I have been in Stillwater, Oklahoma at the Altrusa conference for our district. We are District 8, which is KS, MO, AR, and OK. There were thirteen of us who went from our club, including Julie and I. Unfortunately, Cynda and Carla are not in this photo. It was Julie's first conference and my second one.
Peggy got us both involved in Altrusa and I have found the women to be very welcoming and friendly. It has been a really good experience for me, even without that benefit Dr. Putnam mentions of it decreasing my chance of dying by half during the next year!
The first night of conference is a little welcome and time to chat and visit. Even though this is only my second conference, I knew quite a few people and also met some new folks.
Julie and I went out to dinner after the welcome. We decided to go to Eskimo Joe's, which is actually loved by the locals, despite being "famous" beyond the town's borders. I asked a number of local people for recommendations and it came up from every single one. Also mentioned by everyone was Hideaway Pizza but we didn't make it there this trip.
As we were walking out of the hotel, we saw a couple of ladies from the local group outside the door. They were so friendly and asked if we needed directions. Well, they ended up just going with us, which was wonderful.
The food at Eskimo Joe's is really good. They're famous for cheese fries and we had those, as well as a burger. Yummy stuff. Our waiter was fun - I took his photo with Julie. The only down side was that we got there late so they started blasting the music and we couldn't really talk. But, it was fun and an experience, of course. I hear the Eskimo Joe's t-shirt is the best selling right behind Hard Rock. I did not get one. I'm not really a t-shirt person.
The next morning my first order of business was to reassemble our gift basket. Most clubs bring one and it's a silent auction to generate money for a project of the local group. The silent auction made over $1,500 and included a variety of things. Ours was a Victorian theme in a hatbox. It made a little over $80, I think. Gift baskets generally make about half their value and this was over $200 worth of stuff so it was a little under, but not bad considering how much stuff there was and that there were only about 140 people there.
The morning was a business meeting for the district and then there were workshops in the afternoon. One of the best things about conference is getting to visit with people from other groups and seeing what they do in their groups.
There is a board that runs conference and the head person is the governor. At this conference, all 11 past Governors who are living were there. It was really neat. We have a past governor from our club - Cynda, who is second from the left. She was one of the youngest Governors ever, I think. Peggy is the Governor-elect for our district. She will be installed in Salina next year. It was really neat to have all 11 past governors there, so we tried to capture a photo. All of these ladies I've had contact with have been lovely.
That night, after a barbecue, we went shopping in downtown Stillwater. The stores stayed open late for us and we did our part for the local economy. I'm not a big time shopper, but some of these ladies are. I did get a few things, but nothing major.
We we got back to the hotel, there was a little reception by the Salina group. They're hosting the conference next year and using a safari theme so we had "jungle juice." It came in a spirited form with vodka or the less popular plain version.
The next morning we had more business and then the luncheon where the awards were announced. Our group won a membership award, which I'm very proud of. The afternoon was full of workshops. We heard about some wonderful projects that some people are doing in their areas - from a Drug Court where a judge takes her court room into the schools, to a program that provides fresh milk to children.
Saturday night was the big banquet. Some people get very dressed up. I'm not into that sort or thing, so I just wore black slacks, but it is kind of nice to see everyone all dressed up.
We absolutely loved Stillwater. And one of the reasons was how friendly everyone was. Considering what I've been mulling over since seeing Dr. Putnam, I have to say that the residents of Stillwater are as welcoming as I have ever seen.
Julie and I stayed at the Hampton Inn. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about them. If you go to visit Stillwater - and I do recommend it - be sure and stay at the Hampton. They were fabulous - from the time I made the reservation until I checked out this morning. Every detail was taken care of. They did a wonderful job. The hotel was full and yet there never seemed to be any problems with plenty of food at breakfast or cleanliness or any of the other things you might expect. They did a great job. To top it off, the beds were comfortable, the rooms had a fridge and microwave, and it was quiet. Every person we talked to from the front desk, to the woman doing our room to the guy mopping the lobby floor was pleasant and friendly. It's one of the best hotel experiences I've ever had, and I've had a lot of them.
In fact, every single person I had contact with in Stillwater was friendly - from the hotel to the downtown shops to the local Altrusa folks. People often don't grasp that when you visit a town for a long weekend, you have contact with very few people. As a result, one negative experience has a real impact.
Unfortunately, we didn't have time to see a lot of Stillwater. So, I'm just going to have to go back. It's only about a three hour drive from me, so very easy to get to.
One of the highlights was getting to know Cheryl, one of the ladies we met the first night. She was so sweet. We had lunch with her at a Mexican restaurant called El Vaquero before leaving town. She is just a doll. We both really enjoyed getting to know her and I think she'll be someone I keep in touch with for a long time.
This restaurant was a fun place and the food was great. They had an area with these wonderful tiled steps and a fountain that used to be the waiting area on a lower level. It's now closed because it's not ADA compliant, but you can still see it. Very fun place.