Keystone Conference 2014

WelcomeToPennsylvaniaI thought that rather than do a review of the conference as I did last year, I’d just tell you about some of the fun I had and drop a few names along the way but, in the end, it feels just as much like a review as my ramblings last year.

This year, I arrived a full day early.   This gave my spouse Kim and me extra time to explore and relax too.

A financially-painful side note to adding an extra night at the Sheraton to the original booking: no discount was available on the extra night, even though it was a Monday and consecutive with the existing multi-day reservation.  It cost almost $100 more than all the other nights.  Yikes! The event room rate was good for this class of hotel but take it from a girl who loves nice hotels; the regular rate is too high for a place like that.

Registration

The registration process was nothing to write home about .. “too early! We don’t open until 1:00 pm”; well excuse me.  Not exactly a personable group at registration; no welcoming words or explanation of the package contents.  So off to the bar to have a drink and read the conference guide in search of seminars that might interest a girl like me.

Seminar Offerings

I thought the offerings this year were slightly better than last year, even though I still struggled to find anything really interesting.  But Monica Prata was there!  Yay! I’m a Monica groupie so I was at all of her seminars.   Awesome as always!  More about Monica, her presentations and her services in another post.

Our “Hostess”

Last year, it seemed that Kristina was the hostess at all the outings I attended.  This year it was Suzane .. awesome lady!  I even had lunch with her in the hotel restaurant during one of Monica’s seminars on girl dining.  Very cool and she had it together.  Hopefully, moving us around safely and efficiently wasn’t too much like herding cats for Suzane.

Keynote Speakers

Once again, I wasn’t impressed with the keynote speeches; but it’s that way for me (and many like me) at most events.  Although a relatively small percentage of attendees either are currently or are  planning to live full time as women, keynote topics all pertain mostly to topics and issues of interest to those who are.  And it always seems like a forum for speakers to tell us how great they are, how much adversity they’ve overcome and what a great job they’re doing for us.

And there’s rarely an acknowledgement that the audience is international.    Some of us are not too interested in hearing about changing interpretations of the US constitution, which US states do and which US states don’t, or who pays for which treatment in America.  But it’s a U.S. conference so I suppose we shouldn’t complain even though I’m not the only one who felt marginalized and excluded.

Laughter is universal and positive.  How about a daily dose of comedy instead of similar speakers delivering similar messages?

Are you tired of me whining yet?  ha!

The Event Hotel

The Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey was wonderful .. clean, pleasant, no elevator issues.  Luncheons were quite good, especially considering several hundred people were dining at the same time.  Service in the dining area was wonderful too.

The hotel bar, the Dog and Pony Lounge, was packed every night; live entertainment or karaoke .. fun!

On a personal level, this was the first event I’ve attended since I quit smoking several months ago.  As expected, I really did miss the socializing in the outside smoking areas.  For those of you who don’t smoke, there’s a certain rapport … a friendliness .. that persists in the smoking area.  Although I know my cigarette smoking days are over forever, the quick, fleeting, friendly encounters that happen, usually in less than pleasant weather, will always be missed.  Y’all might hate me for saying this but, in my opinion, smokers are just cooler people.

Distractions?

To the two girls who didn’t attend this year because they felt the Vanity Club presence was too much last year, please know that it appeared to be less this year.  But in my opinion, the Pink Essence presence was significant and the huge photo background in the lobby was a bit much.

Dining Out

Carrabbas Italian Grill in Hershey was nice; the food was very good and the service was excellent. A chain restaurant doing it right.  A perfect place for our welcome dinner.

Dining in the Mountainview Dining Terrace at the Hollywood Race Track and Casino was also very good and lots of fun!  Our server, Monique, was fabulous.

Char’s at Tracy Mansion was wonderful fine dining in an elegant setting on the river.  Yummy coconut martinis too.  Char herself even dropped by to welcome us.  I highly recommend Char’s to anyone looking for something upscale.

I did overhear a slightly unsettling customer dialog at Char’s as we all entered. Woman: “what kind of group is that?” The response was unintelligible to which she replied “oooooh”.  But all was fine and, frankly, I can’t blame anyone for wondering about our group.

It’s really about friends, isn’t it?

So, to Dianne V – my best event buddy from far, far away; Monica P – an inspiration; Scarlett T – my fave makeup artist; Suzane O – our fearless leader this time; Kat W – one classy lady who always seems to look at me like I’m from Mars (haha!); Penny P – my best friend from Erie Sisters; Samantha J – another best friend from Erie Sisters; Roxanne M – an event rookie who seemed like an event pro; Davina and Cyndi G – the very cool road warriors; Tania W – a wonderful lady, a hottie and a pleasure to chat with …. the minutes or hours I spent with you all were special, and I thank you for that.

And to that sweet couple from somewhere in New England (I think), “Patricia” and trans spouse with the killer heels and awesome furs, I really wish we would have shared contact info.  If either of you happen to stumble upon this, please get in touch.

My Photos

I took no pictures at all this year (other than the one at the top of this article that I scooped from the dash cam video).  None.  Zero. Nadda.  Zilch.  Wow.

In Summary

The hotel, although very nice, is not on the same level as the gorgeous SCC venue in Atlanta or even most of the hotels and B&B’s in Provincetown but the facility is a step up from the rather “rustic’ Fantasia Fair event locations.  The place was spotless, they treated us well and the food, both in the banquet hall and the restaurant was very good.  All in all, a wonderful venue for an event like this!

I didn’t find the event staff to be excessively personable (Suzane was the exception this year); definitely not even close to the smiling, chatty, fab volunteers at Fantasia Fair.  But the schedule worked, the buses were there when expected and I believe the seminars all happened as planned.

There did seem to be an awful lot of makeup artists in attendance.  I’m not sure how well any of them did financially since supply seemed much greater than demand.

But if you can only attend one event each year, I think the Keystone Conference is the one to attend.  A much better value, more organized and more fun than Southern Comfort Conference; less expensive (albeit shorter in duration), less weather-affectable and less geographically spread out than Fantasia Fair and a little more high heel friendly.

And to some of us, that’s really important!

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