I was honored to be invited to Fayetteville, AR, recently on a discovery visit to check out the location and infrastructure for the 2020 US Trail Running Conference. This was my first visit to the hosts for our 2020 event, and I was excited to experience for myself the many attractions this vibrant NW Arkansas city has to offer.
My mission was to evaluate four key elements that interweave together to create a successful Conference. The first is the Conference location, second is how the town looks and feels, the third is the host hotel, and the fourth is the trail systems in the area that we can get to enjoy during our stay in Fayetteville. For this feature, I will review each of these elements:
Conference location – Fayetteville Town Center
The first thing that struck me as I approached the Fayetteville Town Center was the pride banners that line the entrance to the building. This immediately warmed my heart and reminded me of our 2019 theme, Diversity and inclusion, trail running for everyone. I was met in the plaza by Luke Charpentier, Sports Sales Manager for Experience Fayetteville. Although we had communicated by phone and e-mail many times over the last 6+ months, this was the first time I had met Luke in person, and it was great to be able to put a face and warm personality to the voice that I have got to know.
Luke introduced me to Monica Jannati, Director of Event Services at the Town Center. Monica was extremely helpful, and showed me around the facility. The key take aways for me were as follows:
- the main Ozark hall has flexible set up options depending on social distancing requirements and regulation in force at the time of the Conference in October
- there are options for registration setup depending on #s of attendees
- they can provide an estimate for waste diversion and for utility usage for the facility during the Conference
- we ran a test of a zoom livestream that was completely successful and gave me confidence that the technology we plan to use could function ok within the Town Center
- the facility is right in central downtown and super close to the host hotel, bars, restaurants and shops
- this was a great choice for Conference location!
Fayetteville Town Sights
One of the first things I noticed walking around the downtown area of Fayetteville is the abundance of street art, trees, flowers, and birds that spend all day gleefully singing! Street art is everywhere, and is not just small items tucked away in obscure places, there are also large pieces that cover the whole side of a building. It was a real joy to be able to spend time in such an environment, and that seemed to encourage me to slow down and spend some time to soak all of this in. The streets are full of eclectic shops, bars and restaurants, with everything within easy walking distance of both the host hotel and the Conference location. I was thankful to enjoy an excellent meal at a roof top bar at Feed and Folly with Luke and Molly Brawn from Experience Fayetteville one evening, and also visited Crisis Brewing to meet with local trail runner Amber Ebbrecht.
Everyone that I met was very warm and friendly, the kind of place that makes you feel effortlessly welcomed.
Host hotel – The Graduate Fayetteville
The exclusive host hotel for the Conference is the Graduate Hotel, Fayetteville. Although the hotel was preparing to re-open, and was therefore closed to the public, Katherine Kinney kindly showed me round the facility. The lobby and rooms are full of details that are particular to Fayetteville; Katherine explained that each of the Graduate hotels always include content that aligns with the specific location. In this case there were many references to razorbacks, which I quickly learned is a feral domestic pig that is also the team mascot for the University of Arkansas American football team. There are room options with double queens and a single king. Although I wasn’t able to experience a stay in the hotel, I am looking forward to being in this warm and friendly environment on October that is literally a 3 minute walk away from the Town Center where the Conference takes place. See details on the great room pricing options for the Graduate Hotel at this link.
The fourth and final component that I was able to enjoy during my visit was the all important opportunity to experience the trail systems in Fayetteville. There are three systems in town, Lake Fayetteville, Mount Sequoyah, and Kessler Mountain Regional Park.
Tiffany Hoover from Fayetteville Parks and Recreation kindly stepped up to be my guide for our visits to the three trail systems. Each is very different – Lake Fayetteville has a mainly paved path around the lake, that is very popular with bikers, runners and walkers. The lake is one of those places that encourages you to stop and look, and is very calming for the mind. Mount Sequoyah has a retreat center near the summit, and has soft surface trails that network around the hill that has great views over the town. Kessler mountain has a great system of soft surface trails that are labeled like runs on ski resort, so black, blue and green, to indicate degree of difficulty. I also had the chance to have Tiffany lead me on a trail run one morning on some of the Kessler loops, and also got to meet up with another local trail runner that happened to be there at the same time. Kessler is close to town and has several trail options to choose from – my favorite trail run pick!
Big thanks to Luke Charpentier and Molly Rawn from Experience Fayetteville, and Tiffany Hoover from Parks and Recreation, for their hospitality during my visit. Also thanks to Lauren from Fayettechill, Steve from Rogue Trails and Steve McBee from Creative, Brannon Pack from Experience Fayetteville, Matthew Downs from the University of Arkansas, Michelle Fyfe and Drew Yoakum from Fayetteville High School, and Rush Running for their time and opportunity to network and share some trail love!
I came away very happy and assured that we had made the right choice for Fayetteville, AR as the host location for the 2020 US Trail Running Conference. Their focus on green initiatives and the importance of climate action also perfectly aligns with our 2020 theme: Trail Running Communities for Climate Action & Sustainability. Everything is in place to host a safe, healthy and respectful Conference for all attendees, with the opportunity to expand outreach of this industry leading event.
I look forward to seeing you in Fayetteville in October 2020 for an inspiring and educational Conference!