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?

The warmest place on Earth in January? South Dakota!

The weather outside was frightful, but inside the Watertown (S.D.) Convention Center was so delightful — thanks to the warm hospitality of NWTF South Dakota volunteers.

I spent last weekend with a few dozen of them at their annual state convention, where they handed out awards for awesomeness in volunteerism and events. I served as the keynote speaker, did a seminar on communicating with nonhunters, and spread general goodwill on behalf of the NWTF headquarters staff. It was an easy task with this great group of folks.

Here I am with my South Dakota NWTF “host” family, the Schauers. Dad Ron was inducted into the state’s NWTF hall of fame for his volunteerism. All three of them got my stamp of greatness for taking care of me during my stay.

Here I am with my South Dakota NWTF “host” family, the Schauers. Dad Ron was inducted into the state’s NWTF hall of fame for his volunteerism. All three of them got my stamp of greatness for taking care of me during my stay.

It began when the Schauer Family picked me up from the Sioux Falls airport, saving this Southern gal a potential stroke of having to drive in below freezing temps, dodging ice patches or waiting for pending doom as the snow crept in.

They said, “South Dakota volunteers are like family.” I found that to be true as they instantly took me in and made me one of their own for a few days. I felt like an exchange student from the other “South” state.

But the family vibe was even more evident watching the volunteers interact with each other. They spent just as much time encouraging each other and pitching in to help, as they did ribbing and poking fun in a good-natured way. Looks like a family reunion to me, no?

I found it wonderful how so many “flesh and blood” families came to the convention as well, proving the NWTF offers something for everyone. Among the training seminars on turkey hunting and NWTF events, the Bramble Park Zoo brought in critters for kids of all ages (like me) to pet and get a closer look — a hedge hog, bearded dragon and, ew, snakes, to name a few.

Conference planners also offered a visit to renowned artist and son of Watertown Terry Redlin’s museum. I slipped in and took a fast-forward tour of the three levels of original art and prints, thanks to my NWTF sister Becky Schauer hauling my tail over there between speaking engagements.

I’m thinking this Dakota didn’t get its “prefix” based on geography; it’s because it gives the South (as in Dixie) a run for its money on hospitality.

Thanks, South Dakota NWTF, for a great weekend. And I’ll be thinking of you until spring comes and thaws out your awesome state — and brings turkey season your way.