2019 ChaserCon

Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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Maybe someone could encourage the Hills to post here as well (hopefully one of them has an account). I'm not on Facebook though I could see that post. I think there is a more-than-negligible contingent of chasers not on that platform.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Maybe someone could encourage the Hills to post here as well (hopefully one of them has an account). I'm not on Facebook though I could see that post. I think there is a more-than-negligible contingent of chasers not on that platform.

Good luck. It’s a shame that most of the veteran chasers snub ST and its members. The same members that would be customers of the conference.
 

Mark Blue

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Feb 19, 2007
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Based on the number of likes and comments on their FB post it looks like the beginning of the end to me but what do I know.

They pony up 40K every year to have this event yet when Storm Doctor started a Go Fund Me campaign last year to reimburse some of their losses it was like pulling back teeth to get to 5K. I used to go every year but the last time I went was 2015. I hate to see this happening because it really is the biggest gathering of chasers each year away from the storm where time is extremely limited for chewing the fat.
 
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Steve Miller

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Jun 14, 2004
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Good luck. It’s a shame that most of the veteran chasers snub ST and its members. The same members that would be customers of the conference.
James said it best.

Here's the thing, ChaserCon is as much an institution as Stormtrack in that it brings chasers together to learn and share. Like what happened with Stormtrack, the owners may allow it to slip into the point of no return. I'd never want to see it go away and I truly believe there is an opportunity to revive it if the correct people were brought in for the job. At this point though, the conference is tired and uninspired. And to James' point, why would the organizers expect a large outpouring of interest from a community they are no longer a part of?
 
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Changes are being made in Chasercon. For example, Jon Davies' forecasting class will be included in the regular Chasercon agenda on Sunday morning and will be available to everyone registered for Chasercon. I have never participated in the class (mostly because it was an upcharge and occurred Friday evening when I was more interested in socializing and re-connecting with other chasers), but I have heard Jon speak a number of times and his talks are always excellent. And I have heard good things about the class from those who have taken it. Although Wichita is quite a bit more of a haul for me than Denver, this definitely makes me more likely to attend.
 
Sep 29, 2011
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Based on the number of likes and comments on their FB post it looks like the beginning of the end to me but what do I know.

They pony up 40K every year to have this event yet when Storm Doctor started a Go Fund Me campaign last year to reimburse some of their losses it was like pulling back teeth to get to 5K.
I can't speak for anyone else, but in my opinion it's insane to give money to a Kickstarter when my "reward" would be getting to spend another $800. I understand it's an out-of-pocket thing and they're losing money or whatever, but that doesn't change the fact it's expensive as hell to attend one of these, if you're actually going to have fun and enjoy yourself. Why does the conference have to be at a hotel? Why can't it be at a convention center like TESSA? They have 500 people every year and it's FREE. IMO, if the cost of the conference itself doesn't allow them to at least break even, then maybe it's time to ditch the hotel thing and find a stand-alone venue. Or just stop doing it altogether.
 
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Dan Robinson

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Why can't it be at a convention center like TESSA? They have 500 people every year and it's FREE. IMO, if the cost of the conference itself doesn't allow them to at least break even, then maybe it's time to ditch the hotel thing and find a stand-alone venue.
Agreed - this seems like the obvious way to go. Most of the hotel-based conventions are made for higher-income attendees rather than the regular Joes (IE, the contractual requirement for each person to spend a hundred bucks or more on overpriced food and drinks). Heck, you could rent out a high school or church gymnasium for Chasercon that would be big enough to handle the typical turnout for a fraction of the cost. Just do a Gofundme for the venue rental and let anyone come who wants to.

The other thing that is hurting Chasercon is all of these "I'll start my own chaser convention in my own backyard" things popping up all over the place. There is no way these aren't poaching a big number of potential attendees. Who is going to go to *two* chaser conventions in a year, especially when many of the same speakers are invited?
 

Bill Hark

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Jan 13, 2004
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I always enjoy myself whenever I attend ChaserCon. The speakers are usually educational and interesting. I also enjoy socializing with other chasers when I'm not worried about initiation or too dog tired to think after a chase. I am exited about this year as Wichita is a much cheaper place to fly into because of location. It's also not on President's Day weekend which kills airfares. Jon Davies gives really good forecasting talks.

As for conferences in general, I think there is some decline overall. I have to attend medical conferences. They are very expensive (much more than ChaserCon), but the costs are somewhat mitigated by sponsors. I have noticed that attendance is down overall in the last few years and some conferences have ended. More people are doing online activities rather than attending in person. There has also been a decline in sponsors and a corresponding increase in cost.
 
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Having actually organized a couple of large conventions myself, I can tell you that it is not as easy as some of you make it sound. Yes, it would be less expensive to rent a gym somewhere, but then a lot of things that the hotel takes care of fall back on the organizers to do. That would be less true of a convention center, but they charge big bucks for what a hotel provides free in exchange for guaranteeing they will rent out a certain number of rooms. I don't know how TESSA works, but if it is free, I would be pretty sure someone is subsidizing it somewhere, probably quite a bit. And if you want a real convention that goes beyond just locals, then you need a hotel, food service, etc. If the organizers had to do everything that a hotel, perhaps combined with an exhibit company, does, then I don't think you would ever find anyone willing to organize it for 20+ years running. Now, I do agree some changes are probably needed, like moving to some kind of organizational structure so the work and the risk do not fall on one individual. But it is not as simple as just make it cheaper by having it in a gym somewhere or at a convention center.
 
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Dan Robinson

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John, thanks for the input, I've never organized one of these but can imagine it is a ton of work. I wonder if a small team of volunteers could take on of some of those tasks that a hotel normally takes care of? IE, a group of 15-20 arriving early Friday and leaving late Sunday for setup/takedown.
 

Jeff Duda

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Oct 7, 2008
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The other thing that is hurting Chasercon is all of these "I'll start my own chaser convention in my own backyard" things popping up all over the place. There is no way these aren't poaching a big number of potential attendees. Who is going to go to *two* chaser conventions in a year, especially when many of the same speakers are invited?
This was a big point I was going to bring up as well. Too many small and local conferences now. The organization is diverging, as are the crowds.
 
This was a big point I was going to bring up as well. Too many small and local conferences now. The organization is diverging, as are the crowds.
There's truth to this, I'm sure. But I also believe many of these popped up because of people who were unable or unwilling to make the trek to Denver every year. Even for many of the plains chasers, that's quite a haul to Denver that requires extra days off from work on top of days off for the conference itself. I can take a run off to make Wichita work, but Denver was never workable for me. I wanted to go this past year, but factoring in travel days, regardless of whether I drive or fly, would have required me to take not one but two runs off. I can't just take a day off at a time due to the nature of my job, but three at a time, in addition to my normal weekend. Depending on how my workweek falls, I'd either have to take off Wednesday-Tuesday or Thursday-Wednesday, so there's extra time on both ends just to so I can have travel days and not miss substantial portions of the conference.

For people not on the plains, I can see where it's even more difficult. I think it being in Wichita will make it easier for many to attend (I know it will make it possible for me to make it while only taking a single run off, which is doable), but time will tell as far as the willingness to make it work. Denver was great for chasers based in Colorado, but I think Wichita will make it workable for a greater number of people, and I'd daresay better than OKC/Norman due to it being closer to the Iowa/Nebraska/Minnesota based chasers. I just hope this move wasn't too little too late, and that the ship hasn't already sailed.
 

Bill Hark

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I am helping with the upcoming Mid-Atlantic (scheduled for October 27 in Richmond, VA, $25.00, ticket sales end Oct 21st.) This conference is not meant to compete with the main ChaserCon . The focus is on Mid-Atlantic storms and storm chasing which is neglected in other conferences. I doubt there are very many people that will attend this conference instead of the main conference. With the exception of David Hoadley who lives nearby, the speakers are not likely to also be speaking at ChaserCon.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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I can't speak for anyone else, but in my opinion it's insane to give money to a Kickstarter when my "reward" would be getting to spend another $800..

I agree with Shane, it seems ridiculous to have a Kickstarter or Go Fund Me type of thing for something like this. Just raise the price of the conference sufficiently to cover its costs. If one is willing to contribute to the Go Fund Me effort, then wouldn’t they also be willing to pay a higher price for the conference ticket? If the conference prices itself out of viability, that’s the free market at work. The Go Fund Me effort is basically a way of having contributors subsidize the conference so that others can pay less for it. I’m all for contributing to good causes and to those in need, but ChaserCon is not a charity. I hope I don’t sound harsh but with living on the east coast, my personal finances and other responsibilities kept me from being able to start taking chase vacations until I was almost 30 years old. That was 20 years ago and since then my work has kept me from being able to chase more than one or two weeks each year, and until recently without any flexibility to hit a good pattern (and even now with only limited flexibility). Meanwhile, there are chasers who are students and don’t have “real” or full time jobs yet. Then there are other chasers who have consciously chosen to emphasize flexibility to chase over jobs/careers. To each his own, but I am not inclined to subsidize that.

One or more posts have mentioned defraying cost with sponsorships - that is a form of contribution that makes sense, because the sponsors also gets value in return and they are in a sense giving back to the community that it makes its living from.

On an unrelated note, although I am on the east coast, it is actually harder to get to Wichita than Denver because to my knowledge there are no direct flights from Philadelphia to Wichita. Not sure of ticket pricing but I doubt there is much of a savings. More importantly, I would probably need to miss more time from work for the additional travel time. But overall I do think it’s a nice change and Wichita is a great place to hang out, not that there is much “free time” to do so without missing out on conference content. The best change is moving it away from Valentine’s Day, which, if I am any indication, was a significant obstacle to many with wives/girlfriends to answer to [emoji57]
 

Bill Hark

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James, you may want to check airfares. If one just considers direct flights, it is easier to get to Denver from many places on the east coast assuming those are available. As for prices, Wichita, KS substantially beats almost any Tornado Alley city except Kansas City from the Mid-Atlantic. The cities of Denver, Oklahoma City, Dallas, and any place in Nebraska or South Dakota are almost always more expensive. Currently, I'm getting extremely reasonable airfares to Wichita with one stop.
 
Nov 4, 2008
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At least - some - of the money issues that arose from the 2018 ChaserCon were due to a multitude of last minute cancelations on hotel rooms, etc that were guaranteed to the hotel. It is sad to see the conference faltering, but all good things must come to an end. Much like the current state of the country, those in the storm chase community are also fracturing. The once large 'chaserhood group' has now become many smaller ones that tend to not associate with each other. That might have something to do with social media and the desire for everyone to 'make it big' as an individual or as a group of individuals in a 'brand'. I personally enjoyed attending the last several ChaserCons because it gave me an excuse to enjoy Colorado in the winter. I'll likely attend the 2019 conference in Wichita since it is right up the road, but $130 is a pretty steep price for a two/ three-day conference that is not associated with a larger agency (like the NWA or AMS). Those conferences are quite expensive, but also feature a very large audience and by association, enhancements. I just attended a two-day weather conference in Texas for $50 at a public university with break-time refreshments. If ChaserCon is to survive I believe someone with a corporate-minded background and experience needs to step up and take it over. Perhaps that is what will happen with AccuWeather being a large corporate sponsor for 2019 (I assume personally, but not officially). The Hills need to find a way to add something that'll interest everyone. While I may enjoy presentations that go in-depth on the meteorologically behind a setup or the results of a field project, others will want to hear about the latest web trends in making it 'big' in storm chasing (videography, photography, etc).

TESSA (the Texas Severe Storms Association) biennial conference in the D/FW Metroplex targets chasers, storm spotters, and even the general public. Attendance is free and they pay the bills by using sponsors. Several hundred attendees are common and usually, it is standing room only. TESSA used to be annual but made the move to once every two years earlier this decade. That seems to serve them well since 2018 has been an absolute atrocity for the southern plains season.
 
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lmccluer

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Apr 6, 2015
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Being only 35 mikes away from Wichita, I got all hyped up about this being this close. With the ChaserCon’s before being to far god had to travel, I’ve never paid much attention to them, especially the cost. Seeing this on Facebook on our local newspaper, I started Googling it, which led me here. Now after finding out the cost of this, there is no way my son and I, both being Storm Spotters preciously for many years, myself I was a spotter for 35 years for our local city/county, and after stopping that, started chasing, cab afford the cost of getting in. I figured there would be a charge for it, but I was thinking somewhere in the line of $50 to $100. I guess we will just continue chasing and reading for information. I was in law enforcement those same 35 years, and for several of them n 911 communication, and have participated several years in setting up conventions for 911 communication/dispatch personnel, and never seen costs like this. I don’t know how many people show up for these conventions, but we usually dealt with 100-200 people. Our usual cost of using the convention facilities was around the cost of two or three people paying for ChaserCon, and a guarantee that we would have x number of rooms rented. That was never a problem. If $800 per person is what this convention costs, I know at least two-three that won’t attend.