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      ABA Conventions – Business, Pleasure, Education, Recreation
      by Carolyn G. Whitlock

      “Our best friends are people in the bell association,” my mother used to tell me. From the time my parents joined ABA in the mid-1960s until they died 30-odd years later, their bell friends were true, loyal, and caring. They looked forward to going to Convention every year to renew friendships and make new friends, all people who shared an interest in bells. After Doris and Ralph retired, their mini-motorhome allowed them the joy of visiting bell friends throughout the country and seeing their collections without having to “impose” on people. For them and many others, they enjoyed a grand life and retirement that were enriched by their love of bells!

      People who have never been to an ABA Convention may wonder what could possibly happen to take up three days and four nights devoted to bells! That’s why I’m writing this piece. The annual convention of the American Bell Association International, Inc. traditionally follows a standard format but each year is unique according to the talents and interests of the members of the host region. Conventions combine business, pleasure, education and recreation.

      Business. The ABA, like every other corporation, must hold an annual business meeting. Ours is held in two sessions, each on a different day. At these Plenary Sessions, we receive annual summaries of actions by the President, Treasurer, Magazine Editor, and Chairman of the “Friends of the ABA” donors group. If there are proposed bylaws changes, we discuss and vote on them. The ABA Chaplain leads a respectful ceremony to remember and celebrate the lives of each ABA member who has passed away during the last year. Committee reports are given as time permits. The annual Election of Officers is held. At the end of the second Plenary Session, members of the chapters in the region that will host the next year’s meeting often perform a skit with hopes of enticing people to attend. This is frequently done in costume and with props.

      Pleasure. Once you have registered and picked up your convention bell, many people hurry off to the Sales Room. Can you imagine walking into a hotel’s large meeting room and seeing it full of tables smothered with bells, all of which are for sale? It’s a spectacular sight! Conventions officially begin the first evening with a “kickoff event” starting with a parade of Chapter Banners followed by a warm welcome, introduction of Executive Board members, and recognition of international members. Following this brief formality, the pleasure continues! The evening’s entertainment varies from year to year. There may be singers, dancers, or actors/entertainers from the outside or the same from ABA members. Often times, the event is brought to a close with the serving of cookies and punch. At this point, some people choose to go to bed while others dash back to the Sales Room or take advantage of spending time renewing acquaintances!

      Education. The BEHOLD Room is open concurrently with the Sales Room. It is a display room where ABA members exhibit bells of their chosen theme. This is a “look only” room and the bells are not for sale. When the business meetings are done, the educational sessions begin! In 2007, twelve different people will be presenting 20-minute programs, most with visual aids. The ABA provides a huge projection screen and appropriate audio-visual equipment so people can see and hear these presentations. Scheduled for this year are:

      The Maine Event, an Introduction to Richard Fisher, U.S. Bell Foundry by Jane Toleno
      Favorite Figural and Figurine Finds by Wayne Babbitt
      Constructing a Nodder by Alan Burgdorf
      Yipes, What Is It? By Annette Hunt
      Bianzhong Bells by Dorothy Foster
      The Story of the American Indians as Told With Bells and Rattles by George Nader
      Bells of Illinois by Lenore Hammond
      The Great Temple and Ancient Bell Museum Plus Other Bells of the Orient by Nick DeLeonardis
      Answering the Call to Serve by Joan Elliott
      Wedding Bells by Barry Halbritter
      Columbian Exposition Bells, Chicago 1893 by Al Trinidad
      Interesting Glass and China Bells by F.W. Wagner

      Every ABA Convention includes many educational programs on a variety of bell-related topics.

      Recreation. Many attendees, of course, believe the whole convention is recreation. But it isn’t all sitting and listening to people talk. The middle day is a “change of pace” day. Included in the price of the package is an area tour. 2007 is offering a choice of two tours, one of downtown Chicago and one of area carillons. Transportation is provided by motor coach. Participants return to the hotel by 2 p.m.

      After an hour’s break, people get ready to have one “bell of a good chime” at the annual ABA Auction! After months of planning and preparation, a six-hour long, non-stop auction of bells gets underway in mid-afternoon! ABA members have placed 360 bells with a minimum value of $15 for sale. A catalog with a brief description of each bell will be available. Since the real value of any given bell is whatever someone will pay for it, the auction is a good way of finding out what certain bells are worth. The auction does not take a break but the hotel provides food for purchase that can be eaten inside the auction room. Folks who aren’t interested in attending the auction have free time.

      On the fourth evening, the convention comes to a close with the annual banquet. Most people dress in their “Sunday best” for this celebration. The event begins with a “cash bar” reception. Our official ABA Town Crier leads the parade of newly elected officers to the head table to await their installation after dinner. Next comes the time of recognition and praise of our outgoing president and the passing of the General Grant Bell to our newly elected president. After remarks and announcements by the new president, the formality is over and the convention comes to a close after the evening’s entertainment.

      Amid shaking of hands, hugs, kisses, and promises to keep in touch, another convention becomes part of ABA history. Although we may be worn out from three very full days of business, pleasure, education, and recreation, we depart with delightful thoughts of bells, ideas, and true, loyal, and caring friends.

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