2013 NWTF Convention: In case you missed it (Then…)

The theme for this year’s convention was Then. Now. Always. It pretty much summed up all we were celebrating.

THEN: 2013 is the 40th anniversary of the NWTF, so there’s been a lot of talk about “back in the day,” in a cool-and-not-annoying-to-us-young-whipper-snappers kind of way. I’ve enjoyed sifting through old photos and hearing about the beginning of the organization, which has been the collective journey and beliefs of volunteers over the years.

NOW: When’s the right time to celebrate? The here and now, party people! It’s also the right time to raise money for the mission, as well as acknowledge key partners and volunteers who keep the turkey world spinning.

ALWAYS: The answer to, “How long do you want to see the NWTF survive and thrive?” And how are we going to do that? With the new initiative that was officially rolled out during the weekend — Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. (More on that later.)

Every year, the convention kicks off on Thursday night with the annual Welcome Party. Chevrolet sponsored the shindig.

The opening video for this evening is crucial. For me, it sets the tone for the entire convention. So I worked with NWTF Executive Producer John Brown to craft the video you see here.

We had multiple generations of the Kemp Family, of Edgefield, S.C., to tell the story of 40 years of the NWTF. They represent the many families who have grown up and grown with the organization, but the Kemps are one of a select few who have witnessed it all unfold in their hometown, where the NWTF headquarters is based.

Watch it and think about what the NWTF means (or could mean) to your family.

Other Welcome Party highlights:
• Will Primos telling NWTF volunteers that WE GET IT. The hunting industry icon let us know we’ve always been on track when it comes to our mission.
• Seeing NWTF District Field Supervisor Mark Jackson and his daughter, Sarah, walk on stage hand-in-hand to lead the prayer and National Anthem. This Tennessee family is another example of how the NWTF has impacted several generations.
Bass Pro Founder John L. Morris’ generosity. Sure the money is freakin’ awesome, but it also means a lot to have such a formidable partner.
• And, of course, Sawyer Brown proved they’re not just a blast from the past. They’ve still got it when it comes to a high-energy performance.

Check, please! Thanks Bass Pro for your continued support!

Check, please! Thanks Bass Pro for your continued support!

Moving on to Friday’s breakfast sponsored by Federal Premium Ammunition. It’s the annual recognition of remarkable volunteers who have made the NWTF outreach and education programs their calling.

We used the morning to showcase these programs’ valuable place in the NWTF’s overall history, as well as how they play a huge part in carrying out our founder Tom Rogers’ overall vision.

Two standout moments of the breakfast, for me, were:
NWTF Educator of the Year Scott Cronin announcing his students received a grant for their annual trek to the convention (where they learn about careers in the hunting and conservation industries). They, in turn, donated the $600 they’d raised to come to Nashville to Hope for the Warriors on behalf of the NWTF. Thanks, guys!
• Seeing Virginia NWTF volunteer Robin Clark’s smile as he accepted an award on behalf of his chapter. There are some people who brighten your day, even if you only see them across the room. Robin is one of those folks…

I know a missed a million more awesome moments. I hope you’ll share yours with me — and we can live vicariously through each other! So talk to me: What were your favorite convention moments from Thursday night and Friday morning?

Post-Palooza post and photos

I’m going to say it: It was freakin’ hot. I think the entire country sizzled a week ago Saturday, the day of the Turkey Palooza. South Carolina was no exception, reaching a near record temp of 106 F.

Yep, I really had to go in the dunking booth, which actually felt pretty good on that hotter-than-the-Devil’s-house day. You’re witnessing the split-second before my first dunk.

But we had fun — and that’s not just something I repeated to convince myself it’s true. The Turkey Palooza proved to be a good time, and I could see it in the sweat-speckled faces of everyone there.

An estimated 2,500 folks came to the Wild Turkey Center for food, games, music and — the big daddy attraction — fireworks. Was the NWTF ready for them? I could say no sweat, but with the Easy Bake Oven heat, that would be a lie.

It took a lot of hard work and 140 volunteers to pull off what quickly became more like a festival. Remember, these are some of the same folks who put on a convention and sport show for more than 35,000 every year. We know how to host a first-rate event, if I say so myself.

Here are some images to prove it. Just click on the first one to take you through a slide show. If you’re a Keepin’ Up With Karen subscriber (thank you!) and reading this off the email that was automatically sent to you, then click on the blog web link to view the slideshow.

[nggallery id=3 template=caption]

 

Turkey Palooza winners: It could be you!

A quick post to announce the Turkey Palooza online winners. Sure, we gave away 15 gift packages to people who came to the event last Saturday, but we didn’t forget the rest of you who couldn’t make it. So here ya go!

Latanya Green, a recent transplant to South Carolina, was chosen by the “Bloodline TV” crew for taking the best photo with the larger-than-life cutout of Alex Rutledge. Latanya won a range-to-field-to-wall turkey hunting package for posing with her cutie patootie girls.

NWTF Facebook photo contest
Scott Bell from Indiana was randomly drawn from the folks who voted for the winning photo of a Palooza-goer and the cutout of Alex Rutledge. He will receive a “Bloodline TV” prize package from Alex Rutledge in the flesh!

My Facebook contest
Anyone who was my friend on Facebook by 10 p.m. EST on Saturday, June 30, went into a drawing for a prize — a Grand Slam candle set handmade by me. I also threw in an NWTF-logoed Blazer lighter to set them ablaze. The winner is Tim Tipton from Kentucky!

Tim may not be jumping up and down at winning a bunch of candles, but I hear the lighter is good for lighting cigars. Then he can use the candles to cover up the smell. Just a suggestion.

Keepin’ Up With Karen blog follower contest
In yet another attempt to lure in more blog followers, I gave a prize to one of my beloved subscribers. Everyone who jumped on the Keepin’ Up With Karen train by 10 p.m. EST, June 30, had a chance to win signed turkey calls from Michael Waddell and Brenda Valentine. And the calls went to blog follower Dean Underhill of Kentucky.

The Bluegrass State is on fire!!!

I appreciate everyone taking part in our effort to spread the fun of Turkey Palooza.

Check back next week for some Palooza photos. In the meantime, I’m taking a long weekend off, whether I deserve it or not!

Promoting the Palooza

I’ve had a blast promoting this Saturday’s Turkey Palooza, acting like the self-proclaimed spokesperson of the event.

I was totally geeked to be in a radio station. Don’t laugh at my cheat sheet for the interview. There’s a heckuva lot going on at the Turkey Palooza.

I started my week doing a live radio show with one of the event’s media sponsors — WKSX (92.7 FM out of Johnston, S.C.). It was just a 5-minute deal but I guess it served its purpose. I know of at least one person who heard the broadcast. But, you know, if I touched the life of at least one person…

The cool part of being in the radio station was I got to see all the DJ equipment and stuff, including programming software that’s like iTunes on steroids. I was in heaven.

All week I’ve posted on my blog and Facebook, prepping everyone for Palooza fun. It’s been cool working with my friend and NWTF web content editor Melanie Swearingen on giveaways and promotions. We’ve finagled dozens of prizes from Bloodline’s Alex Rutledge to our local Pizza Hut and everywhere in between, and we’re giving them away to Turkey Palooza patrons and online. Yep, even if you live 1,000 miles away you can still win. I explained all that in my last blog post, so scroll down and give it a look-see.

President Obama obviously didn’t realize there’s a Turkey Palooza going on this weekend. He just had to boot me off my live TV debut with some healthcare announcement. Whatevs!

And this morning I wore my NWTF logo shirt and even rolled my hair to appear on the Channel 6 newscast at noon. WJBF is another media sponsor of the Turkey Palooza. Well, the live show was pre-empted by President Obama talking about healthcare and all, so I got the boot. Apparently, he wasn’t aware of the big event this Saturday.

No worries, NWTF PR Director Brent Lawrence is taking my place on the show tomorrow, so tune in at noon if you can.

Melanie and I, in turn, got a tour of the TV station (my first time in one since a sixth-grade field trip) and snuck to P.F. Chang’s for lunch. All was not lost.

But I’ll be back on my Palooza promotion gig on Saturday, doing live remote broadcasts with WKSX and posting stuff to my Facebook page. If you haven’t friended me yet, go ahead and come over to the dark side. There could be prizes waiting for you.

I just found out I was volunteered to be in the dunking booth on Saturday as well. Ah, the glamorous life of a spokesperson…

One of the fun promo pieces Melanie put together for my live remotes with WKSX

 

Palooza prizes for everyone

Because I’m a woman of my word, I’m giving you the scoop on how to win prizes during the Edgefield Turkey Palooza — even if you can’t be there. We’ll miss you but hope you’ll join in the fun online.

My goal is for everyone to “feel” the power of the Palooza, so here are five ways to grab the most gear…

1. Meet a cardboard cutout of Alex Rutledge!
Breaking news: My friend, Alex Rutledge of Bloodline TV, will be our special guest at the Hunting Heritage Banquet in Edgefield, S.C., this November. To celebrate, the NWTF is running an Alex-themed Facebook photo contest with two ways to win.

Vote on your favorite photo of Alex Rutledge on the NWTF’s official Facebook page starting this Saturday for a chance to win something awesome. But you can’t vote for mine. I was just told I’m disqualified. Can’t win for nuthin’!

Folks attending the Turkey Palooza can stop by our little blue tent near the WKSX trailer and have their picture made with Flat Alex. We want people to channel their inner palooza and get crazy. We’ll post the photos on the NWTF’s Facebook page. The person behind the winning image receives a range-to-field-to-wall turkey hunting prize package that includes turkey targets, decoy, call, gun cleaning kit and fan mounting plaque.

2. Vote for your favorite photo!
While you’re sitting at home, wishing you were at the Turkey Palooza, keep Facebook at the ready and watch the fun unfold on the screen before you. I’m not trying to make you jealous; you could win a prize. Vote for your favorite Alex Rutledge/Palooza Patron photo beginning this Saturday. We’ll pick a random voter to win a prize package from Alex (the flesh and blood Alex, not the cardboard one). The “Bloodline TV” will pick the winning photo.

3. Be my friend!
Where else, well, outside preschool, can you ask someone to be your friend and not feel like a dork? Facebook, of course! Friend me on Facebook before 10 p.m. EST this Saturday, June 30. I promise I’ll accept your request (unless you’re my ex-husband). I’ll draw a winner from all my Facebook friends. The prize? A Grand Slam candle set handmade by yours truly, a super neat NWTF-logoed Blazer lighter, as well as the daily assurance that you’re not the biggest dork in the world.

4. Maybe do nothing at all!
There’s a chance if you’re reading this you already subscribe to Keepin’ Up With Karen. (That’s the blog you’re reading now.) Subscribers have my posts sent directly to their inbox, that’s it. I’m not a serial spammer or anything. I just want someone to listen to me. Everyone who subscribes to Keepin’ Up With Karen by 10 p.m. EST this Saturday has a chance to win. It’s easy. Just look to the right, enter your e-mail address, then (most importantly) verify your subscription through e-mail.

Subscribers will go into a drawing for two turkey calls, one signed by Michael Waddell, the other by Brenda Valentine. I appreciate them both for lending their signatures to the cause of me feeling loved.

5. Just come to the Turkey Palooza, for Pete’s sake!
From 4 to 7 p.m., I’m giving away all kinds of good stuff — NWTF gear, gift certificates to Edgefield area restaurants and stores, calls, decoys, knives — just because I’m nice. All you have to do is stop by that little blue tent I spoke of earlier and follow directions. Easy breezy.

I’ll announce all the winners here on Monday, July 2, so don’t forget to check to see if you won. Of course, if you’re a Keepin’ Up With Karen subscriber you won’t have to lift a finger. I’ll bring the info to you.

It’s a Turkey Palooza!

The NWTF is getting a little bit of an early start on July 4 fun with its first-ever Turkey Palooza this weekend. The NWTF campus will be buzzing with activity on Saturday — games, food, live music, auctions, culminating in a big honkin’ fireworks show. All the ingredients for an Independence Day-type festival, but we’re getting our turkey on instead!

So what’s a palooza anyway? I had to look it up myself.

Apparently, “palooza” is a term that came to be after I graduated high school in 1995. It’s nowhere to be found in the dictionary I received as a graduation gift — the days before you could Google everything.

I keep that dictionary in my desk drawer, because I still believe Mr. Webster over what I find online.

Palooza was not where it should’ve been in the “P-Q-R” section, after palooka (an inexperienced boxer), so I defaulted to Wikitonary.com. It says a palooza is an exaggerated event. That tells me absolutely nothing.

So I’m going to say a palooza is a big celebration, which is what I think is the intention of the events on Saturday. Add “turkey” before it, and it becomes a big NWTF party.

The Turkey Palooza began as a thank you to the Edgefield, S.C., community. The NWTF has called Edgefield home since 1973, employing folks from all over the Central Savannah River Area for nearly four decades. We love it here and want our neighbors to know it.

We also want them to get to know who we are and what we do for North America’s wildlife and hunting traditions. I’m not joking when I tell the story of a woman working in the McDonald’s drive-through no more than a mile or so up the road from NWTF headquarters. She actually asked me where we keep all the turkeys. Sigh…

Well, Saturday will be a chance for her to get the full NWTF scoop. Turkey Palooza participants can tour our Winchester Museum for free, typically a perk reserved for NWTF members.

Another bonus for NWTF members is an exclusive VIP area with its own games and made-in-the-shade seating area.

But anyone and everyone can enjoy the fun.

If you live within driving distance of Edgefield, you should totally join us. I’ll be there broadcasting live with WKSX (92.7 FM out of Johnston), giving away prizes, jawing about the day’s activities and trying to convince the show host to let me play some Def Leppard.

If you don’t live nearby, you can still get your palooza on too. Stay in touch here at Keepin’ Up With Karen and on my Facebook page for ways you can win prizes — even if you live in Idaho!

Oh, and click on the video above to get the skinny on what’s happening at the Turkey Palooza. (And make note of that sweet voice convincing you to stop by. It’s me!)

Come to my “turkey work”

Tickled pink: Kara Grace Green, youngest daughter of Wheelin’ Sportsmen Coordinator Randy Green, caught her first fish at the NWTF Employee Appreciation Day.

Cooper, my 3-year-old, thinks I work at the best place ever.

He constantly asks, “Mommy, when can I come to your turkey work?” And every so often I’ll pick him up early from daycare and bring him back to the office.

In his sweet little mind, there are no deadlines or creative differences. The only inbox he’s ever had was during a Valentine’s Day party, a decorated shoebox filled with cartoon-themed cards with suckers attached.

To him, the NWTF headquarters is full of taxidermy turkeys he can (gently) touch. It’s where people call him “bud” and give him candy from their desk drawers. And a detour to the CEO’s office yielded a camo hat and turkey pin.

What is it with biologists and snake handling? Remind me to ask Scott Vance, assistant VP of conservation programs, once he puts that thing down.

The other week the NWTF held an employee appreciation event at the office, an evening of grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, games, archery, fishing, skeet shooting and (the toddler holy grail) an inflatable slide. Forget Disney World, the NWTF had to be the best place on Earth, according to Cooper.

A couple days later, I had to laugh when we drove by the office building and the little munchkin wondered out loud where the bouncy house was. If only every workday were that fun and carefree.

It’s easy to get jaded after a long week of meetings, projects and seemingly endless e-mails. We’ve all been there. Heck, even Disney loses a bit of its magic after standing in long lines and paying $20 for chicken fingers.

But when I sit back and look beyond an average day, the NWTF really is a good place to work.

May 31 served as the perfect example. That morning, a dozen or so wounded veterans from the VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga., spent the day at the Wild Turkey Center. More than 60 NWTF employees emerged from their offices, cubicles, even the warehouse, lined the building entrance and gave those warriors a well-deserved standing ovation for their service.

Bryce Lawrence, the spawn of Public Relations Director Brent Lawrence, thwacked targets, while his dad manned the grill to feed roughly 240 NWTF employees and families.

My heart swelled with pride, not only for the men passing by, but for my co-workers who value freedom and understand sacrifice. I cried a bit.

Now, I don’t have a lot to compare the NWTF to. It was my first real job out of college. And I’ve stuck with it for nearly 13 years. But I’m pretty sure this is a fine place from which to draw a paycheck.

The one thing most everyone who leaves the NWTF says they miss the most is the people. I have to agree. You won’t find a group who cares more about others.

It’s like family, and I’m not saying that as a cheesy cliché. We don’t always agree, even get along at times, but at the end of the week we stick together to get our “turkey work” done.

Accounting’s Marlys Wooten snapped this pic of Cooper and me racing down the inflatable slide. Great shot of the fun we’re having, but heavens, please ignore my hobbit feet.

NWTF employees lined the entrance of the Wild Turkey Center to welcome a group of Wounded Warriors from the VA Medical Center of Augusta, Ga. What a moving way to begin a workday.