Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Sparks, Nevada: Golden Past, Diamond future

July 8-16 heralded the American Council of the Blind’s National 50th Anniversary Conference. It took place at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel, Business Center, and Casino in Sparks, Nevada. Our guest roster exceeded 1000 registered guests, 200 of those being guide dog users.
I attended as a first-time national conventioneer, taking the opportunity to bring along my husband and 16 year old daughter and making it our annual vacation.
Before attending the conference, however, we flew into Sacramento airport and drove the remaining two hours to Reno so my husband and daughter could see the spectacular Sierra Nevada snow capped mountains and Lake Tahoe. We also stopped at the Donner Pass rest stop and visited the memorial dedicated to the thousands of Chinese immigrants who risked their lives, mostly against their will, to blast through the mountains to lay down railroad ties during our westward expansion.
It was warm and dry, and I drank at least twice as much water than normal due to the arid climate. I certainly did not miss the humidity over on the east coast, though. My guide dog also drank more, but she tolerated the changes with her usual stoic common sense that only a dog can possess.
I attended only a handful of events during the eight day event–a bit overwhelmed by the cost of, variety, and size of the Conference. There is just too much to list here, but suffice it to say that I had my choice of breakout sessions, social events, general sessions, and tours and trips outside the hotel proper. Some events were included in the registration, some weren’t.
The vendor hall was my favorite, however, and I spent hours strolling the tables, greeting old friends, making new connections, and spending cash on different items. My favorite find was a dog tag Brailed with “good dog” on it for my guide’s collar.
Next year the ACB Conference is in Louisville, Kentucky, and I plan on attending and hope I’ll be able to manage my time better to take part in more events.
To find out more about the American Council of the Blind, go to: www.acb.org
Have any of you been to conferences so far this year? Tell us about them in the Reader’s Forum.

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