July 21, 2014
MGAA – Mounted Games Across America’s National Competition was held June 10-13, 2014 in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania at the Grange County Equestrian Center. I signed myself up to play a few different rolls at this event. I was the main organizer, with a lot of help! I was the masters division chief referee and I was also a rider on my usual team, Old School, in the adult/fossil division. I have been debating how to attack this blog post, and have decided to write it from different perspectives.
Today – Organizer, dun dun dun.
First and foremost, no organizer can get her job done successfully without an outstanding fleet of volunteers. And I was not short in this department. Nancy, fellow competitor and good friend, was co-organizer. Last year I filled this roll for her and it is a valuable position. Not only did she pick up the slack on organizer tasks, but she kept me in line, “did you do such and such”, and “I already took care of such and such”. And she also took care of “Krista, get down off that ledge” type of support. Nancy was also extremely essential with the organizational decisions, like how many teams per final heat, scheduling every aspect, and the ever difficult task of finding other volunteers that suited different tasks. And that was just in advance of the event!
My other biggest volunteer was Wendi. Initially she signed up to “help with sponsorship and awards” but boy did we develop that job into more than that. She helped with paperwork, she manned the check in booth, and she played hostess, in her apron, making sure all the busy officials were fed and watered. And don’t let me get started on how many sponsors she got! Apparently she has a knack for calling places and saying “hey, do you guys have some old stuff in your warehouse you wouldn’t mind donating”. And for some reason, people listen to her!
Another volunteer that cannot go unaccounted for is our par-tay hostess, Ashleigh. Nancy and I had a few things set up in advance (the music, DJ Shorty Rock, and the mechanical bull) and we fed Ashleigh some ideas. She enlisted Wendi, and then took the party and rolled with it. The girl set up an ice cream bar, (with Wendi, in apron, serving) she spray painted a giant twister board on the grass, she had corn hole boards and a table of raffle prizes. And one of my personal favorites, she had a backdrop with the MGAA Nationals 2014 logo on it, and Wendi brought a bunch of funny hats to take photos in. Ashleigh and Wendi set up a row of potluck tables, and table and chairs for people to eat at. It was amazing. I did not think twice about this part of the event, and being able to enjoy myself was fantastic.
Of course an event of this size also requires a host of other valuable volunteers; announcers, scorers, referees, scribes, assistant referees, ring crew chiefs, a TD, and other people who step up to run and pick up more lime, fill in a job without being asked, unload trucks, and top off pony water buckets (thanks Colin!).
Running this event was something I really did enjoy. I like planning things and making them happen, and seeing how great it can be. I really had fun with the matchy-matchy-ness of the prizes. And the feeling of all the pieces coming together was outstanding. It’s our organizations Nationals event, and I wanted it to not only be amazing and memorable, but I wanted it to stand out as the best and biggest competition of the year.
One of the things I should have thought about more logistically in advance, was the size and weight of the prizes. I wanted every competitor to get something awesome with the special logo on it that only competitors at nationals would get. And the more of one item I ordered, the less expensive per piece it was to order. So I thought, what the heck, how cool is a camp folding chair with the logo on it? Flipping cool, right? Right! What I did not think about was how I was going to transport 130 of these flipping cool camping chairs, along with everything else, to the event. Cool, yes. Logistically, not so much.
I also ordered everyone a plastic tumbler cup with a straw and screw on lid with the logo. 2nd-4th place got Beach towels with the logo, and all competitors welcome packets came in a cotton tote bag with the logo. 1st place received saddle pads with a sponsor logo, plus the MGAA logo embroidered on them. And 1st and 2nd place also got leather key fobs with the competition and title engraved on them. I really liked this item instead of an engraved plate. There were also various race prizes, mostly from sponsors like Kerrits, A Horse Box, Mootugs, VTO Saddlery, the Summer Sizzler competition series and Mid-Atlantic #1 and Mid-Atlantic #3 competitions. Just to name a few. Everyone went home with lots of cool stuff. But note to self, and any future organizer, think about space and weight when transportation of prizes is necessary.
Two of the things that took extensive amounts of time was the stabling assignments and the work schedule. Most people have a preference of who they want to be stabled with, which is complicated because those people also have other people they want to be stabled with, or that they are traveling with, or that they do not want to be stabled with, or a specific aisle they want to be stabled in, etc etc. And to complicate it, we had people staying over an additional night, and then competitors coming in early for the next competition that same night. But that was easy compared to the work schedule. At a normal competition, you might see some of the specific positions assigned, but most are left to be more easily filled by teams assigned. For nationals, particularly with so many teams, 3 days of competition and on a tight schedule to maintain, we needed to not only make sure we stayed on time, but that no one was over worked, while others sat on their butts. This required scheduling everyone. And diligently keeping in mind, who is good at what job, and who is not, who works best with who, and who does not. Having a mix of experienced and not experienced people working together was essential, so we are training new people, while still keeping the pace moving. Keeping in mind who tends to zone out while assistant refereeing, and who gets too talkative when they are stationed with specific others. The list of factors goes on.
These two tasks were interrupted when last minute rider changes were made. But things happen, and if having to scramble for one more person to work a job, or being short one body for a heat was the worst thing that happened during the event, I think we were doing pretty good.
Some of the other endless tasks that go into planning an event I this size includes enlisting a vet to be on call during the competition. And also scheduling a vet to complete pony jogs. Unfortunately this task fell apart two days before the competition. I also attempted to schedule an EMT to be on grounds but was unable to get confirmation with the local squad so I utilized one of our own members who just so happens to be a professional Paramedic and Nurse. Ironically the local unit did end up showing up anyway.
There were shavings to accounted for, commemorative shirts to be designed and ordered, the games equipment needed to be prepped, race lists created, and then adjusted for sponsored races, camp sites ordered, endless email and phone calls to be dispatched and replied to, riders in need of teams and teams needing riders, ponies to be sorted and all of this required last minute changes.
There was an Australian team attending which I had a lot of help organizing ponies, accommodations and information for. There were contracts to sign and ring watering needs to arrange, insurance to get, checks coming in the mail, cogins and entries and more and more emails. And let’s not forget the information collected for the program (which Genevieve did an outstanding job putting together) including sponsors and ads.
A lot of people needed something special at some point during the competition, there was always at least a dozen things I needed to be doing at any given time, I felt like a spinning top, answering questions, and even more frustrating, answering the same suggestion multiple times in a row. Late nights, early mornings, long days, and add a several hour solo drive on either end (with a major storm on the way home). It took me this full past week to recover.
I spent massive amounts of time organizing this event. The last four weeks I spent several hours a day and woke up several nights remembering something I had forgotten. But I think it was worth it. I believe nearly everyone attending had a fantastic time. I hope so at least!
Ok so this blog post was probably really boring. Who cares about all the logistics and technical details? We just want to hear about the fun! Ok, Ill talk about that in a future blog post.