show production.
I serve as the liaison between the NWTF and the professional company we hire to produce the live stage shows. I’m tasked with gathering all the elements for the programs in the Delta Ballroom — scripts for the presenters, images and information slides that pop up on the screens, videos, stuff like that.
My favorite part is picking the music that plays while everyone is milling about or eating dinner. I’m a suppressed DJ, so this is about as close as I’m going to get to spinning rad tunes for a large group of people.
Once I get to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, I rarely leave the cavernous backstage, with its painted black floors and walls, thousands of buttons, miles of cord and a dozen or so screens that go along with the production of our events each morning and evening. I wear a trail in the ornate hotel carpet between my room and Delta Ballroom, only deviating to grab a slice of pizza or Diet Coke.
But being backstage is kinda fun. A lot of action takes place once the shows are in full swing. You watch the bands up close, see the sweat beading up on the presenters’ foreheads, listen in on the stream of talking from the production staff as they cue lights, video, cameras.
My only regret is that I rarely see the rest of the convention, since I’m holed up Boo Radley-style for most of the week.
Every year, I have the best intentions of dropping in on a calling contest, auction or a seminar, but it never seems to work out. I finally made it to the exhibit hall on Sunday afternoon last year, only to grab a t-shirt from Turkey Shoppe, then I was on the road back to Edgefield.
I often daydream as to what I’d do if I ever attended convention as a participant getting my turkey on with other volunteers from across the country.
Here’s what I’d do this year …
I’d rock the Roost. I’m a big kid, so I gravitate to anything hands-on. For those who don’t know, the Roost is an area of the exhibit hall that’s geared toward kids and families, with a ton of activities for the youngster in all of us. This year, the Bureau of Land Management is bringing its indoor cave all the way from New Mexico. I hear it’s massive, like 43-feet-long, 12-feet-high and with three chambers complete with dripping water and cool breezes. You can explore underground wildlife and rock formations without the creepy feeling the earth is going to close in on you. I’m down with that.
I’d be a marathon seminar goer. I’d run the gauntlet of women’s classes on Friday — make a survival bracelet, do a few feather crafts, learn a little more about outdoor photography. Then I’d hang with the hunting experts on Saturday and harvest a few tricks and tips from Michael Waddell, Eddie Salter and Brenda Valentine.
I’d catch the fun vibe at the Ladies’ Luncheon and Auction. If I had a dime to my name, I’d bid on stuff, but what really draws me in is the girls-just-wanna-have-fun atmosphere. I saw pictures of the regional directors from last year’s hoorah, many of them dressed as has-been rockstars and washed-up hippies. Who knows what they’ll do with the theme: Pioneer Women — Trailblazers of Conservation? Any bets on who’ll wear a bonnet?
I wouldn’t miss the Winchester Veteran’s Breakfast. Even backstage last year I teared up at the moving series of speakers, videos and parade of vets recognized for their service. And I even KNEW what was coming next! I’d probably be a blubbering mess if I watched from the audience. No napkin or tablecloth would be safe from the waterworks.
I’d mosey through the exhibit hall. I would take my time and see what’s new, cool and waiting to grace my turkey vest. I’d catch up with friends in the industry and snag a bag of those cinnamon pecans that just smell so darn good.
I’d have a pedicure at Relache Spa at the Gaylord, because my feet would be exhausted from taking it all in. A girl can dream, you know…