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Memories of a Convention Organiser

The BONANZA 50th Anniversary Friendship Convention

Memories of a Convention Organizer


            It is hard to believe that it is fifty years since, at the age of twelve, I sat down with my mother to watch that very first episode of BONANZA. It was soon apparent that it wasn’t just another western, with a loner chasing the baddies across the screen.  This had four characters in a home setting and for many of us it became our family, father and three brothers, and they belonged to us.

            Fifty years on two hundred and forty of us gathered at the Horizon Hotel at Lake Tahoe to celebrate its golden anniversary.  It still airs everyday somewhere in the world even though it ceased production in 1972.  At conventions I rarely get to join in all the activities and so my view is often different from the fans who attend.  This time, for reasons which will become apparent as you read on,  I saw less than usual, so I thought maybe you would like to hear what a convention organizer does, or at least some of it.  It might serve as a rough guide for anyone thinking of taking on the task for the future.

            My convention for 2009 began when the 2005 one ended, somehow I had been talked into doing another. The momentum gradually builds up over the years until at its height I was receiving some 200 emails a day from volunteers, venues, suppliers, fans who wanted to attend, fans just needing information.

            Before you can even advertise a convention you need to have done many months of work.  First things first a date and a venue; the date was easy 50 years on from that first airing, 12th September 2009. Unfortunately, our previous venue was unavailable due to planned construction work (this never materialized and we could have gone there after all) and so we short-listed 6 hotels that could accommodate us and Tom Swann visited them and narrowed it down four and then to the Horizon as the best buy.  It could take 250 of us ( our last two conventions had much less than this, how were we to know the response would be so good).  It could supply all the catering we needed, plenty of rooms, and a good standard of hotel services.  Next came a logo, a wonderful one was drawn up by Barb but getting that licenced was a nightmare all of its own.  We went on to costings and budgets, order forms, a program, buses, catering, guests, and a million more minutiae that make it all work.  One of the longest flow charts is for the anthology, which begins two years before we printing it, when we ask for submissions, find judges and editors and set a spreadsheet in motion that will miss nothing but arrive at a printed book two years later.     Winter 2007 and the tickets go on sale, the same price as for the last convention but with two extra trips as optional.  Could we do it within this budget?  Inflation can play havoc with a budget set this far in advance.  We needed our early deposits to cover our deposits to venues as we made losses on the last two conventions and have an overdraft!  The fans don’t let us down and the first fifty come in very nicely.  Volunteers also email, some with definite ideas of what they can do, many more with just a feeling that they want to be part of it.  You can’t interview volunteers in quite the same way as employees, you take what you can get.  I can honestly say that in twelve years of working with BONANZA fans I have had only a couple of bad experiences out of over a hundred people I have worked with.  BONANZA fans are the best.  

            March 2008 and the directors gathered at Tahoe to check that everything we want to do can be accomplished at our chosen venue.  Everything was fine, we went home confident and relieved.

            When we began planning this convention, Heike, Tom and I said it would be our last, we had said that before, but this time we meant it.  We wanted to make this the biggest and the best and we came close, although for me the first convention in 1999 will always be my favorite as I was a complete novice then. Up to 1999 I had only organized boat shows not fan conventions. We extended the event to 5 days and tried to include everything we had done at our previous 3 conventions.  It would be fine, I was retired now and didn’t have to fit everything in between work and home commitments.

            Throughout 2008, a steady stream of deposits came in. The anthology submissions arrived and there were plenty of good stories, it was hard to choose.  People nominated their choices for the Walter Awards and Heike valiantly tried to keep up with website changes, deposit paperwork, votes and much more as she fielded everything that came via the website to either myself or TomS.  TomS handled the finances and probably groaned everytime I found something new on which to spend money.  We were very lucky that most of our team captains had been with us before, so a lot of the basic organization of registration and auction were taken out of our hands and efficiently handled by Susan and Jerri.  Bev, had helped out in 2005 but this time she stepped in and took over the job of guest co-ordinator like she was born to it and even found time to fix discounts on airfares, car hire and the hotel rooms for fans as well as guests.  We set up a forum on the webpage for fans to talk to each other and to ask questions and we set up a FAQ page, but still the emails rolled in with queries.  At one point I was spending maybe two hours a day just answering emails, many of which had been covered on the webpage, but the customer is always right, and if an email will reassure and assure a ticket sale then an email it is.

            March 2009 and we again visited our venue to fine tune the details and order our catering.  We had meetings with suppliers, timed bus journeys, and of course enjoyed that wonderful scenery in the snow. Not enough snow for PatH’s sleigh ride unfortunately but there was more than enough work to do. Not to mention a BONANZA wedding to attend (see the last issue of BONANZA Gold).

            Rumors about our venue abounded in Stateline and we asked for a meeting with the hotel staff, only slightly reassured that the venue wasn’t about to close, we continued with our plans.  Two weeks after returning home we hear that the hotel has changed hands, our trusty staff who have got us this far are no longer in place and 5 months from Convention day we are dealing with new people.  Thankfully after a few sleepless nights the new people proved to be great, even if half of our requests had been lost in the changeover of paper work and had to be repeated.  Once again we are moving forward, checking and re-checking.

            Now is the time to talk to our V.I.P.’s again and be sure that they are all set and fix up their flights.  Thankfully most of them were still able to come and we agreed who would be on which panel, who needed to sign books, who needed an airport pick-up and when and many other details.  Our wranglers are set, but we are short of people to do airport runs.  Previous conventions we were forty-five minutes away, this time it is ninety minutes, necessitating a three to four hour absence from the convention for the wrangler or another driver.    

            Our wranglers were wonderful, everyone who had a car rallied around and offered to give up time to collect a guest.  A couple of husbands also added their cars to the pool and with one exception where we hired a taxi for a return trip, every guest was met and returned to the airport for their flights.  This epitomizes the attitude of all those who worked at the convention, nothing was too much trouble to make it a good experience for fans and guests.

            The program was very full and pretty much complete when we got the news we had longed to hear but thought we never would; we had permission to go to the Ponderosa Ranch.  Four years of asking through various channels was successful when Chuck Greene kindly lent his support and put us in touch with the right person to get our request granted.  Our first call was a nervous experience, we were assured that our request would be passed to the owner but that he had never granted permission before so not to hold out too much hope.  Back home I was on tenterhooks until we got the important email which said yes; yes with restrictions and things to iron out but a start.  A few more emails and a copy of the waiver required and it was okay to post it to the website.  The response was gratifying; almost everyone wanted to reserve a place on those four buses. 

            That’s great was our first thought, the second was how on earth do we fit it into our already over-flowing program without losing something we had already advertised.  A wet towel around the head and lots of minor moves and major decisions and we slipped it into the Saturday morning and not one thing was removed.  Of course fans would now need to make even more choices and lose even more sleep but it was worth it.

            The logistics took a while to sort out.  The auction had now moved to after the trip, so we had to make sure that anyone helping with the auction was on the first bus.  Guests and wranglers had to be on the same bus, and we had to have a director on bus one and a director on bus four in case of any problems.  Final the assigned seats were worked out and we had a list which fans could sign up to at registration… more lists.

            We now had our program. Our guest list was more or less complete, we had written personal letters to over forty alumni to get our final number.  All our suppliers were lined up and contracts signed.  Our volunteers were in place and in the case of our team captains, Susan, Jerri, Bev, PatH, PatD, Lynne, Lyn, Bailey and Ginger had already beginning their work.

            We canvassed for the votes for the Walter Awards (a new event), we requested choices for dinner, we added order forms for the Ponderosa and tallied all the results on numerous spreadsheets.  Isn’t it amazing that even with the same information two spreadsheets can differ – I don’t think my numbers matched with TomS’s until the very last week!

            Eight weeks out and we still had a few problems. Finding a supplier for printed helium balloons was a problem… most wanted to sell us 2,000 and not the 100 we wanted.  Matching electronic equipment was a difficult one to solve, our microphones and other items on loan from my son’s studio in Britain had different ends to the American equipment they had to link to, so leads had to be made up.  Then about 3 weeks before the event Andy emailed to say that he might not be able to get the uncut dvds.  Panic!  Much emailing and it was agreed that Heike and I would take our German dvds for the relevant episodes (two sets needed as some programmed episodes were in different theaters and required the same disk).  Lynne kindly spent her time recording the eleven episodes which were not in season 1 – 7.  Oh, then the next problem the dvd players at the hotel were not region free, so TomS was dispatched to buy two that would play European region dvds.  We were all set once again; apart from having to hear Ben “feast his eyes” speech at the start of every episode, we could still run our uncut or mostly uncut episodes.  A thousand small and not so small problems to be worked through and solved. 

            The dates for our deadline for numbers arrived and we sent them in, once this is done it is very difficult if not impossible to alter anything.  Unfortunately, an advertisement which we had hoped for in April, appeared late in July and generated more interest than we had anticipated.  Some forty fans asked about tickets after our ticket sales closed.  This was such a pity as every ticket sold meant more money for our charities or for extras and of course forty fans were disappointed.

            The last six weeks were spent fielding questions from fans, some we had already covered on our website but people needed reassurances on all manner of things.  Somewhere in all this I managed to make my own travel arrangements and get on the plane at the right time.  Even here we had planned to work, folding raffle tickets, but thankfully we decided against that in case a ticket got lost.

            We were on our way, everything was under control.  Well we had reckoned with out the California Highways Commission.  Our planned drive for our first night in Fairfield was lengthened as the Bay Bridge was closed and we had to go via the San Mateo Bridge, at least we had a different view of the Bay Area.

            I arrived at Tahoe on the Tuesday before the event, accompanied by my Emcee, Pat Dumas and her husband, Richard, who was earmarked to be our jack-of-all-trades, Pat Hirst our decorator and my youngest son Tom who was a non-Bonanza fan employed at no wages as our floor manager.  The things he does for his mother?  He had already been working on film clips, quizzes, dvds and rounding up microphones and wiring.  Good job he has his own business as a musician/studio manager/promoter. 

            Our first task was lunch with the estates manager for the Ponderosa and some of her team.  Very enjoyable, a great group of people, who were just a little bemused at group and its activities but they soon entered into the spirit of the event and offered to dress the part for our visit.  The only small hiccup was that Richard said he felt unwell. We headed down the highway beside the beautiful lake to the hotel and a meeting with the catering manager, while Richard went to rest.

            Wednesday and we were in full swing, with shopping for odd items that we had been unable to bring with us, and setting up the four rooms that we would be using following the detailed plans we had drawn up in England.  Tom Swann joined us with his new BONANZA bride of 6 months, Louise.  Thankfully she was ready to go to work and all the sales and money issues were immediately taken out of my hands into their very capable ones.  Heike arrived, and we all laughed with delight at the little men and admired her table place mats.  Unpacking boxes took up most of the afternoon, finding all the things shipped from Arizona and the odd items sent in by printers, tourist boards etc.  There is a certain joy and pride in opening a box and finding that the brochure or table centerpiece is exactly how you wanted it to be. 

            We were all set, or were we?  The night before a convention is not one for sleeping, even if PatH and I were not suffering from time shift.  We woke at two or three in the mornings and made tea (the English survive on tea through any crisis) and started work.  Supplies in our room, bought at the local supermarket, meant we could have a quick breakfast while still working.  Eight thirty and we were in the parking lot with two green and white Amador buses and Wendy from Amador, who had purchased a ticket so that she could see what a crazy lot we really were, after working with me for two years to fix all our trips.  Our first problem; a lovely couple arrive, who have no tickets because we thought they had canceled.  Solution; put them on the bus and sort it all out while they are enjoying Virginia City.  I am glad to say that with a bit of maneuvering and the cancellation of a guest at the last minute, we managed to add them to the necessary events by the time they returned.

            Thursday was spent with the wonderful hotel staff setting up chairs for theaters, tables for dinners, screens and projectors for dvds.  All was going well, except that Richard was still feeling ill. We put it down to a virus and the altitude, and while he rested between bouts of work, we carried on.  During the day our work was interrupted with pleasant interludes as friends from previous conventions arrived.  Jean and Ginger were dispatched to find a piece of equipment without which the dvds in the small theater would not run and to collect Andy.  Andy had now managed to obtain the dvds, so was needed by mid afternoon to check them with the equipment, our back up was a German set of dvds provided by myself and Heike and some eleven episodes kindly recorded by Lynne from the later episodes.  These were checked and found to work fine, if you allowed for Ben ‘feasting his eyes’ repeatedly before every episode.

            The bus is back from Virginia City, everyone seems to have had a great time and is looking for me.  Exactly on schedule, episodes (thankfully without the Ben speech) begin in the two theaters.  I slip away for a meal but remember to be back to run a slide show later in the evening, while my son runs a quick quiz in the other theater.

            Friday started badly with a knock on my door at around 6 a.m.  PatD was taking Richard to the ER, he could hardly breath.  She promised to be back in time for dinner but my first job of the day was to alert Jerri, just in case I needed a stand-in emcee.  Jerri didn’t blink an eyelid at the extra task just asked if Pat had any notes and what was the program.  Friday is always the big day with the bustle of registration.  Susan has handled registration at two of the three previous conventions, what could be a problem?  Well, never before have we had over half of the fans already here the night before.  By the opening time of 9.30, while I was still welcoming and setting up our sellers at their tables, we had a line all along the very long corridor to the convention center.  We held them over for an extra 10 minutes to allow a few tables to finish setting up then it was up to Susan and her fantastic team to register them all.  Handing out badges and tote bags, marking them all off on various lists and dishing out seminar tickets and Ponderosa tickets at full speed but with no mistakes.  For a while the line seemed to grow rather than diminish and we held over the two dvds due to start at 10 a.m. for an extra ten minutes, but one or two people still missed the beginning of something.

            The props and costumes exhibition was a great success, with each of the owners taking a turn to police it, but not a bit of trouble, although a few people hankered after Joe’s boots.  Nevada Magazine did a roaring trade and there were customers around both the Dress the Party and Andy’s photo tables.  Book signings and autographs also had lines but no one waited too long.  While all this was going on Bev and her team of wranglers were meeting or collecting our guests.  This went remarkably smoothly, or maybe Bev just fielded the queries and I never got to hear.  That is why I love my team captains.  Tom and Louise sold out of tee shirts and mugs (we had restricted the order because on our last event we didn’t want a lot of stock left over).  Authors collected their Anthologies and the remainder were selling fast. 

            I didn’t get to see the first panel, but I hear it went well.  That is the problem with being the organizer, you never get to see any of the things you would enjoy as a fan.  I am looking forward to 2011 when I hope to be just an anonymous fan seeing all the things I missed.  I also missed the history seminar given by Nevada State Historian, Ron James, which was a great pity as it was titled “Sex and Violence on the Comstock”.  A writer always wants more historical information and this sounded as if it might have some good ideas for future stories.  While this was going on, and during Andy’s special dvds which always have a full audience, I was checking on things for dinner and making sure that the two end rooms were completely re-arranged for dinner instead of theaters.  The hotel staff led by Adrian and supervised by TomG, moved theater equipment, chairs and tables and re-set for dinner.  PatH and her team also didn’t see anything all day as they were decorating the room and the tables.  Seven little men and various other objects to go in the centre, around a centerpiece with helium balloons to be blown up (yes we found a supplier and didn’t they look good), table mats, place settings, photos on the walls, decorations around the doors and from the lights. It was magical.

            PatD arrived back from the hospital but Richard didn’t, he had been hospitalized.  The professional that she is, Pat reassured me that he would be fine and went ahead as emcee.  By this time I was feeling rough, with a sore throat and similar symptoms to Richard.  A trip to Raley’s Pharmacy and a nice pharmacist who recommended a remedy plus copious quantities of Gatorade and I was managing to stay at work.      

            We had to seat 240 people in about 20 minutes, no mean feat when each one has to dip into a bucket to find their table.  My voice was hoarse by the time I had finished shouting doubles or singles at the line in an effort to hurry it along.  But my, didn’t everyone look wonderful.  We have had a few fans dress up every year but this time they out did themselves, with so many wonderful dresses and great look-a-likes.

            A quick check on Bev’s guest line up, and the signal to TomG to stop playing piano and revert to his role as floor manager for a while before playing through dinner, and we were off.   I made it through the guest entrances and the salad but while waiting for the main course I decide to get some air.  That was the last I saw of dinner until the speeches began as I fainted in the corridor.  Three ministering angels, PatD, Lynne and Lora, got me back on my feet in time to hear Kent McCray and the Ghost of Mark Twain and to see the wonderful tribute dvds that Ginger had made.
            Despite still feeling ill, I really enjoyed the dinner speeches and Mark Twain was all that I had hoped.  It is always a gamble when you hire someone to talk, it maybe your ‘cup of tea’ but will it be everyone else’s.  Feeling rough I decided to miss the two late episodes, despite them being two of my favorites and to head for bed.

            Saturday and another early start at around 3 a.m.- couldn’t sleep again – a leisurely cup of tea soon sets you up for the day.  We checked all our lists for the Ponderosa.  Out in the parking lot at 7.45 and the first bus arrived complete with the nicest driver.  The sun was shining and our 45 minute drive to the ranch was heaven.  Some were old hands at ranch visits and others were looking forward to their first sight of the Ponderosa, but all were excited.  We never thought this would happen.  We headed for where the main gate used to be, not any more, so we backed up and around the side road and into the parking lot where we picked up a handsome cowboy, who escorted us up the hill to the house.  Megan, who we had met the previous week, was dressed in her saloon girl outfit and selling maps and water, in aid of charity.  We were permitted to wander at will through the house and around the yard and no one felt rushed or pressured.  Plenty of time for photos, including a good group one with the house as a background.  The staff were wonderful; holding back to allow us room to move, but keeping an eye on the treasures of the house.  They had even found large Ponderosa pine cones and left them around for us to take home as souvenirs.  I wonder how many were smuggled through customs?  Our turn over, we climbed on the bus and waved to the second bus as we passed it in the road.  Our driver negotiated a particularly difficult bend and managed not to demolish one of the out buildings and we were away back to the hotel.

            My time as a fan was over for a while and I reverted to organizer and checked that all last night’s tables had been moved and a dance floor laid.  Games had been delivered – toss the bean bag, rope a cactus etc.  Then a quick snack break before checking that PatH’s decorators were back on the job of making the room look good for the party and that Jerri’s team had got the auction under control;  of course being my wonderful team leaders, I could have taken this for granted.  I join up with PatD once more and checked that Richard was progressing well.  Pat originally had three spells of duty on Saturday, but Jean has kindly offered to take over the panel moderator’s job to allow Pat to go back to visit Richard between the Walter Awards and the party.

            12.30 and fans flood in to view the items for auction, lots of oohs and aahs and notes made before everyone sits down.  PatD and I take our places at a side table to record all the bids. I make sure I have my auction number as there are a couple of items that interest me.  Jerri has been auctioneering for us for four conventions so armed with a microphone and gavel she is away.  Over 100 items to be sold in two hours. I don’t think she stopped talking for the whole time.  The first items fetched very good prices and I was amazed at how high some folk would go.  It was fun to see Mrs Landon bidding against her business manager and Sean Landon’s delight when he won an item.  Stuntman, Ray Mazy commented to his wife, “why did you let me throw out all those old scripts” when a couple of scripts fetched high prices.  Then my items came up, a quilt with pictures of Adam in every episode he appeared in, went for a very reasonable amount and it was (is) beautiful.  I got that one.  Then the picture I wanted, three heads of Adam on canvas.  The bidding rose higher and higher and a couple of times I knew I should stop, but I wanted it too badly.  The hammer finally fell; it was mine.  Jerri jokingly said I needed to sell my son to pay for it, and Ginger began the bidding – I think the figure had almost reached a thousand dollars for him, when he decided to make himself scarce in case mother really meant it! 

            In all the auction raised just over $15,000.  Once the sellers who had not donated were paid out and the expenses covered, we had $13,000 to donate to charity.  This was not quite as good as in 1999, but better than the previous two conventions and for a recession, not at all bad.  The breakdown of donations is: Michael Landon Cancer Fund, $5,000, The British Heart Foundation, $4,000, The Thanksforgiving Project, $1,500, The Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Fund, $1,000 and the Incline Village and Crystal Bay Historical Society, $1,500.  You may recall that the $2,000 raised by our Ponderosa visit is also going to the Historical Society.

            While Jerri rested her voice, Tom and Louise set up a table in the hallway to receive the payments and Jerri and her team handed over items as receipts were shown.  I cheated and slip into the front of the line to make my large payment, and then quickly picked up my spoils and headed to my room to put them away safely.  As I set down the picture, I felt a bit like Little Joe with the pane of glass in “The Flapjack Contest”, where to put it so that no one sat on it, put something on top of it or did anything to damage it.

            Not long enough to debate as I had to be back downstairs for the Walter Awards in less than half an hour.  PatD back at the microphone and Walter looking on from two large posters and we got underway again.  It was such fun to watch the clips from the nominated shows and then to have the winner revealed.  (A list of winners will be in the Special Convention Issue of BONANZA Gold).  Some were a foregone conclusion.  Did anyone really expect to see Tirza defeated as Lamest Cartwright Love Interest?  Others were more hotly contested, such as Best regular Supporting Character where Hop Sing beat Roy Coffee and Jamie to win the award.  Brent Young proudly accepted the framed certificate on behalf of his father.  I made a point of watching Greg Walcott’s expression as the winner of the Best Villain was announced.  He’d made it to nomination but was beaten by that superb performance by Lee Marvin in “The Crucible.”  He was clapping as hard as the rest of us and didn’t seem disappointed.  Best Male Guest Star came up and again Greg was nominated; yes, that was genuine surprise, if not shock on his face when he won.  His framed award was presented by his ‘wrangler’ Debbie Beshears and to see little Debbie and very tall Greg on stage together was a delight.  Both Brent and Greg gave short thank you speeches but it was the look on their faces that made my day.  We had managed to say thank you to Greg and Victor for all the hours of pleasure they had given us.

            Ceremony over and most people hung around for the second guest panel.  No time for me to do that.  I made a quick check on the party room and had a word or two with the catering staff to see that all was ready.  I also got a sneak preview of the cake with its map iced on top and then met up with PatH to go and have a short break.  Well not really a break - I had only a short time to change into my party outfit and with the corsets and feathers to be fixed that was going to be a challenge.   

            Saturday evening’s party was everything I had hoped.  Many people dressed up and some of the dresses were masterpieces, especially the ones that were home sewn.  Everyone joined in with the fun. I could see tables with a mix of guests and fans, people circulating with cameras and everyone posing for photographs, whichever way I turned.  Maggie and her team ran the raffle, star prizes were two wonderful Breyer horses in Cochise disguise, donated by Breyer.  There were also several sports bags donated by JanSports, and a number of clocks donated by Cheryl Whitman Dubuque, all with BONANZA scenes on the face, also out of print copies of BONANZA Gold and convention tee shirts.  They raised $900 for charity.  Maggie even missed the dress parade to stay at her post.

            Tom Gwyther played piano for most of the evening and at times was joined by the sweet voice of Paula Proffitt. Both were in character as saloon piano player and dance hall girl, respectively. Then of course we had a wonderful square dance with Butch and Jean.  My son briefly left his post at the piano to dance with me, something never seen before and not likely to be seen again!  We may not have gone in the right direction or known the moves but everyone was laughing so much it didn’t matter, it was just fun.  I don’t know how Jean and Butch kept calling without giving up in despair.  Of course Butch played his saw, which is always a highlight of any BONANZA convention and he was ably accompanied by Jean with her much more expensive guitar.  Finally, Mitch was persuaded to the stage to play guitar and his daughter Shauna sang with him.  My thanks to all our music makers, who gave up their evening to entertain us.

            I managed to circulate and talk to everyone of our guests, thanking them for joining us for the weekend.  Regretably, there were too many demands on my time for long chats.  I did, however, manage to have my photo taken with Sean Landon, even got to put my arm around him.  While waiting for many cameras to flash, we chatted and he commented on my outfit, (picture large, 60+ lady, in saloon madam’s outfit complete with feathers, with young handsome man). He may be shy but I can tell you that he has inherited every bit of his father’s charm with the ladies, even old ones!

            There was not a dry eye in the room when Greg Walcott led his wife Barbara to the floor to dance to the Frank Sinatra hit, Night and Day.  Everyone else stepped back and allowed them the floor to themselves, a magical moment.

            The hotel had done us proud with the buffet supper and, when it was announced, the lines soon led around the room,.  It took time for everyone to get served but not a minute was wasted as friends chatted in the line.  Supper over, the plan had been to bring in the cake to celebrate BONANZA’s anniversary, but just as I was about to alert the catering manager that we were ready, Uschi hi-jacked the microphone.  She called all the organizing team to the stage and gave a wonderful thank you speech; she then presented us each with a board full of photos, which everyone present was asked to sign, and a director’s chair in red, white and blue.  It was a kind gesture and the thoughts were much appreciated.  We do not do this for thanks, but is gratifying to know that the hard work is recognized.  Our biggest thanks comes from seeing all the happy faces.

            Somewhat later than planned the cake was wheeled in.  The chef had iced the Ponderosa map to the top and five candles, one for each of the ten years of BONANZA’s life, sat exactly where the map usually bursts into flames.  After much clapping and snapping of cameras it was taken away to be cut and then soon devoured.

            At 11 p.m. Andy began an hour of special dvds and then there was a showing of the very first episode aired all those years ago, “A Rose for Lotta”.  However, this was a somewhat unorthodox viewing as it was done in Rocky Horror style.  I missed both as I was clearing away items in the party room and then I needed my bed as my virus was not yet ready to let go.
            Sunday was another early start, as we all waited in the sunshine for the buses to take us to Zephyr Cove and our Champagne Breakfast on Dixie.  This is always a highlight for me as it is one event where I do get to relax for a while, although I had never yet managed to see the flume site at Glenbrook.  On previous cruises I had been either sorting out a problem or chatting to a guest.  This time I was determined to be there on deck when the boat made its turn.  Once again despite emails and phone calls where we were assured of the contrary, we were kept waiting on the dock.  As an organizer I fail to see why when the boat company has given us a time to arrive, and we have arrived at exactly the specified time, we can’t simply walk on to the boat.  We had chartered the whole boat so it wasn’t a matter of waiting for others.  But this was a minor irritation on such a lovely morning. The breakfast was a good one though I didn’t feel it lived up to previous years and the organization for serving wasn’t so good.  Perhaps I see things with an organizers eye for ‘next time’ as no one else seemed to complain.  Once breakfasted, I headed up on deck and was rewarded with the beautiful blue of the lake and the wonderful views up into the mountains that surround it.  And yes, this time I did see the flume site. I could just see Joe ordering his brothers around to build it.
               My next aim was to attend the Writer’s Seminar but that was thwarted.  While we had been gone the piano and the games had been collected, the dance floor lifted and the end rooms restored to seminar room and theater.  Tom G had been hard at work along with the hotel staff.  My first job was to set up for the quiz.  This entailed two long tables and some white paper to cover it and then drawing up six lanes for the competitors and marking off the lanes at one foot intervals to indicate each correct question answered.  TomG and TomS set up the buzzer system and the microphone and we were all ready.  By this time the Writer’s Seminar was more than half over but I did make it for a short visit.  Susan was doing a great job and Wendy Czarnecki made a valuable contribution. 

            A quick break and it was time for me to attend the quiz.  Lynne was our quizmistress and my job was to move horses and elephant as the teams answered correctly.  Not onerous and a lot of fun as Buck took the lead and kept it.  My only problem was that Little Sheba (daughter of Old Sheba) had wobbly legs, maybe it was stage fright or perhaps she just didn’t want to race against horses.  She insisted on sitting down every now and again and had to be coaxed to her feet, ornery just like her mother!  Buck won the race easily and the prizes were awarded to Lyn, Janie and Michele.  Then Jerri stepped in to auction off the contestants.  Bidding was brisk and Pee Wee was sold to his master’s wife on a quick bid from the corridor.  We were all delighted to see the model Pee Wee going home with the original owner of the real horse, Jamie (Mitch Vogel). 

            No time to stop after the quiz.  We turn all of the audience chairs around and I go in search of the flapjacks for the contest, while everyone watches the episode.  I did get to see about half of this episode, my first of the convention. Six plates of flapjacks, spare plates, water, butter, syrup and of course Vinegar were all laid up on the tables and the contestants were called out.  No sign of Andy (although he had faithfully promised to take part), so my reserve candidate Kevin was called upon and he bravely rose to the occasion.  Definitely a dark horse, the man who didn’t want to take part unless it was to make up numbers, went on to win.

            I had no time to stop after the quiz. We turned all of the audience chairs around and I go in search of the flapjacks for the contest, while everyone watches the episode, The Flapjack Contest. I did get to see about half of this episode, my first of the convention. Six plates of flapjacks, spare plates, water, butter, syrup and of course vinegar were all laid up on the tables and the contestants were called out. No sign of Andy (although he had faithfully promised to take part), so my reserve candidate Kevin was called upon and he bravely rose to the occasion. Definitely a dark horse, the man who didn’t want to take part unless it was to make up numbers, went on to win. It was great to hear all the cheers for the contestants and particularly nice to see Sharon out there representing last time’s winner Harvey. We send all our best wishes to Harvey for a good recovery.
          Now to clear all this away and prepare for the worst part of the whole convention, for me that is. I hate microphones and at every convention at some point I have to use one. This time I had been clever enough to avoid the dreaded thing for the weekend, but on our last convention there was no way that the organizer was going to be allowed to stay silent. As usual I had prepared a speech, but then on the advice of a couple of friends, I simply highlighted a few points and spoke off the cuff to a certain extent. I wanted this speech to come from the heart, not from a piece of paper. I sat in the front row, nervously twisting the notes as Pat Dumas skillfully did her part of introducing folk and handing out prizes for the Best Dress and Look-a-like Contest and the Flapjack Contest.
       Heike was unable to be at the closing ceremony as she was working; taking Mitch and his family to the airport, but she was with us in spirit as we brought to an end our twelve year run of conventions. Tom Swann took to the stage, to explain to folk why we were stopping the conventions and magazine. At the start of the weekend we had hoped someone would take up the baton, but there had been no offers. During the event Cheryl Dubuque came forward and she will be organizing a new convention for 2011, so keep watching for details. Tom outlined how to order more mugs and T-shirts which had sold out on registration day. He explained that we would be winding up our company but that back issues of BONANZA Gold would be on sale for sometime yet. (Visit the magazine page to see what’s still available and watch the front page for special offers to come).
      Finally, it was my turn to wind things up. My first job was to thank the local pharmacist and the makers of Gatorade for keeping me on my feet all weekend. I must have swallowed a lot of pills and drunk gallons of the drink in those four days. Then I looked out over the sea of faces. Some were old friends, some new ones and some I still had yet to meet, but all had helped to make this the best ever. I likened us all to those wheels the Cartwrights are forever mending; the VIP guests are the hub of our activities, the teams of helpers the spokes and Heike, Tom and I the rim, holding it together. (well, most of the time!) My thanks went out to each and everyone in the audience and to some who had helped, but had not even made the convention. My last convention had been wonderful despite the virus, but I would not have been able to do it without the help of my son, Tom. He’s not even a BONANZA fan, though he does watch it when he is with me on occasion. When making up the dvd quiz, he remarked that it had to stop, as he was beginning to be able to guess the episodes from clips. A new convert maybe!
       Speeches over, there was a call for all the Brits to come on stage for a group photo, twenty of us had made it across the pond for the event and we were a motley crew. Son Tom was made to join in and sat on my knee for the first time in more than twenty-five years! 
       The closing ceremony was over but the convention was not. We sorted ourselves out and TomG went back to his post and the episodes rolled in two theaters for the rest of the evening. I went to say a few goodbyes to guests and friends who were leaving and then to bed. One day left to go; a nice long leisurely trip around the lake.
       Monday morning was glorious and we set off in our two buses. Bev, the commentator on one, and me on the other, if my voice would hold out. My bus went north first, and I learned that Americans call it counter-clockwise. The driver had wondered where he was going when I had a notice with anti-clockwise written on the placard for our bus. We were a great group and there was much chat and laughter all day. Perhaps our most memorable stop was at Incline Village where we all marched over the road to the wonderful exhibition set up by the Incline Village and Crystal Bay Historical Society. It was a chance to see some of the history of the area, and to take a look and the BONANZA exhibition, with items donated by Chuck Greene. Chuck was there to meet us and to chat to everyone, so the stop was a wee bit longer than the schedule called for, but very enjoyable.
       We had lunch at Tahoe City, and then went on to Emerald Bay. On this part of the trip our driver, Larry, entertained us by telling us he had never driven a bus around these curves before, and we all shouted and raised our hands as though on a roller coaster. Juvenile perhaps, and, not good for anyone of a nervous disposition, but great fun. The parking lot at Emerald Bay was full; nowhere to stop! Larry would not be put off, he knew how much we wanted to see that view, so he found a space large enough to pull the bus off the road a bit further along and we had a different view of the island and the view down to the bay, but just as spectacular. Our final stop was Valhalla and the houses in the National Park, before heading back to the hotel. My voice just about made it to the end of the trip, and I hope my commentary added a little to the enjoyment for those who did not know the lake and its history. 
       Monday night is a mix of pleasure that the event has gone well with no major problems, and sadness that it is coming to an end. Richard was back among us with orders to move to a lower altitude, so we began our packing to go to Carson City. I did manage to watch a couple of episodes in between chats with friends, whom I had not been able to spend time with, and then it was the very last episode, "Hoss and the Leprechauns". What could be nicer. I have to admit that I dozed in places, and I saw one or two others resting their eyes at times. Once everyone was gone, the technical among us, TomG, Ginger, Jean and a few others, started dismantling equipment and rolling up cables and it was all over.
       My 12 years doing conventions and my seven on the magazine have been hard work, stressful, and at times, downright frustrating, but overall, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I have made so many good friends and many more acquaintances, and I hope that, in some small way, we have all helped understanding between people of different backgrounds.
       An organizer’s work doesn’t end with the end of the weekend, there is still much to do to wind up the company, though I am glad to say that most of that falls to Tom Swann and his financial genius. 
       It has been a wonderful ride, but as I said at the closing ceremony, the rim of the wheel is wearing thin after 12 years and it is time for someone else to take up the reins and continue the BONANZA journey. The legacy will never die.


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           BONANZA first aired in the UK in May 1960.  In May 2010 a group of us gathered to celebrate this anniversary. 
           Although primarily intended for Europeans we were delighted to welcome a few friends from across the pond to help us celebrate.  To add to our enjoyment, our guest star was none other than Mitch Vogel (Jamie Cartwright) and his wife Chris who spent a week in Liverpool and London learning about Mitch's favorite stars, The Beatles.
          We did all the usual things, a quiz, dvds, games, a party but most of all we made new friends and renewed old acquaintances.

          One of our American friends who attended was photographer, Bailey.  If you would like to order a CD of all the photos she took at our Liverpool event, just send her an email to prbailey1892@aol.com

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Our Liverpool party certainly got in the dance mood after the line dancing, came the okey cokey and a mean conga led by Mitch. Edit Text

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The full group got together for this shot.  Mitch and Chris pictured where the Fab Four met the Fab five! Edit Text

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Our celebration cake beautifully decorated by Pat Hirst

All photos on this page by Bailey
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