by Terri Rupp
From the Editor: Terri Rupp is the energetic president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada. The Nevada and Idaho affiliates are our hosts for the 2019 National Convention, and here is how Terri tempts those of us who will join her in Las Vegas:
We all waited anxiously for the big announcement last July revealing where the 2019 NFB National Convention would be held. I had my suspicions, but I would not confirm them to anyone. At the end of the national board meeting, when the final reveal was made, the crowd erupted with whoops of excitement. During the week of July 7 through 12, 2019, our Federation family will gather at the Mandalay Bay Resort in fabulous Las Vegas.
The first recognizable thoughts to make it out of my head from the news that the national convention was coming to my hometown were, “This is going to be great! Vegas isn’t going to be the same after #NFB19. Talk about an amazing opportunity: I get to welcome my Federation family to my hometown.”
It wasn’t until the excitement fizzled just a bit that the words of the worried ones reached my ears. As blind people, we are all too familiar with the common myths and misconceptions that surround blindness. The same goes for Las Vegas. When I asked my friends and family in Facebook-land what their first thoughts were when they thought of Las Vegas, I heard the typical things like: the Strip, casinos, shows, crowds, etc. Then there were these other responses: endless desert beauty, great healthy food choices everywhere, family, community, home.
We all have our expectations of what something might be like based on things we may have heard from others or watched in movies. Before my first trip to Las Vegas, I had those same thoughts. I had no idea that the city was more like a large, spread-out suburb. I naively thought the famous Las Vegas Strip sat in the middle of a sandy desert. I paid no attention to who those people might be that worked in those big fancy casinos. Those people who clean the rooms, prepare and serve the food, perform in the shows: those people are people just like you and me. They go home to families, take their kids to school, spend time outdoors in the gorgeous hills that our valley is nestled in, and go on vacations to national parks, Disney World, and other typical tourist attractions. These people are part of what make up my community. The community where my children were born, the community that came together and healed together after tragedy struck our loved ones on October 1, 2017. This is the city I am proud to call home.
If you are wondering what an NFB National Convention will be like in Las Vegas, you are not alone. We have grown quite accustomed to planning our convention week in Orlando. It’s about time for some change. For instance, travel to Las Vegas is extremely inexpensive by air and can easily be made by road from our neighboring states of Arizona, California, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. We will no longer be limited to the same food choices we’ve been eating. Get your taste buds ready to experience an explosion of flavors from simple quick-service food to extravagant fine dining prepared by famous chefs. Are you wondering if convention in Vegas will be family-friendly? I’d like to point out that I have two young children myself. This convention, like every other convention, is an event for the entire family, from the young to the old. Just like the Federation has something to offer for everyone of all ages, so does Las Vegas. When you’re not busy soaking up what you can in our seminars and workshops, when you’re not in general session with a few thousand fellow Federationists, soak up the sun in the lazy river or wave pool at the Mandalay Bay. Just be sure to remember the sunscreen and stay hydrated. Not a fan of the heat? No problem. I actually highly recommend keeping a sweater with you at all times because the hotels are kept quite cold. You can spend your down time with the kids touching sting rays and sitting inside a sunken ship with sharks swimming around you at the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium. Want to venture off the resort property? Your choices are endless. Take Uber or Lyft to get up Las Vegas Boulevard to downtown where you’ll find famous Fremont Street, and hop on one of the double decker busses known as the Deuce. Many hotels are connected by sky bridges and a monorail as well. Whatever your pleasure, just be mindful that you’re not the only tourist. Most people you encounter on the Strip will most likely be visitors just like you and won’t know where they are going either.
As you make your plans for the 2019 NFB National Convention, I suggest planning an extra day for your stay for play. Lastly: don’t forget the sunscreen.