It’s All Go for the Gala!
AAMA Topper Outlines Upcoming Annual Event, Encourages Greater Participation
Q: What are you looking most forward to and how are plans coming along for AAMA’s big event?
A: The schedule is all set for the meeting and we’re excited about how it’s coming together. For those who don’t know, it will be Oct. 2-6 at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel, an easy drive of about 35 minutes from O’Hare Airport.
We begin the week with committee meetings on 2nd, 3rd and 4th and will have sponsor presentations the 4th and 5th. Then the night of the 5th is our Gala and we close the week on Friday with our annual kids event. It’s a busy week, but well worth the time and effort.
We’re excited to announce that for the first time ever, we’ll have entertainment at the welcome dinner on the 4th. That event has gotten larger over the years so we wanted to add something different and special. Taking the stage will be “The Mentalist,” Bill Gladwell, and from what we’ve seen and heard, his show is going to be great. [Editor’s note: Gladwell was featured at this year’s F2FEC and wowed attendees with his “thought reading” performance.]
But before I get deeper into the details of this year’s meeting, I really want to stress that all of our committee meetings (with the exception of the Steering Committee) are open to everyone in the association. We want –– and welcome –– as much participation as possible in the many groups that chart the course for our group. If someone wants to get more involved in AAMA, I urge them to attend.
That’s actually how I got more involved in the board. It was seven years ago now, I think. I didn’t go to that annual meeting with any intention of putting my name in to be considered for the board, but it got me to think how I wanted to be a part of the association and help it going forward.
I’ve come to understand that a lot of people simply don’t know that it’s wide open for participation. I hope knowing this might influence others to
get more involved by serving on a committee and maybe even on the board.
So back to the schedule! As our keynote speaker, we’ll be having Mahesh Sadarangani from Chuck E. Cheese’s. (That we’ve had a keynote speaker from Dave & Buster’s and now from CEC speaks to the level of engagement we have with the FEC community, and membership from that group is definitely growing!) For our Government Relations Luncheon on Thursday, we’ll have Chicago area lawyer David Bennett. He works quite a bit with FECs and theme parks, and was instrumental in helping us develop the Fair Play Pledge. I expect that he’ll focus on issues affecting the amusement world, as well as our Pledge.
The sponsor presentations are another great feature of our annual event. We filled the schedule last year so have expanded the number of those spots this time around. Previously, we had those blocked out by the hour, but we found last year that most people were finished with what they needed to cover in 20 minutes. Wanting to give more slots, we shortened each session to 20 minutes. This year, they’ll run from 1 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday and from 1 to 3:25 p.m. on Thursday.
If you ask me what I’m most looking forward to this year, it’s two main things. One is honoring David Cohen with the Lifetime Achievement Award. David has been dramatically instrumental in my development through the association –– even my personal and business development –– as I’ve worked side by side with him over the years. It was a great honor to present him with the award at the Amusement Expo and it’s certainly going to be an honor to complete the presentation at the annual meeting.
The other thing I always look forward to is the kid’s event on Friday. We invite children from local charities to come and play the games. After a long week, it would be easy to skip this and fly out on Thursday night or early Friday morning, and certainly, a lot of members do have work to get back to. But I really encourage everyone to stay. Being able to spend time with the kids, watch them play the games, and enjoy their laughter and smiles is well worth it. By the way, the manufacturing members also give away prizes, toys and things for the kids to take home. That’s great, too!
I want to make it clear to our members how much is open to their participation. I encourage members who haven’t come in the past to come on out to the Renaissance North Shore and take part in this year’s event. And for non-members, the opportunity still exists to be part of this. Join AAMA, come to the event and sit in on a committee meeting. We want everyone to become more engaged in the association. There is a lot to accomplish and we want – and need – as much input and participation as possible.
By the way, we’re making great progress on next spring’s Amusement Expo (Feb. 27-March 1, 2018, at the Las Vegas Convention Center). We’ve got the planning going much earlier than usual and are working with Glasgow (show organizers) to have booth sales ready sooner, too. We had some companies in Dallas wanting to book booth space right then and there. We’re also close to having the educational program nailed down.
Chris Felix, National OEM Sales Manager for MEI Conlux/CPI (Crane Payment Innovations), worked for MEI prior to its acquisition by Crane. Felix, who was elected to his two-year term at the AAMA Annual Meeting and Gala in August, has been honored with the group’s President’s and Joe Robbins awards. A U.S. Navy veteran, he served as a Nuclear Reactor Operator aboard the USS Minneapolis St. Paul and the USS Greeneville submarines. When he’s not busy with work or association duties and travel, you might find Chris out training for a marathon.