Highlights of the 2013 Friendship Force International Conference held in New Orleans, Louisiana from November 23-25, 2013
Bob Duncan wins a 4 year term as a member of FFI's 15 member Board of Directors.
FFI's Board of Directors is a policy making board empowered with enhancing the mission of FFI. It is a great honor to not only be nominated but to receive the confidence of the sitting Board which is charged with setting the direction and stability of FFI's mission throughout the world!
Early random comments from attendees about the International Conference in New Orleans indicate that it was a huge success. The conference actually began with registration starting on Friday Noon, November 22 and ending Monday morning with the singing of Friendship Force's "Let there be Peace and let it begin with Me" November 25. Over 700 Friendship Force members and staff attended the conference and represented over 31 countries.
The Opening Plenary Session featured our club represented by our President Barbara Wittkopf receiving the Friendship Force's Host Cup from Japan's Field Representative Takaaki (James) Morkiawa. Our club will house the Host Cup until next year's International Conference in which a representative of Friendship Force Baton Rouge (hopefully) will present the Cup to Auckland-North Shore for hosting the 2014 Friendship Force International Conference.
The Conference offered 4 Workshop Sessions offering over 20 engaging workshops covering such topics as 101 Ways to Build and Exchange, Engaging the Next Generation, The Nuts and Bolts of Building a New Club, to Sign On: Your first Steps with Social Media, etc. Intertwined with the "business" workshops were Cooking Seafood Gumbo (actual cooking), Gotta Dance! Cajun Style by Les Danseurs de la Capitale de Baton Rouge, and Singing and Dancing Together workshops. All of the workshops were presented well, had excellent speakers, and offered plenty of audience participation in terms of questions and discussions.
On Saturday Bob Duncan welcomed FFI and the attendees to New Orleans and promised them that "They haven't seen nothing yet"!
The Conference closed for the day on Saturday with a fantastic presentation by the Heritage Choir from Baton Rouge.
Sunday until Noonish was spent in workshops with the afternoon off to explore New Orleans. However the Baton Rouge Club used this time to setup for the Grand Gala. Tasks included masks to lay carefully at each table setting, decorations hung, second line white kerchiefs carefully laid on the back of chairs, and boxes and boxes of beads strategically placed for rapid disbursement. The dinner was great and the attendees were treated to entertainers such as a 10ft stilt walker, a showgirl, a transvestite, two clowns, and other typical characters that make up the street life in New Orleans. Dressed as clowns, their professional attire, Donni Shields and her friend, Dona Brand, walked the two banquet halls throwing out cheers like Mardi Gras beads. With Bob leading the charge and Darwin setting the cadence the November Mardi Gras Parade out to Bourbon Street was a huge success!
Monday we were treated a discussion and musical accompaniment of the music of New Orleans by Professor Edward Petersen and musician Don Vappie. The saxophone and the banjo played by these two musicians made the music of Basin Street seem an integral part of the visitor as his passport was to them in a foreign country.
The Conference closed with the singing of "Let There be Peace on Earth and Let it begin with Me".
Now that we have dispensed with the heavy stuff let's look at some photos of what went on!
Random street scenes of New Orleans from daylight and night time perspectives. The woman in the photo eating with Gayle and Bob Duncan, and Barbara Wittkopf, and Thornton Cofield is FFI staff member Pallie Savoie. Thornton is represented by "Harvey" since he is the one taking the photo.
This second set of photos show just some of the work that went on throughout the conference. There were tables to setup, water bottles to be placed in conference bags, t-shirts and club pins to be displayed, pictures acquired by Vera to be hung, and everything priced, and sold. Louisiana travel posters were rolled and given out until we had no more. Throughout the conference FF Baton Rouge was on display either selling t-shirts and pins, giving directions on where to go and what to see in New Orleans, or seeking out relevant information about how other clubs conduct their business and what success secrets we could glean. Gayle rolled all 175 t-shirts and tied different colored ribbons around each different sized t-shirts to help distinguish them by size. Lynn, our treasurer, managed the money and Donni Shields' sister, Cala, (last photo) stayed on watch while the rest of us attended workshops of interest throughout the two days.
Random shots of attendees you might know, should know or maybe knew at some time. These photos are just a menagerie of people we met and allowed their photo to be taken. We must have had 60 people for the South West Regional social Friday night.
The majority of these photos were from the Gala Banquet held Sunday evening. Quite a few attendees dressed for the occasion whether it was for the Mardi Gras theme or to show off their native dress. Whatever the occasion everyone had a good time with good food, welcoming remarks from Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, and entertainment by the Original Camellia Jazz Band. Where else except in New Orleans can you be treated to welcoming remarks by a Lt. Governor and then exposed to a parade of entertainers such as a couple of 10 ft. stilt walkers, a classy showgirl, a transvestite, two clowns, and other typical characters that make up the street life in New Orleans.
This last selection presents a more formal face of the conference with the first photo of FFI President and CEO Joy DiBenedetto giving the welcoming address. Photos 3 and 4 are of President Barbara Wittkopf receiving the Host Cup from Takaaki (James) Morikawa of Western Japan. Friendship Force Baton Rouge's responsibility is to pass the Host Cup to Auckland-North Shore, the host club of the 2014 FFI International Conference being held in New Zealand that year.