JACKSONVILLE IN JULY
by Carla Ruschival and Berl Colley

Spring will soon be upon us, and the winds of winter will become a distant memory. That means it's time to make your travel plans for the 45th ACB national convention happening in Jacksonville, Fla., July 8 through 15.

Jacksonville sure is a friendly place:

* Budget-friendly -- Great low non-holiday airfares from many parts of the country and a $79 (plus tax) hotel room rate for up to four people in a room;

* Information-friendly -- Wide variety of seminars, workshops and programs plus an exhibit area jammed with everything that talks, the latest technology, and a broad array of products and services of interest to both blind and visually impaired people;

* Fun-friendly -- Lots of socials and fun events right at the hotel and a week brimming over with outstanding tours;

* Mobility-friendly -- Fewer steps needed to get to meetings, exhibits and on-site events.

Read on for details about some great convention tours being planned with you in mind by Berl Colley, tour coordinator. Then check out the tips and reminders at the end of this article.

St. Augustine, Friday, July 7 -- A day-long visit to the oldest organized community in the United States. Founded in 1565, St. Augustine has been populated by Native American, Spanish, British and U.S. societies. You will arrive around 8:30 a.m. for a two-hour tour of the area. The guided tour will end at Castillo de Marcos (Fort St. Augustine), and you'll have a chance to explore the fort and hear about its history. After a plated lunch, you will board our bus for a one-hour ghostly experience; it is alleged that there are some 300 ghosts lurking throughout the St. Augustine area. Then you'll visit the Florida museum and experience the Indian, Spanish and pioneer cultures of old St. Augustine through some interactive activities. Finally you'll have time to shop and tour St. George Street on your own before returning to the hotel shortly after 6 p.m.

Baseball Game, Friday, July 7 -- Enjoy a lazy summer evening at the ballpark. Baseball fans will see a AA game between the Jacksonville Suns (a farm team of the Los Angeles Dodgers) and their unnamed opponent as of this writing. The Suns' park is about three years old and is rated as one of the top minor league parks in the United States.

Jacksonville City Tours, Saturday, July 8 (repeated on Sunday, July 9) -- Morning bus tours filled with three hours of information about the city ACB will call home for the coming week.

Casino Cruise, Saturday, July 8 -- Board the bus Saturday morning for the Sun Cruise casino ship, a three-deck, 600-passenger craft. You'll sail at 11 a.m. and return to the dock at 4 p.m. The boat has a full casino with over 300 slot machines, several dice and blackjack tables, roulette and poker. Enjoy a brunch buffet during the first hour of the trip while you sail past the 3-mile limit, and then let the games begin. Don't like to gamble? No problem! There's lots of entertainment on board, so come along for the fun!

Let's Go Fishing, Sunday, July 9 -- You'll leave the hotel around 11:30 a.m. for Amelia Island, where you will board small ocean-going fishing boats. Each boat will hold six plus the captain and his assistant. The boats will leave the docks at 1 p.m. and return at 5 p.m. You will be trolling for your fish. This tour is not wheelchair-accessible.

Stay tuned for more info! Next month we'll be talking about the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour, the Okefenokee Swamp tour, our trip to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, trips to the nearby Arts and Science Museum and Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, and a return to the St. Augustine ghost tour. The Saturday evening dinner theater is back at the end of convention week, with a performance of "Beauty and the Beast."

Now for some convention tips and reminders.

* Important information about your hotel reservation -- PLEASE READ CAREFULLY! Now's the time to make those hotel reservations for Jacksonville. But if you already have a reservation for July and you don't plan to use that room, now is also the time to release your reservation. In order to reduce attrition rates, which can cost ACB several thousand dollars, rooms canceled after April 15 will incur a charge by the hotel. Call reservations at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville-Riverfront at 1-800- 223-1234 or (904) 588-1234. Remember that the convention rate is $79 per night plus tax; tell the reservationist that you are with ACB to receive this rate.

* Air fares at the midyear meeting were very expensive because of the President's Day holiday. A quick look at normal fares to Jacksonville shows that average costs are very reasonable from most major cities, and that several major airlines fly there. For example, round-trip tickets from Louisville run between $153 and $220 depending on the airline, but on holidays prices soar to twice that amount. Make your travel plans early to take advantage of the best fares.

* All special-interest affiliates and other organizations, agencies and companies wishing to schedule events at the 2006 ACB convention should be well into the planning process by this time. All events MUST be scheduled through Carla Ruschival, special events coordinator. Details must be received by April 1 in order for an event to be listed on the pre-registration form; agenda information must be received by April 15 for inclusion in the convention program. For more information, and to obtain instructions, menus, audio-visual pricing, and assistance with customizing your event, contact Carla Ruschival at (502) 897-1472 or by e-mail at [email protected] or [email protected]

* Exhibit, advertising and sponsorship packets are now available. To take advantage of our exciting new sponsorship opportunities, contact Brenda Dillon, advertising and sponsorship coordinator, at (615) 874-1223 or by e- mail at [email protected] To reserve your booth in our ever-popular exhibit area, contact Mike Smitherman, exhibits coordinator, at (601) 366-5523 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Be sure to check each issue of "The Braille Forum" for more convention details and tips. Jacksonville is going to be great, and you don't want to miss any of the fabulous events we have in store for you.


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