Thursday, July 10, 2008

Reno Ramblings by Judd Berg

Here are some nutshell (or nut-case, depending on your point of view) observations from the NCSG convention at Reno NV:

Flying on Southwest Airways with its new seating procedures allowed me the luxury of aisle seats, a blessing on long flights.

Posting my flight itinerary on the ncsg-members list helped me find other sweeps during lay overs, in my case the John and Diane Pilger of New York at the airport in Baltimore. We then flew together on to Reno as seat mates. We landed on our first try amidst 50+ mph winds and a lot of praying at Reno with the plane crew getting a well-deserved ovation from the passengers. Well, they did say we'd be landing in some turbulence.

More than 400 industry professionals attended NCSG's Innovation 2008 convention, with many claiming it to be the best ever overall. Highlighting the event were a generous mix of both business and technical seminars, lots of new faces at the trade show, great food (whether part of a convention meal or obtained at one of the venue's great eateries), and plenty to do after hours.

While I'm not big into casinos, our convention site (the Grand Sierra) was located a distance away from Reno's casino strip and guests could easily avoid the slot machine symphony, definitely a plus. Unfortunately I couldn't avoid the indoor tobacco smoke that permeated the lobby, casino, and some of the restaurant areas. With apologies to my friends who indulge, but I seem to always get some sort of respiratory affliction when I'm around indoor tobacco smoke. This put a serious crimp on my after hours adventures, let alone my public speaking as I lost my voice. At the vendor breakfast I had to make some announcements regarding the auction and could barely get out the words. Good guy Tom Urban of Estoban came to my rescue with a big bag of gourmet butterscotch candies to soothe my vocal cords and throat. Thanks Tom.

I had the pleasure of taking in both the NCSG and CSIA board of directors meetings. I try to do this at each convention I attend, and I'm always surprised to see how few other convention goers show up. I still think the membership would be more involved if we could see all those "report as submitted"'s fleshed out in the on-line minutes. Might make for some good feedback.

Congratulations to new NCSG president Randy Brooks of California and thanks to outgoing President Howard Rowell of Wisconsin for all his time and effort on the job. Too bad Randy couldn't preside over an official membership meeting as a quorum could not be obtained, despite the fact that more than enough members were registered for the convention. Perhaps in the future maybe the general membership meeting could take place immediately after the keynote address or some other magnet event so we could truly have a legitimate meeting.

Congratulations also go out to President's Award winner Steve Pietila (OR), Education Award winner Bob Priesing, and Friendship Award winner Frank Dombrowski.

Seems like Pass the Pigs has taken on a new life (are we a cult yet?) outside the Northeast as folks from as far West as Oregon and California and as far East as Scotland can now be heard calling out "razorback"and "trottah" (in true Amy Andrade fashion), although the Scots have to work on those "pig out" squeals. Give a big oink for Steve Pietila, without whose assistance we would not have been able to convert so many "pig virgins". Next year in Winston-Salem we're going after the Brits.

Another after hours first for an NCSG convention was the introduction of a piano lounge, where attendees could chill out, sing, play, and listen the night away. Let's hope this can become a tradition.

Another new slightly less attended possible tradition starting event was the Bostaphblumeberg tequila -tasting night, with the Scots bringing in their own variation aptly called Scotch. Smooth.

Loureen Koubek (Eurosweep, Braintree MA) found her own after hours event, attending a Van Halen concert across town from the hotel in her free time.

Phil Mitchell, the Seacoast Sweep (NH), yearly host to Sweepfest, expressed his enthusiasm at having the MCSG summer meeting take place during this year's gathering. Here's hoping a good portion of our membership takes advantage of NH hospitality.

Despite talk of recession and business slowdowns, through the generosity of vendor and sweep donations the Reno biggest little CSIA benefit auction raised over $12,000 for the CSIA building fund.

Speaking of recessions, if they ever get short of chimney work Rich Rua and John LaBrosse can always hire themselves out as professional drivers after commandeering the NCSG van, loaded with office and convention supplies, from Indy to Reno and back. They also make great auction roadies.

At the closing banquet White House chimney sweeping project coordinator Jeff Schmittinger announced that MCSG's own Mike Elliott (Central New England Chimney Sweep, N. Oxford MA) will be a member of this year's White House sweeping team. Mike will have the privilege of standing atop our country's most famous residence in the blazing heat and humidity of a D.C. summer. Bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen, a map to the Old Ebbett Grill, some beer money, and a camera. And be ready for the thrill of a lifetime.

My wife Katie flew out to Reno for the banquet, then on Sunday we drove down to San Francisco via Lake Tahoe for a week's vacation visiting our son and his future bride. But not before we hit the casino slot machines up for $40, enough to get 10 gallons of regular in SF at the time. If you've never been to San Francisco get there sometime in your life. Then call in you Southwest Airways pre-seating early. We had bulkhead all the way home. Gotta love that extra leg room.

Sweeps luck and hope to see you in Winston Salem in 2009, Indy in 2010.

Judd Berg
Judd Berg and Sons Chimney Sweep
North Eastham MA

Editors Note: Check out NCSG's Convention Blog

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