The End of ChaserCon This Weekend

Mar 2, 2004
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Wichita, KS
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The lack of any kind of thread here to this point probably speaks volumes about the topic, but this weekend in Denver will be the final weekend of ChaserCon as we know it. Lots of your folks have experienced the convention over the last couple of decades, and I know the horse has been beaten to death regarding its fate over the last couple of years, so while that is a side-topic to be discussed I'm sure, I'm wanting to hear about your memories of the Con.

I'm still trying to find pictures from past conferences as they're buried on a hard drive somewhere (which gives you an idea how long it's been since I've been to one). That said, I'm left open to discussing my favorite memories.

So I ask you... which one(s) did you attend? What are some of your fondest memories? Favorite talks? Favorite post-night parties? Gatherings in Colorado around the conference? Lets reminisce, shall we?
 

James K

EF3
Mar 26, 2019
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Colorado
Never been to one...until last year, I didn't even know such a thing existed.
Would probably be cool to attend that type of thing! but way too expensive to me.
Too bad its going away though :(
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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I went in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2016 (the OKC one). I planned to go and paid for the Wichita one last year (2019), but had to miss it due to a major winter storm in St. Louis. My 2006 had the most in terms of memorable stories. First, the airline lost my luggage and I had no coat or warm clothes when I arrived in Denver during a huge outbreak of subzero Arctic air. Then the convention suffered power outages due to said subzero temps, one of which Tim Samaras used vehicle power to keep a presentation going! Finally, I had the pleasure of getting hypoxia after running and jumping into a snowbank in Breckenridge, barely having the energy to get myself out and being short of breath until we got back to Denver.

Going to the convention is a good time, and I always wished I could do it every year. But, like any conference or convention, it is a big leisure-category expense that directly competes with my actual springtime chasing funds. Faced with the prospect of sacrificing actual storm chasing for a chasing convention, it's always been hard to commit to it. The talks are always great, but it's the dinners and simply hanging out with fellow chasers that makes the convention what it is.
 
Dec 8, 2003
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Southeast CO
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I went in 2002, 2003 and 2008. 2001 was my first year online and I had spent a couple hours in the ST chatroom almost every night of the whole year, and then most of my "cyber friends" were at the convention, so it was awesome meeting all of them in person in 2002.

2003 I had a new girlfriend whom I had met in the chatroom (!) and we went together. That year I attended Tim Vasquez's forecasting class, where I learned, among other things, of the importance of backed surface winds. The guy sitting next to me was none other than David Hoadley. Nicest guy you ever met. Before the convention ended the Columbia blew up over Texas and my girlfriend got word that one of her sisters had died in PA, so we immediately caught a plane to PA.
 
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B. Dean Berry

Staff member
May 25, 2014
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I never had the money to go, but wanted to for a few years. In 2018, I had initially planned for 2019, and then that didn't happen, and then 2020 didn't happen either.

So, I guess I'll never go.
 
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I went in 2016 and in 2019. Denver has never been feasible for me logistically, so I was never able to make it up there for those years. I likely would have made it more years if it hadn't been for that. For me, it was nice putting faces to names finally as I didn't really get connected with the chase community as a whole until the 2011-2012 time frame, even though I'd been chasing for several years prior to that.
 
Sep 29, 2011
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Fort Worth, TX
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I went to the last gathering at Tim's place in 2001, and did the convention in 2002 & 2011. We went to the 2016 convention in Norman but didn't register for the actual conference, just hung out with friends at the bar/lobby all weekend. Here's a few random memories from each off the top of my head...

2001 - Met a bunch of new people I'd only known through online chats and forums, including Mike Hollingshead. After Tim's party ended, he and I drove back to our hotel (just happened to be staying at the same place), ordered Pizza Hut, and as we're mowing through pieces, we both start to taste something weird. We discovered the folks at Pizza Hut had made our large supreme pan pizza with a dessert crust, so the savory middle was followed by a sweet/cinnamon edge. I don't recommend it.

2002 - My friend Matt Sellers rode with me to the convention, and he spent half the night before we left, right up until we departed, working on his video for Video Night. It was chase footage set to Metallica's "Through the Never." While it was being played at the convention, I had to take a bathroom break (lots of beers), and since I'd already seen it while he was creating it, I left the room to heed Nature's call. When I was coming back through the hallway headed back into the ballroom, Steve Hodanish came walking out. Roger Hill & Doug Kiesling were sitting at a table next to the entrance to the ballroom, and after he came out of the door, Hodanish looked at them and started complaining about Matt's video: "I can't stand that crap. I don't need to sit there and listen to a !@#$ing music video." Of course me, being how I am and having had several beers, walked right up to him and laid into his ass, right in front of Roger & Doug: "Hey man, he worked his ASS off and that video, and I don't appreciate you being an asshole about it." He was walking towards the nearest exit and kept mouthing, to which I just laid into him more, using words I was probably making up on the spot. I'll never forget the shocked look on Roger and Doug's faces.

2011 - I got in trouble for having a rolling cooler with me in the ballroom during the keynote speaker's presentation, but not until we were walking out afterwards. Then I took it to the bar where I again got in trouble, and again, only after I'd already had it in there (before the keynote speaker) handing out beers to friends. After I was made to take my cooler and roll on outta there, I went to the main couch in the lobby, where Ben Holcomb and others were all sitting around drinking beer in cans, which were strewn all over. I was just sitting there talking, with my roller cooler sitting next to me, and over the next several minutes everyone kind of disappeared, leaving me all alone with my cooler....and a sh*tload of empty beer cans all over. The same woman who had scolded me at the bar walked over, looked at all the beer cans, then at my cooler, then at me. She shot me the dirtiest look ever, as if to say "You son-of-a-b...." thinking I was the one responsible for the mess. I made no attempt to defend myself, but instead just stretched out, shook my head and smiled as she walked away. "Perfect'" I thought to myself.

2016 - Spent several minutes at the bar listening to Chance Coldiron (who's married with children) hit on Bridget, then listened to him be a smartass, snarky little worm as he laughed about it and tried to explain to me why he was a better choice for her than I was. He was completely arrogant and never offered any apology, nor showed any sign of remorse. The only thing that saved him from needing reconstructive surgery was the fact it was very late, I was very drunk, and it had been a GREAT evening to that point. I laughed it off but made several mental notes, which I referred to when I did the DEAD CHASERS SOCIETY episode covering the event the next week. Somehow, Chance Coldiron must have had a huge change of heart, because not long after that video went live on the world wide web I received a "heartfelt" book of an email apology from him, which of course was really just a "I'm sorry I got caught" letter. I never responded to him, and I never took the video down as he pleaded for me to do. Eventually that video (along with ALL the old DCS episodes) were deleted, so I guess he got lucky in that regard. But not so lucky should he ever walk into the same room as me again.
 
Aug 9, 2012
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Galesburg, IL
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I went in 2015 in Denver and while it was a fun time, I couldn't justify spending the money again to go to a conference, when I could save the same money for spring chasing. It was a fun time even though I only ran into a handful of people that I knew including Terrence Cook and Derek Weston. Rich Sample, Kholby Martin, Jesse Risley, and Daniel Parker were also in our group. I didn't get a chance to go to previous conferences and was told that some of the earlier ones were far more eventful than the year I chose to go. Still a pretty fun time and a chance of scenary from what we are used to in Illinois in the winter months.
 
Jun 14, 2009
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Brooklyn, NY
I first went in 2009, and went again in 2010 and several other times over the years. I learned a lot, met a bunch of great people, and I'm sad to see it go. I'm especially sad that there apparently wasn't a video stream this year--I had to work all day yesterday (and in the last few years) and couldn't go. But I thank Roger and Caryn and Tim for putting it on. I have a few terrible photos from 2009 here and 2010 here (I got my first DSLR in 2009).
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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Thought of another story. During the 2004 convention, the late Fabian Guerra and I had agreed to share a room with Pete McConnell and Ron Remeirsma. I was flying from West Virginia and had a layover at Chicago Midway airport on the way there, and decided to give Fabian a call to finalize where we were going to meet up in Denver. I was sitting in the waiting area at the gate for my flight when I called him. After a couple of minutes of conversation, I said "Well, I'm here at Midway getting ready to get on the plane, so I'll see you in Denver". He said, "I'm at Midway now too". I said "Really? What gate?" We both look up and Fabian is literally sitting right across from me at the gate 10 feet away, looking right at me, he'd been there all along and neither of us realized it. Everyone around us at the gate saw it got a laugh out of that.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
My first time was 2011, although I had been chasing since 1996. I took Jon Davies' forecasting class - I believe that was the first year he took over from Tim Vasquez, in fact my recollection is that Tim bailed and it was going to be cancelled until Jon pinch hit. I also took spotter training that was available at the end of the conference - figured I should become "official" and memorialize my knowledge with a certificate - each participant's local forecast office was supposed to make it official, but I never received anything from NWS Philadelphia/Mt. Holly and never bothered following up. As for the conference itself, I enjoyed the content the most, and getting the chance to hear from "famous" people in the severe weather community such as Dr. Greg Forbes, Dr. Chuck Doswell, Dr. Karen Kosiba and Tim Marshall. I went alone, and most other people were there with one or more friends, so I didn't do all that much socializing, just geeked out on the content and kept mostly to myself.

I never intended to make attendance a recurring thing; it was always the weekend near Valentine's Day, and also during my busiest time of year at work (accountants are very busy with "year-end" stuff the whole first quarter of the year), so both family and work pressures made it tough to be away. But I went again in 2014 because I was interested to see what would be said about the May 31, 2013 tragedy. There were some interesting presentations about the event - it was interesting to hear from Mike Bettis about TWC's own mishaps, but the more compelling presentation was by the NWS meteorologists that did a forensic investigation on the event and the TWISTEX tragedy. I was choked up by how Roger Hill set up a place setting, with a bottle of beer if I remember correctly, according to what he said was a military tradition for a fallen fellow soldier. I took Jon Davies' class for a second time in 2014.

After that, my Februaries got even busier when I started teaching in an executive MBA program for a few weekends in March and April; I had to do most of my prep work in February, and that had to be on the weekends because it was such a busy time at work. I got turned off when I heard about the funding campaign, because I felt that the conference should not be subsidized, it should simply cut costs and/or raise prices enough to make itself economically viable, like any other business venture, and let the free market operate accordingly. And it always seemed to me that Roger Hill held himself out as an elitist chaser that didn't engage with the Stormtrack community or the rest of us third-class citizens. Maybe that's unfair, but I have seen similar thoughts echoed on Stormtrack.

I would have been really interested to see how/if the Silver Lining Tours incident was addressed at this year's conference. And if it wasn't addressed in any formal way, I would love to have been a fly on the wall to hear if anyone asked Roger about it, or just to hear some of the side conversations that must have occurred.

One funny story although only tangentially related to the conference. A couple of colleagues from the CPA firm I was with at the time in the Philadelphia area had a client out in Denver. On Saturday night I get a text from one of them saying "We're at a hotel in Denver and there's a storm chaser conference here!" I respond, "I am there. Do you want to meet at the bar?" I never heard back from them and find out later that they thought I was joking about actually being there.
 
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