Awards Banquets That Don’t Suck and the Skiers that Attend.
By xcskiworld.com Contributing Editor Andrew Gardner
You’ve been collecting them without knowing it: the one in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, the interminable mid-week Junior Nationals event, the international fiasco where no one could understand anything but the top three podium spots. Awards Banquets are like having polio, sometimes they suck and sometimes they really suck. It is the rarest evening of speakers and winners that celebrate skiing without boring to sleep the majority of those present. Even for those few skiers who win a race, there is a blurring of awards ceremonies- déjà vu – weren’t we just here last week?
Something has to catch fire, someone has to trip, or there needs to be egregious nudity for the evening to stand out in the collective memories of athletes. Take for example the World Junior Kayaking Championships, when held my hometown in 1996. I attended the dinner with a paddling friend. What I remember beyond all other aspects of that dinner is an Italian woman indiscreetly stripping off her wet kayaking gear simultaneous to the announcement of the winners and only a few feet behind the awards podium. (I’ll always remember her as the real winner.)
How many plates of pasta can one stand? How many motivational talks can one stomach? (“You are the skiers of the future….”) Why do we persist with banquet after banquet? Because at some level they are necessary. So how do we make them suck less?
In the resort bloated confines of Colorado, ski races happen at resort locales. Resort locales are spendy and evenings of ready-made lasagna are vital to keep the cost down. Thus, it recently fell to me to host an awards banquet at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School on behalf of the Aspen Valley Ski Club and the Mount Sopris Nordic Council, both local Nordic skiing entities. I happen to posses under my power a few things that make running a decent dinner easier:
1. A physical plant capable of holding enough people. For the love of God, if you are going to plan a dinner event, have enough chairs and food. The CRMS barn is our example.
2. A volunteer base. Enlist student volunteer.s (or detainees, as it were in my class). Table and chair set up and break-down is key.
3. A kitchen staff. Two words: MANY PARENTS.
4. Entertainment beyond the handing out of awards. In the age of Final Cut Pro, there is no reason not to have a video or two of skiing on hand. A live band doesn’t hurt either.
5. Hold down the awards. I’ll reference the recent movie “Meet the Fockers” and Gaylord’s “Wall of Achievement.” Do we really need to award 10th place ribbons?
6. An exit strategy. I’ll spare the George Bush analogies, however, most of our parents taught us when we were three to clean up after ourselves. Without a clean-up crew, the banquet refuse can be dirtier than a Paris Hilton home video.
7. Attention to length. I’ve seen kids grow out of age classes in the time it takes some awards ceremonies to finish. The microphone may be enticing but hold it down.
8. Little kids. Little kids are the ultimate barometer for a successful banquet. If they are having fun, forget about the fifty seven year old master skier who was sixth in his age group.
10. Prizes. Go overboard. Everybody remembers the ceremony where they won the free pair of RCS’s.
Thanks for coming. Have a good night. Drive safely.
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