If you've never been to Congress...

R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter

Okay, it's early June and the 2003 APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition is less than ninety days away. A whole bunch of you have already preregistered for Congress in San Diego, August 24-27. Good for you—you've made an excellent decision.

But a bunch of you still haven't decided whether or not you are going to attend. For some of you this is because you have yet to attend a Congress—and how could you possibly know what you've been missing if you've never gone? Well, as my dear, late father-in-law might have put it, I mean to tell you that Congress is one heckuva good time. Those who have attended Congress know just what a fun, exciting and educational experience it is. And maybe the best way to convince you of that is to show you what you'll be missing if you don't go.

If you've never been to Congress, you've missed...
...some terrific educational sessions and workshops. After all, APWA has the finest educational program in the public works community. In San Diego you'll find eleven Super Sessions and more than 130 educational sessions spread throughout the week. Plus, there are five Pre-Congress Workshops conveniently scheduled on Saturday, August 23, the day before the official start of Congress. You'll find these educational sessions and workshops crammed with the helpful information and ideas you can take home and put right to use. Just one of these ideas, successfully applied, can repay you and your agency many times over for the cost of your attendance at Congress.

If you've never been to Congress, you've missed...
...the most diverse collection of public works equipment available on this continent. You'll have plenty of time to inspect all the different types of equipment you're going to buy. You can discuss the features of the various units with manufacturers' representatives without being interrupted by the incessant buzzing of your telephone or by visitors—as so often happens back home in the office. And with the wide variety of equipment on the floor you should be able to compare one unit with another by walking across the floor or across the aisle. Here too, the wise use of your time on the exhibit floor can save the cost of your trip many times over. What the heck, kick those tires!

If you've never been to Congress, you've missed...
...being hugged by P.W. Paws. And to not have been hugged by APWA's nine-foot-tall mascot at Congress means, quite frankly, that you simply haven't lived. Paws elicits smiles and laughter from everyone he meets—probably because he loves people and he's just so darn playful. During Congress you're bound to see him walking around each day on the exhibit floor, around the educational sessions, outside the bookstore, and many other places. Being hugged by Paws may not save your agency much money, but it will sure give you a nice memory or two for your trip back home.

If you've never been to Congress, you've missed...
...the outstanding networking opportunities that Congress always provides. Another way to pay for your trip occurs in the countless informal discussions with other public works professionals sandwiched between the educational sessions and your equipment inspections. You can swap ideas so that everyone involved in these discussions can benefit from the experiences of the others. No need to reinvent the wheel.

If you've never been to Congress, you've missed...
...some outstanding Technical Tours and Optional Tours. This year's tours are among the best ever at a Congress. Just a few of the titles of the Technical Tours—all occurring on Wednesday, August 27—include "City of San Diego Environmental Services Department Facilities"; "East Village/Padres Downtown Ballpark Construction"; and "Sea World San Diego Cycle and Life Support System." Optional Tours held throughout the entire week include "Fishin' Fun — Public Fishing Excursion"; "SeaWorld Splash"; "From Vine to Wine at Orfila Vineyards"; and "VIP Zoo Venture" featuring the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

(Keep in mind that with Congress scheduled in late August this year, and with many schools not starting their fall semester until early September, this is the perfect opportunity to stick around town for a few days after Congress ends and have a family vacation. Plus, there's a holiday on September 2, giving us yet another day to play in San Diego...something to think about...)

If you've never been to Congress, you've missed...
...some wild and crazy Get Acquainted Parties and some wonderful Banquets. The Get Acquainted Party (held the first evening during Congress) and the closing Banquet (held on the final evening) couldn't be any more different than night and day—you roll up your sleeves and dive right in at the Get Acquainted Party, whereas the Banquet is a dress-up, sit-down affair. But both events are a pretty darn good time, and the food and entertainment are always terrific. This year's Get Acquainted Party will be held at the Sail Pavilion located inside the San Diego Convention Center, and the Banquet will be at the San Diego Marriott. When members talk about the fun they have at Congress, it always begins and ends with these two events.

If you've never been to Congress, you've missed...
...a whole lot of other exciting activities, such as interesting and insightful General Sessions (we've added another one on Tuesday this year, for a grand total of four General Sessions); the annual First Timers Meeting; interactive Roundtable Discussions on the exhibit floor; the Awards and Recognition Ceremony, honoring APWA members for their achievements and contributions to the public works profession; and many more activities too numerous to mention in this short article.

What it all adds up to is an unparalleled opportunity to widen your knowledge, provide benefits for your agency and community, and have a heckuva lot of fun to boot. For more information on Congress and to register on-line, just go to www.apwa.net and click on the Congress logo. We're looking forward to seeing you in San Diego.