This weekend, I took a trip to Wisconsin for the Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Circle K’s DCON. It was a very different experience from any DCON I had been to in the past (i.e. Michigan Key club and Michigan Circle K) and I wanted to talk about why I decided to go as well as what the convention itself was like. The idea for this started as a much shorter overview post talking about what the differences were, and I might still do that later, but I ended up writing out enough that this is pretty much a play-by-play of the entire weekend. In other news, I succeeded in doing a lot of writing this weekend. Now all I need to do is make this writing more productive.
A year ago, another member of our club had talked about how she wanted to go to the convention. I was quickly talked into going (it was a Kiwanis-Family event, there was not much more I needed to hear than that) and was pretty sad when I was not able to go (I ended up running out of people to ask to go with me last year and did not feel like driving to it on my own). This year, after I realized that it was feasible to go, I decided I would definitely be going to the convention. Looking at the weekend, it seemed kind of infeasible to spend ten hours driving but that problem was easily solved by using the Amtrak to get there. I ended up having to cancel going to see the Lion King in Detroit but going to the convention was worth it.
To start with getting there, the train ride was an absolute blast. To the best of my knowledge it is the longest train ride I have been on but it did not feel long at all. On the train to Chicago, I sat alone for most of the trip which made it much easier to work on homework. Once we passed the Kalamazoo stop, the train filled up completely which made working on homework a bit more difficult. I still managed and got over half of my networking homework on the ride there. Between getting homework done and a train being more fun than driving, taking a train was one of the best decisions I made for this trip. Once we left Chicago heading to Wisconsin, the train ride was pretty similar to the first one, except a bit slower and much shorter. I arrived in Wisconsin in the early afternoon and met up with the fantastic WUM district!
When I got to the hotel, the WUM board was about to start doing script run-throughs. On a side note, this is something that I would really like to see Michigan do in the future to make our DCON seem more organized. Anyways, I started helping out with setting up some decorations until it was time for opening session. The first thing that WUM did at their opening session (after the board had a very epic musical entrance) was to have each club present a skit. These ranged from a comical presentation of an award for not having a skit to absolutely intense musical numbers. One club (Edgewood) even tried to do a live version of the Harlem Shake. I understood it about as well as I understand the video versions and it did seem to be lacking something. Once that was done, we went through nominations which were surprisingly painful. WUM follows the practice that the governor must ask “Are there any further nominations for the position of _______” thrice without anyone saying anything. This made nominations drag on nearly forever.
With the opening sessions over, we embarked upon something that can best be described as a service scavenger hunt. This was an awesome event where we ran between seven different stations with a service project at each of them. The entire time, we were trying to unscramble a message made up of letters given to us at each station. At the end, after doing some awesome projects, we discovered the theme for WUM’s Spring Fling 2013: “Serving at the speed of light”. The whole service scavenger hunt did a fantastic job of serving as both an icebreaker and community service so I was thrilled to be a part of it and will be trying to use that idea back in Michigan at some point.
After we finished the service, it was time for caucusing. I enjoyed watching the candidates and noticed the main difference between WUM and Michigan was how literature was presented. In WUM, each candidate is responsible for making and bringing their own literature while, in Michigan, we simply distribute a packet with a single page for each candidate. After caucusing, we went back to the room and talked about the candidates for a while. The discussion we had about candidates, as well as watching the candidates, helped me to gain a much better idea of what people are looking for during caucusing and I new feel more prepared to caucus myself.
Saturday morning began with a House of Delegates session (not noteworthy) which was immediately followed by some amazing workshops. The first workshop I went to was about how to run an engaging club meeting. It was present by Lena and Jo, both of whom had a good grasp on what made a meeting good and were able to talk about it in an interesting way. They began with examples of good and bad ways to run a meeting (had everyone walk out into the hall and then walk back in as if we were prospective new members) which really helped to get the point across about why it was important to do meetings well. After that, they went over some icebreaker ideas (my personal favorite was called “Do you want to buy a duck?”), talked about how to use technology, discussed bringing speakers in, and talked about some great social ideas. The workshop was very well-done and helpful, but was nothing compared to the next workshop I attended.
My second workshop was on team-building and was presented by Jane Erickson, the Kiwanis International Board Councilor for Circle K and Cody, the Subregion C trustee. They did an absolutely fantastic job going through three extremely fun team-building activities. The first activity we did was to shake hands with five people and to learn their names (there was more to it, I am not going to give full details for any of these). The next activity was to close our eyes and fallow her instructions for how to fold and pip a sheet of paper. When everyone ended up with completely different-looking sheets of paper, it did a great job of illustrating the problems we can often face when trying to communicate. The next activity was to put a rope around our wrists, link up with a partner, and try to get the ropes separated. My partner and I spent a lot of time trying to get this to work, even after we had the solution demonstrated to us. Once we finally got it to work, we both had to do it a couple more times before we believed that it was legitimately working. Finally, we did an activity with the same person to put our hands behind our back, pull out some number of fingers, and then be the first one to say the sum number of fingers. This workshop was able to present some new team-building activities that would be easy to do with other groups and make us think about different aspects of leadership at the same time. I went into the workshop having met Jane that morning and thinking a workshop with her would be interesting but I did not expect to walk out of it with that high of an opinion.
After the workshops, the next event on the schedule was the K-Family Eliminate Project lunch. This started with a showing of one of the Kiwanis ICON videos and then switched between the MCs (oh, yeah, each event had two board members serving as MCs) talking about a country where MNT had recently been eliminated and a K-Family member talking about his/her experiences in the family. The Eliminate presentations were not terrible but the K-Family members definitely stole the show. Some of the presenters were a K-Kid getting up to the microphone and telling her advisor that the advisor does not get to decide everything (“No! It is called K-Kids“), a Builders Club member getting up to the microphone and saying something similar to “Let’s do this” (I forget his exact wording) before beginning his speech, and a Circle K alumni talking about a crazy 5-hour board bonding canoe trip which involved the canoe running aground multiple times. All these presenters did a fantastic job, and a good number of them were absolutely adorable while giving the presentation.
After a simple caucusing session and a bit of service, it was time for the big recognition events. It started with a Governor’s and Administrator’s reception where most of the outstanding district officer awards were presented. Following that, their was the Presidents’ and Parents’ banquet. For WUM, most of the board members walked in escorted by their parents which was extremely touching to watch. We had a fantastic dinner (it was definitely among the best I have had at a K-Fam convention) followed by an even more fantastic keynote.
The keynote speaker for the convention was Jane Erickson, the same person who had presented the second workshop I went to. She shared some great stories that really captured what it meant to be in the Kiwanis Family and why the work we do is important. I left the room feeling emotional and inspired, something that is not the norm for me and keynotes. I know I am not alone in that sentiment and I really hope that Michigan can look into having her come to our convention sometime in the future.
After the dinner, there was the awesome talent show competition where clubs (or in one case, a division) got together and presented a skit of some kind. The talents included, among others, a Dr. Seuss book, a massive song-and-dance number that I believe was based on the movie “Pitch Perfect” (still need to see it), and an entire division having a huge rap battle. The amount of work that must have gone into each of the acts was astonishing, it completely blew away th skits from the previous day (at the time, I had wondered if those would be on Youtube so I could show Michigan). After the talent show, there was the dance. I ended up leaving that early because, well, dances… I went back to the room, talked for a couple hours, drifted in and out of sleeping and listening for a while, and then went to bed (this weekend was not at all good for my sleep schedule).
Sunday morning, it was finally time for the main event of the weekend: House of Delegates (the real one). I was absolutely thrilled to hear the announcement of the governor results but the rest of the house was pretty uninteresting. Hearing the credentials chair chair make a motion after each individual resolution (but not have seconds be asked for or voting be done) was mildly amusing, but not much else was amusing.
Finally, it was time for the closing session (i.e. crying time). The board was very well-bonded and emotional and it really was inspiring hearing Morgan talk about many of the things she had gone through. She gave some amazingly touching awards to all of her presidents along with some board members, Kiwanians, and family. Knowing some of the people she was recognizing, it was very touching hearing the presentations and I actually almost cried once (during a presentation of a black diamond (referred to by the rest of the world as a governor’s appreciation award) to Emily). At 1PM, the session was done and WUMCON was sadly over.
The train ride back home was about the same as the one there, except later and nicer. I grabbed a business class ticket for the Chicago-Ann Arbor leg of the journey and this was reasonably nicer. I got to board first (and was guaranteed to be facing forwards), was not sitting next to anyone, had more leg room (and a more comfy chair overall), got a comped beverage, and was given a free copy of the Chicago Tribune (not that interesting of a newspaper unfortunately). Overall, I would say it is definitely worth the extra twenty dollars to get business class on Amtrak and would recommend it for anyone traveling with them in the future.
This weekend was absolutely fantastic. I got to spend time with some amazing friends, meet some new ones, and then steal a lot of great ideas for future Michigan DCONs. I felt welcome at all times and really enjoyed talking to all of the WUM members. In addition to the actual convention activities, I had a nice chance to talk to some people I really respect about my personal activities for next year and I am now more excited than ever. We only have a month left before Michigan’s DCON and I cannot wait to see if we can manage to give WUM a run for their money.