Texas events offer excited energy and a sense of normalcy

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Texas events offer excited energy and a sense of normalcy

By Blair Potter | Jul 27, 2021

Amy Lawson and her team worked for months planning the in-person 87th annual conference of the Tax Assessor-Collectors Association of Texas (TACA), “with fingers crossed” that it would actually happen in June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The interactive speakers and discussions, hallway conversations and vendors seeing existing clients and making new ones were refreshing and gave a sense of normalcy after over a year of virtual events,” says Lawson, the association’s education project manager. “While onsite, we could feel the excited energy to be back in person.”

Corpus Christi

She says the conference, held at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, on the Gulf of Mexico, included education opportunities, an exhibition and evening networking events. Omni and Holiday Inn properties served as host hotels for many of the 185 tax assessor-collectors and 296 deputies representing 191 counties throughout the state, and the installation of board officers was held at the Texas State Aquarium.

“Having the dolphin show right after the installation of officers was pretty awesome,” Lawson says.

Health and safety were, of course, a top concern, and she says that adhering to social distancing protocols while still providing a successful learning environment took some creative thinking—as did décor, meals and breaks.

“The association came up with a dot system for attendees to add on their name badges—red: six feet away, please; yellow: OK for a fist bump or high five; and green: I’m fully vaccinated and good with a hug,” Lawson says. “Prior to our arrival, we had promoted wearing masks while in the meeting space. Once we arrived, we learned the mask requirement was lifted and it was optional for those who had been fully vaccinated. With new ‘normal’ health safety standards in place since the beginning of the pandemic, attendees were understanding and cooperative with the changes we had to make.”

She says event success is measured by evaluation scores and comments, vendor feedback and overall attendance.

“Our registration counts were significantly higher leading up to the conference,” Lawson says. “We ended up with a 10% increase from 2019, when we were in Galveston. It is the largest conference attendance for TACA.”

Nicole Olivares, vice president of sales for Visit Corpus Christi, says excitement about group business has grown with the decline in COVID-19 numbers and the lifting of business restrictions.

“Not only is there pent-up demand for leisure travel, but people cannot wait to start meeting in groups again and networking with their industry peers,” she says. “Groups that were already on the books for summer 2021 are more excited than ever to get to Corpus Christi and we are hearing from new groups every day about bringing their events to a coastal destination with plenty of outdoor spaces for offsite events and excursions.”

“While onsite, we could feel the excited energy to be back in person.”

Olivares says the city’s appeal lies in its rich blend of culture, nature and entertainment.

“You can convene, network and learn all while experiencing miles and miles of warm beaches, sunny skies and local seafood,” she says, noting that the city welcomes 10 million visitors annually. “Downtown offers beautiful views of the Corpus Christi Bay and is located just 12 minutes from Corpus Christi International Airport. Convention facilities, hotels and major attractions are less than 10 minutes apart.”

In addition to the American Bank Center, which offers 400,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space overlooking Corpus Christi Bay, there are more than 11,000 hotel and condo guest rooms. Attractions that can host meetings include the Art Museum of South Texas, Whataburger Field, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History and the USS Lexington. American Bank Center, Corpus Christi International Airport and various downtown hotels recently achieved GBAC STAR Accreditation.


The Texas State Lions Convention is held annually in one of 16 different districts around the state. The 2021 event was held in May in the central Texas city Waco. Kim Giles, owner of By Design, planned this year’s event and says it was the largest event in Lions history (522 participants).

“A state convention usually consists of Lions’ leadership from all over the state (with international family as guest speakers) converging in one spot for a lot of meetings, a lot of meals, a lot of awards and a lot of camaraderie,” she says.

Activities include updates on new policies and club member recruitment/retention initiatives, voting on resolutions, award presentations, memorial breakfasts and youth luncheons.

Giles says the record participation might be due in part to people being stir crazy and needing to get away from home (“But hey, we’ll take it!”), but was also helped by the many great offerings in Waco that were promoted a year in advance.

“The Waco Convention Center was the perfect venue for this, as well—plenty of space, gorgeous since its remodel and close to everything downtown for our guests,” she says.

“Many want to come back to spend more time exploring all that Waco has to offer—which was another of our goals—so all in all, it was a success in our book!”

Giles says the convention wasn’t much different from a pre-pandemic convention, other than having disposable masks and plenty of hand sanitizer onsite.

“We did have social distancing at meals in the large ballroom, but many chose to move their chairs to be closer to others,” she says. “Very few wore masks, as most (if not all) attendees had been vaccinated.”

The success of the convention is measured by the number of people registered and positive comments during and after the event.

“Thankfully, all we heard were rave reviews about how well organized the weekend was, how tasty all meals were, how friendly and helpful all volunteer staff were to every guest (our main goal) and how much of a great time they had while in Waco,” Giles says. “Many want to come back to spend more time exploring all that Waco has to offer—which was another of our goals—so all in all, it was a success in our book!”

Carla Pendergraft, director of marketing for the Waco Convention Center and Waco CVB, says the city, located 100 miles from both Austin and Dallas, is very attractive to groups with Texas membership.

“The top attraction is Magnolia Market at the Silos, a shopping mecca owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Admission is free and activities include Wiffle Ball and lawn games, food trucks, a bakery, a garden store, a coffee shop and seven retail outlets with specialty merchandise not sold anywhere else,” she says. “Additional attractions include the Texas Ranger Museum, Cameron Park Zoo, Dr Pepper Museum, Mayborn Museum and Waco Mammoth National Monument.”

The city’s primary meeting facility is the Waco Convention Center with 28 breakout rooms accommodating from 25 up to 2,000 in a banquet setting. It offers a 32,000-square-foot hall and is next door to two hotels featuring a combined 350 guest rooms: the Waco Hilton and Courtyard by Marriott.

“Five hotels opened during the pandemic, which shows the depth of confidence in the tourism trade in our area,” Pendergraft says.



Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).