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My Trip to the 2010 Sweepstakes Convention
#1 Posted : Monday, September 6, 2010 2:23:05 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/26/2009(UTC)
Posts: 31

Lucky 21

The convention was a 4 day event from Thursday September 2 to Sunday September 5th. I had planned months in advance to go and made arrangements early to try to make sure everything was taken care of and that I could be fully funded for the things I wanted to do like going to the Mall of America and maybe to the Minnesota State Fair. I tried to envision the costs associated with the events so I could have an accurate number in my head and written down on paper. Taxis, event charges, food, drinks (alcoholic and non), purchases.

To cover costs I used prizes I had won in sweepstakes to offset the costs. I had won 50000 American Airline miles of which half I used to get there and to get back. These were bare bone flights but still nice since they were free and I did get a free drink from each of the 4 flights. I had won a very nice tent from the contest I placed 2nd in on a geo-cache type trip in Colorado with US Smokeless Tobacco and Husky. I was able to sell this on eBay (at a reduced price) but it was enough to cover the hotel stay. I won a snowboard from Outside TV which I was able to sell to cover half of the $250 entry fee. I sold other odds and ends on eBay including DVDs, books, and just stuff that I had collected from the year for spending money. I had gotten gift cards that I used to cover bills and also to pay for miscellaneous meals and for the parking fee on my truck while I was away.

I arrived early at the airport and sat outside at the hotel pick-up and met my first sweepstakers. We got on the hotel shuttle and got to the hotel. I checked in and had taken my cash out of my debit account because even though I had the money I didn't take the time to have it loaded the week before the trip. The hotel asked for a credit card and of course the first one didn't work. I gave the hotel another one and it didn't work. I was fearful now. I had read that the hotel wanted a credit card on file in case of the $4 bottles of water or $1.50 per call phone charges to the room. I tentatively asked was cash ok. Yep as long as I gave them an extra $40 deposit cover miscellaneous expenses. It could have been worse. I made sure that I didn't touch their water or make calls or do anything except hook up on the internet for the stated $25 charge to my room.

The room was great. King sized bed with a decent view 32 inch TV. A/C worked great with no noise. The only complaint I had was that I used one of the glasses they left and didn't look at it too close. I got the second glass to have water close so I wouldn't have to get up every 5 minutes to get water (being small glasses). The second glass had stuff crusted over on one side of it. I scalded them both with hot water for a while.

I went downstairs to check in with the convention. I received my package with lots of info on Bloomington. I received my name tag that had pre-printed cards for the breakfasts and the banquet and a few of the games that were being played. I picked my cards to try to win the Lucky 21 draw and got a 12. I put my card in for the package I wanted to try to win (a choice of winning 3x5 cards, a massage, a casino prize, or a theatrical show). I picked the casino but didn't win. I did win a small prize of some stamps and a pen off the Lucky 21 2nd chance drawing. I turned in my card for my T-Shirt. I turned in my card for my convention bag.

Here is where I made my first mistake. I didn't go to the vendor room. Each vendor of the 15 or so that were there had sign-up for a free drawing for whatever prize they wanted to give away. I didn't see them so I didn't put my name in the pot. My 2nd mistake was that I didn't go around in the meet and greet to see who all was there. I should have spent a bit more time being social and visiting with people and reading name tags. I did not expect that 80% of the attendees would be over 50. I order a screwdriver and meander around the room a bit but I leave early.

For supper I check out the hotel grill menu and after seeing a chicken strip dinner for $15 I decide to go to the TGI Fridays that was on the property. I liked the big pan fried pot stickers, I didn't like the Sizzling chicken and shrimp, but loved the cheesecake and the price was a bit more reasonable with the meal only being like $18 with a $4 Miller Lite longneck and the huge margarita being $8. I ordered an ultimate margarita that was like a regular margarita on steroids. I swear they served it in a vase large enough for a big potted plant to sit in. So after the 5th brain freeze and the half a fifth of vodka in the margarita I was a bit tired. I needed some razors and personal hygiene stuff so I carefully wobble myself to the gas station on the property and get some fruit and chips and soda to take to my room. I still forgot the razors. I turned in early, got my internet set up, checked mail and played some Wow to relax a bit. I set my alarm for 7:30 and this proved to be my 3rd mistake because breakfast started at 7 am.

I get down to the eating area and put my stuff up to get my breakfast and see that there is only juice or coffee and cold muffins with small balls of butter. I look around confused and bite the bullet and try to enjoy my cold muffin. I don't think I was successful.

I moved to the meeting hall and begin the search for a Wi-Fi link that is close to an electric receptacle because my laptop has a 17 inch backlit screen that although it's beautiful it sucks energy like an elephant at a dry water hole. The ones that are available I don't have access to. I paid for a 3 day subscription from the hotel so I went off to the counter to ask about it and she tells me it won't work in the meeting room. She says that if they enable the Wi-Fi in the meeting hall it will cost me $250 so that everyone will have access to it. Grrr. I go back to my computer and find a receptacle that was close to the door. I look at the available Wi-Fi links and whoot there is a free one from the lobby. I'm set for the whole convention.

This is where I start making friends. I got to sit next to Carolyn Finney and next to her was Joanne Hetherington. We find out where we are all from and while I’m entering online they are filling out postcard after postcard after postcard. The meeting starts and we are in prize heaven. People are jumping up screaming and hollering and hooting because they won a prize. All around the room. Prizes being given out like rain. I set my little recorder to start and catch a lot of it on video that I will arrange tomorrow and give you a link. Valerie Layton was the first speaker and I liked it although it was a bit boring as she talked about the around the world 3 years worth of trips she won from MasterCard as part of one sweepstakes she won. I took the boring time and entered contests, worked some, and even played WoW a bit. I wasn't impressed by Steven Bougham's speech about the changes with USPS. Then we were salted with another round of prizes.

I take lunch in the Burger King that is on the hotel grounds to try to even out the meal costs and go back for the afternoon round of prize giveaways. I leave at 3:30 in the evening with the hotel shuttle only leaving once an hour I decide to leave early and go to the Mall of America. Strangely enough the only thing I did was go to the movie theatre and watch Avatar in 3d because I missed it the first time. The Mall of America is huge having a full carnival sitting right in the middle inside. The Ferris wheel was the first thing I noticed. The last hotel shuttle would leave at 8:30 and it was already 7ish so I decided not to press my luck with over 500 attendees space is limited on a 15-21 passenger hotel shuttle that leaves once an hour.

I missed the speaker on entering contest type sweepstakes like photo, video, essay and I missed the drawings for more prizes after the speaker but I don't guess I won. I also missed the pick of the 2012 Sweepstakes Convention which will be in Atlanta with 2011 being in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Having learned my lesson from the day before I got up early for breakfast. The eggs, bacon, and sausage links hit the spot and washed down well with orange juice and apple juice. I got my same seat for the morning speech sessions and both entered and worked and played as I listened to speeches and sat through more prizes being given away. I began to wonder if my name was really in the barrel.

I really enjoyed Steve d’Adolf’s speech about entering online and found a few tricks I could use. It was reported that he has won 190 trips and had one another Friday night. Chrysa Duran speaking about blogs was ho-hum just because I don’t like blog contests that much. Patti Osterheld’s speech about entering via social networks along with texting was kind of outdated and needs a good update.

It’s 11:30 on a Saturday and I decide to go back to the Mall of America for lunch. I go to Barnes and Noble but there were so many choices I didn’t buy a book. I wander around and finally decide on the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant. What a great choice! I sit at the bar and cozy up to a cold draft Miller Lite. I look over the menu and get the New England clam chowder soup appetizer. While waiting the bartender starts the movie for Forrest Gump. I dig into my appetizer and man was it good. For the main I order the fish and chips and while I’m waiting the bartenders are dancing doing the twist. A very young girl was at the bar for some reason and it was her birthday and the staff did the birthday chant with a piece of cake for her. I start in on the fish and chips and my word the fish tastes so great. On the movie the scene comes up about Elvis learning to dance from young Forrest doing the knee shaking twist and man that really tied up a great lunch having just seen the bartenders doing the same dance. I go back to the Barnes and Noble but still can’t decide on a book so I go look for the van. I get back to the hotel and in the room and another attendee named Tena Best calls me to tell me I won a prize while I was gone. I go and meet her downstairs and find that I had won a huge box of cards, envelopes, notepads, and postcards along with a pendant with a chicken design made of cut glass and in the box was 1120 postage stamps. Whoothoo!!!

3 pm and I find another mistake I had made. Since the rest of the convention had been based on my number on my name tag I assumed I would have a seat pre-arranged for me for the banquet. I should have realized that since I had a little card in my name tag pouch printed with banquet on it that it should have been turned in to the banquet administrator. I actually sit in the seat where the woman had asked me earlier that day if I had registered for the banquet and waited for the situation to sort itself out. The convention host came through and fortunately there were other people there who made my mistake so I heard the answers he gave to them. Finally Tena and Carolyn rescue me and go into the banquet to find me a seat. A few minutes later I have a seat at table 13 and cleared with the convention host and begin the introductions to the people I don’t know.

I don’t remember their names but I have their faces on video. One was a 90ish little old lady who couldn’t see very well but whom I had seen during the meetings diligently filling out post cards. Another was a lady that lived within 30 minutes from the hotel. A couple was there from Las Vegas.

The banquet was rather good I thought. We had a great Minnesota Wild Rice soup that was as good as my clam chowder from lunch. The main course was chicken Wellington. A hefty piece of chicken, cooked inside a pastry roll and filled with a mushroom gravy served with rice and something that was green beans I think. It was tasty. Dessert was a great raspberry chocolate cheesecake. I got some good video of the banquet. We had coffee and water for drinks and I didn’t like the one and had way too much water so I went to a vending machine and brought back a few drinks that I shared with the table.

More prizes were given away and then Judy McCurdy spoke. I liked most of her speech. We ran out of cold water and the 90ish lady beside me was coughing a good bit so I went off into the kitchen to find a pitcher of water. I didn’t get rebuked and was successful in getting both water and ice for the lady. I left the banquet a bit early because this was the time the vendors were going to give out prizes and I had made the mistake of not getting my entries in. It was also time to draw for the various raffle drawings and being a true sweepstaker I don’t pay to enter contests/sweepstakes so that left me out of these.

I was going to order Chinese takeout but after calling 3 restaurants that claimed to deliver according to websites familiar with Bloomington Minnesota I gave up in frustration and went to the gas station. I got some hard boiled eggs, some veggies with a nice dip, I still had my chips, and soda so I went back to my room for a picnic. I checked my email and played wow for a couple of hours. I used my note cards to make out a few with my name and email address to give to the several people that were friendly to me. I pack my bags and try to figure out what to do with a big bag full of envelopes, postcards, notepads. I really didn’t want to have to pay for checked baggage. I thought about taking out what I wanted and giving the bag back to be re-salted as a prize. Then I remember that Carolyn Finney was so good to me and she kept me engaged with the giveaways and talked to me during the meetings. She was fortunate to have driven over and entered most of her contests through the mail so asked her if she wanted the bag of envelopes. I put 100 of the postage stamps in the box my necklace came out of and put it on the bottom. A good solution but I still had enough cards, envelopes, and postcards to fill up the bag I brought. I put my clothes in the tote bag I got from the convention and it seemed to have solved the problem except for having to pay for a checked bag at the airport.

Sunday I woke up a bit earlier and made it downstairs to get some decent pastries. I got a couple of cream cheese things one with blueberries and one with applesauce with some orange juice. I didn’t see my new friends so I go put my name tag on my table, set up my computer, and go mingle in the meeting room.

I pass out my note cards with my info on it. Unfortunately Mrs. Finney left early Sunday and I didn’t get to say goodbye We get started again with another round of prizes before Carolyn Wilman, “The Contest Queen” gives her speech. I didn’t like her speech. She talked about the Name it and Claim it book an older lady had put out some years ago and of meeting the lady and taking over the teaching of the class of the former lady. The majority of the speech dealt with Winuvers for WISHcraft and isn’t my kind of subject.

Something sinister happened about here. I was taking video of a lot of the speeches and I got most of Sundays recorded. My little recorder only records up to 2 hours at a time on 2 aa batteries. Somehow the transfer between my computer and the camera jinxed and ALL of my footage for Sunday is gone. I guess my camera didn’t like WISHcraft either. Not only that but my camera is showing that I can only record 1 hour now.

Sundays round of prize giveaways was even longer than any of the earlier ones. I finally couldn’t hold the orange juice in any more so I told Tena that I had to restroom. I told her it’d be my luck that I’d win something while I was in the restroom. No sooner than I had my business done and walked out to the hall than someone flagged me down and told me to get back in the meeting hall that I had won something. I get in and there is a nice runner holding a T-shirt that says “I’m in the business of winning” along with 100 more postage stamps.

They choose Atlanta for the 2012 Sweepstakes Convention.

Then it’s time to check out. I go get my packed bags out of the hotel room and make sure I’m not leaving anything or taking anything I could be charged for. I check out and get my change from the $40 deposit and go out to the curb to catch the shuttle to the hotel. Remember earlier that there were over 500 attendees and the shuttle only runs once an hour. It seemed to be inconvenient to a few folks. I position myself so that when the van parks I’m right at the back of the van to load the luggage. There were 30-40 waiting on this one van. I end up being the 2nd one on the van and I’m off for the adventure home.

I get home with no problems at all either for me or for my house or for mom that I left in the care of an aunt.

All in all it was a great experience. Should you think you want to meet me in Fort Wayne Indiana in 2011 I hope I have given you enough information so that you will have a better idea of what to expect. First thing to expect is that the price of everything will be 2-3 times what it is at your home. Try to anticipate hidden/unexplained charges and make sure you have some extra money over the top of your spending money for anything extra. Another thing to remember is that 80% of the attendees will be over 50 so if you are younger try to get a friend to go with you. These wonderful ladies and gents enter their contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways mostly by snail mail so be prepared to say “What the heck do I do with a postcard?” often. If you are tech savvy you might have to hunt and peck to find electricity and wi-fi so maybe take an extension cord. It’s rumored that you can slave your laptop to your droid’s wi-fi and have internet wherever you get your phone signal if your data plan covers it.

I had a great time and a good experience and will learn more from the contacts I made throughout the year for the next convention. From this convention I got:

1223 forever postage stamps

A bunch of 3x5s, postcards, envelopes, note cards

A cut glass chicken necklace

2 T-Shirts

A small stuffed toy

A couple of buttons and pins

A couple of other very little things that I don’t know what to do with.

I made new friends, visited a new place, learned new tricks, got experience for the next convention, and really enjoyed the Lucky 21 2010 Sweepstakes Convention.

#2 Posted : Monday, September 6, 2010 7:18:50 PM(UTC)

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 Thanks for sharing your experience! Sounds like fun.

#3 Posted : Tuesday, September 7, 2010 2:56:04 AM(UTC)

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Thanks for taking the time to write such a long and detailed account of your trip. I'm sure the information will be valuable for many members, and may even prompt a few to go to the next convention. I wish more time had been spent on online topics and tips, and less on other things. No, I didn't attend - my comment is based on your account. Perhaps the most valuable takeaway is your social networking contacts, the friends you made there. GSTY!

#4 Posted : Wednesday, September 8, 2010 2:07:49 PM(UTC)

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Joined: 5/26/2009(UTC)
Posts: 31

[quote user="chuckmahl3"]I wish more time had been spent on online topics and tips, and less on other things.


It was ok...  Probably half of the speeches dealt with online topics.  The one from Steve d'Adolf was for online material.  There was the one about contests (photo, video, etc) that I missed.  There was the one about blogging.  There was one about social media and texting that I said was a bit outdated.  If you are already doing online sweepstaking you know most of the ins and outs already and wouldn't get much out of a speech unless it was a page by page seminar.

#2 Posted : Thursday, September 9, 2010 12:00:20 AM(UTC)

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I don't think you really went to the convention. I think you just made all that up.  Just kidding!   :))) .  Thanks for sharing. You sure did good on stamps---congrats!!

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