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The ASHE 2002 National Conference "ExpERIEnce"

The Franklin Section recently hosted the National Conference in Erie, PA, along the shores of Lake Erie. There were 506 individuals who took advantage of the opportunity to share time, information, and the overall "ExpERIEnce."

With the exception of the first day, the weather was a friend and provided the attendees with the opportunity to shop, dine, or simply walk the downtown area and the many local amenities that Erie has to offer.

The conference started on Wednesday, June 5, with 45 exhibitors entrenched in the Presque Isle Ballroom at the Avalon Hotel. An icebreaker reception, complete with hors d'oevres and an open bar, coupled with the opening of the Hospitality Room proved to be a worthy start to the conference.

Thursday and Friday were extremely busy days, allowing the roll out of a technical program that supported the conference's Intermodal theme. The general session was well attended and included a welcome from two new leaders in Erie, Mayor Richard Filippi and County Executive Rick Schenker. The session concluded with Tom Gage, as Doctor Usher Parson, enlightening all about the hardships of battles fought, in years past, on the Great Lakes.

The Maglev Technical Session included a dialogue with representatives from Maglev, Incorporated, the Pennsylvania Project, and their competitors at the Baltimore/Washington Project. More than 120 guests participated in the session. The Executive Director from the Erie International Airport then shared insight into the master planning process currently under way. The attendees were next treated to a sneak preview of the soon-to-be completed Intermodal Complex located on Erie's Bayfront. The tour was hosted by the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority (the providers of the shuttle service throughout the conference).

The technical sessions concluded Thursday with four bus loads of people reviewing the new Erie East Side Access project. This transportation initiative will link Erie's bayfront and downtown area to Interstate 90, approximately seven miles to the southeast. A spouse tour, "Country Culture," also was rolled out on Thursday.

The Thursday Mystery Diner Theatre provided the backdrop for some unusually embarrassing moments for some (we won't mention names) and comedic relief for all. The Mayhem, Incorporated production was woven into the buffet dining experience and five participants actually figured out "who dunnit."

After an early breakfast on Friday morning, 127 golfers descended on the Riverside Golf Course for a shotgun start, four-person scramble. Still others participated in the Erie Shipyard & Freighter Tour and the General Electric Transportation Tour. The spouses had two additional venues-"Toast to the Grape Coast" and the "Unique Boutique," which included a luncheon cruise on Lake Erie.

At the Past President's Luncheon, a formal presentation was made for this year's Robert E. Pearson Award winner for Person of the Year, Governor Tom Ridge, now Director of Homeland Security. Ann DiTullio from the Governor's Northwest Regional Office was on hand to receive the award.

The highlight for the sunny Friday evening was the Beach Party, replete with a DJ, a buffet dinner, and the Erie Maritime Museum and bayfront surroundings. More than 250 conference goers attended the event, danced to the music, and toured the museum. The night concluded, as always, with a Hospitality Room visit for additional socializing.

Saturday was reserved for many to tour Niagara Falls/Casino in New York. The tour started early and, for some, ended late, as several buses took the opportunity to stop at the duty-free shops at the U.S./Canadian border. Casino goers reported some gains, some losses, but all seemed to have memorable experiences to share from their day. Upon their return, a reception was held complete with hors d'oeuvres and an open bar to set the stage for the grand finale at the Annual Banquet Dinner.

Preceding the dinner and the entertainment, new officers were installed by Gene G. Smith, including Sandra K. Ivory, from the Altoona Section, the 2002-2003 ASHE National President. We offer our congratulations and wish all good luck during the coming year. In addition, Past-President Cooper E. Curtis, took time to recognize Russell E. Horn, Sr., P.E., for his many contributions to the industry and to the ASHE organization. The gregarious Mr. Horn accepted the recognition and offered some heartfelt thanks to all. Again, we offer our congratulations and sincere thanks to Mr. Horn.

After dinner, "Mr. Physics" entertained us with his unique flair for teaching physics through dramatically visual and dynamic experiences. The presentation was well received by the 200 participants and concluded the formal part of the ASHE 2002 ExpERIEnce!

The conference committee felt privileged to offer this conference to ASHE and would like to thank all the exhibitors, sponsors, patrons, volunteers, and, of course, the participants for making the 2002 event so memorable. We look forward to seeing you at the 2003 National Conference in Akron, OH; it promises to be a very special event.

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