Hundreds of Auxiliary members are expected to gather for the annual American Legion Auxiliary National Convention in Cincinnati, including ALA members from all 50 states and several countries. We list seven great things to do at the convention, including learning more about the mission at workshops, hearing the stories of inspiring ALA members, exploring attractions and festivals in Cincinnati, and honoring those who give back.
From centennial planning to patriotic parades and cool Cincinnati sights, this year’s American Legion Auxiliary National Convention promises to be memorable
For members of The American Legion Family, Cincinnati is the place to be on Aug. 26. that’s the first day of The American Legion National Convention, which is anticipated to draw about 9,000 attendees to Duke Energy Convention Center in the heart of the Midwestern city.
Keeping up an annual tradition that dates back to 1919, Legion Family members will gather for a multi-day convention to attend strategic planning meetings, workshops about working the mission, general sessions with keynote speakers, a parade through the city, exhibits, color guard contests, receptions, banquets, and award presentations. Members gather not only for camaraderie and inspiration, but to advance their collective mission to support military veterans, servicemembers, and their families. The event includes separate planning sessions of the American Legion Auxiliary’s convention, the Sons of The American Legion convention, and The American Legion Riders Legacy Run.
The Legion’s first convention was a three-day affair in Minneapolis from Nov. 10-12, 1919, with 684 delegates attending. The agenda included adopting the Legion Constitution and Preamble, passing a resolution to support the Boy Scouts of America, and locating the Legion’s national headquarters, which by a 361 to 323 vote, resulted in the selection of Indianapolis. The debate leading up to the decision about Indianapolis was highly contentious; some members continue to debate the wisdom of selecting the Midwestern city over Washington, D.C.
Whether or not you’ve already made plans to attend the 2016 National Convention, there’s still time to join in on the largest gathering of patriotic service organizations. Here is our list of seven great things to do while attending the event. We look forward to seeing you there!
American Legion Family members love a parade, which is one of the most anticipated highlights of the convention. Throughout its history, the parades that are part of the convention have been legendary.
Newspapers across the country reported on the 1940 National Convention parade, which included a procession that took an astounding 12 hours and 15 minutes to complete in Boston. One newspaper reported, “The parade moved promptly at 9 in the morning and it was 10:15 p.m. when the last marching unit passed the reviewing stand to take the salute of the national commander.” that parade attracted an estimated 3 million spectators. In 1931, the Detroit Free Press newspaper reported that The American Legion hosted the longest parade in Michigan’s history, when the parade lasted eight hours with 85,000 marchers in front of 1 million spectators. The headline read “Millions Watch Legion Veterans March for Hours.”
The high turnout for those parades came during an era before TVs, tablets, and smartphones. Community events truly were the highlight of entertainment during that time. Of course, today’s parades don’t take as long, but expect to spend an afternoon enjoying the creative ways our members display their patriotic pride for their country, state, and organization. The parade is tentatively scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Aug. 28.
During the ALA National Convention, members will attend sessions designed to help advance the mission to support military servicemembers and veterans. Along with ALA National Headquarters staff , ALA members help design agendas and sessions with the mission in mind. This year, workshops will focus on branding and other initiatives to raise awareness and achieve the five goals of the Auxiliary’s Centennial Strategic Plan. Not familiar with this plan? Here it is in a nutshell:
• Goal 5: With The American Legion, Build Brand Loyalty
• Goal 4: Strengthen Departments and Units
• Goal 3: Develop Leadership at all Levels
• Goal 2: Create an Internal Culture of Goodwill
• Goal 1: Enhance Membership Strength
When you attend convention, you will be involved in hands-on sessions to help you, your unit, and your department accomplish these objectives by 2019, the 100th birthday of the American Legion Auxiliary.
You also will hear reports on the Centennial Strategic Plan’s progress since last year’s convention. During the 2015 session, Angela White, CEO for Johnson, Grossnickle & Associates and an ALA member, presented highlights from the 40-page ALA Organizational Effectiveness Report, a compilation of survey results from 8,849 ALA members. While the survey revealed that ALA members are very passionate about serving military servicemembers, veterans, and their families, the report shows we still have much to do to keep the ALA a strong organization.
Learn what strategic plan teams have accomplished since the survey revealed that we need to put less focus on meeting structure and more on program engagement and impact, being more civil toward one another, embracing membership at different levels, and boosting membership by recruiting more diverse members, including younger generations.
The convention provides a great opportunity to become even more inspired to carry out our mission to support the military, veterans, and their families. And you’ll never know where that inspiration will come from. It could come from this year’s retiring ALA national president’s remarks or the newly elected president who will serve the upcoming administrative year.
It could come from a unit member honored for her diligence in promoting the ALA mission, or from reports of members helping veterans in hospice care, raising donations for veterans, or reaching out to recruit more members. You may be inspired by Little Miss Poppy or a teenager expressing gratitude for the ability to attend ALA Girls Nation or The American Legion Boys Nation because of your efforts, or from youth who overcame hardships and were able to excel academically because of a scholarship provided by the ALA. You may get a bit choked up when a veteran or servicemember offers his or her gratitude for the work we provide through the ALA. You’ll surely be inspired by numerous people, including plenty of dedicated ALA members and other award and scholarship recipients, during events throughout the convention.
There’s no doubt you’ll make a new friend while attending the ALA National Convention. Our members are traveling to Cincinnati from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other places around the world. No matter how far they traveled to get to National Convention, you’ll have in common the mission to dedicate your time, talent, and treasure to move our mission forward. Make sure you say “hello” to someone you don’t recognize — you may become lifelong friends.
Whether you decide to take a walk on the wild side by visiting the Cincinnati Zoo or browse The Banks, a new entertainment center, Cincinnati has plenty of destinations for your entire family to explore. You’ll want to bring your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews with you to the city to truly make it a family outing. Here are just a few excursions worth planning while you’re attending this year’s convention:
Cincinnati Zoo. With 75 acres, 580 animal species, and 3,000 plant varieties, the Cincinnati Zoo will give you plenty of opportunities to explore the animal and plant kingdom. Take some time to feed the elegant giraffes and come face to face with lions in the new Africa exhibit, the largest animal exhibit in the history of the zoo. Consistently ranked as one of the top zoos in the country and the Greenest Zoo in America, the Cincinnati Zoo is the nation’s second oldest zoo and a national historic landmark. You can take a break with lunch at Base Camp Café, the “Greenest Restaurant in America.”
The Banks Entertainment District. Located along the river between Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium, The Banks, a multimillion-dollar development, offers something for everyone. The riverfront district features family-friendly restaurants, sports bars, bike rentals, and the Great American Ball Park, home to the Cincinnati Reds. Other nearby attractions include the renowned National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Smale Riverfront Park, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame Museum, a hand-carved carousel, a giant foot piano, a rose garden, and a “flying” pig!
Fountain Square. Located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, Fountain Square is at the corner of Fifth and Vine streets. It’s the place where many locals and visitors gather for free outdoor concerts, game nights, salsa dancing, ice cream, and other treats.
Over-the-Rhine Historic Neighborhood. Another great destination for strolling after attending a convention session is the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, better known as “OTR” to locals. Considered to be one of the largest intact urban historic districts in the country, this neighborhood has undergone a dramatic revitalization over the past decade. After admiring the brightly painted buildings, consider dining at one of the award-winning restaurants.
Contemporary Arts Center. The Contemporary Arts Center is a pioneering contemporary art museum and was one of the first contemporary art institutions in the United States. Today, the downtown structure is famous for its Zaha Hadid design and offering free exhibitions of some of the best contemporary art in the world.
BB Riverboat Cruise. Take a cruise with BB Riverboats, a staple of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky riverfront for more than 30 years, and learn about the history of the river, take in a magnificent meal, or dance under the stars on an unbelievable journey you will never forget. BB Riverboats offers lunch, dinner, and sightseeing cruises, plus themed and specialty cruises, so it’s great for a family adventure or a romantic evening for two.
Newport on the Levee – Famous “Purple People Bridge.” While it’s not in Cincinnati, Newport on the Levee is in walking distance of the city — located on the south bank of the Ohio River in Newport, Ky., directly across from Downtown Cincinnati. You can reach the area by walking across the 1872 Newport Southbank Bridge, popularly known as the Purple People Bridge. Once you cross the bridge, which stretches 2,670 feet across the Ohio River, you’ll come upon the entertainment center. It features an arcade, a multi-plex movie theater, a bowling alley, the Newport Aquarium, a comedy club, an ice cream shop and free concerts on Thursday nights.
Throughout its history, the ALA has recognized those who have excelled in giving back, whether they are servicemembers and veterans who gave up comforts, and, in many cases, risked their lives to protect us, or others who tirelessly devote their time and energy to support and serve military servicemembers, veterans, and their communities. This year will be no different. As part of the event and festivities, outgoing ALA National President Sharon Conatser will pay tribute to the recipient of the 2016 American Legion Auxiliary Woman of the Year award at a luncheon held to honor her and unit members of the year. Attendees also will recognize those ALA members who helped make their units among the best of the best, as part of the National President’s Award for Excellence presentations. These women will be honored for epitomizing the Auxiliary’s longstanding motto of Service Not Self.
The American Legion Auxiliary Foundation is once again hosting its #GivingTuesday campaign. As part of the fundraising initiative, it will have a booth at convention to raise funds for veterans and military servicemembers. Last year, the ALA Foundation launched a #GivingTuesday fundraising campaign, as did many other nonprofit organizations since the movement first started in 2012.
#GivingTuesday follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a day dedicated to giving back. This year, Innovairre Communications, the ALA’s direct mail fundraising associate, will match up to $15,000 in donations generated by the campaign in 2016! Last year, the company matched $10,000 of your donations. that means you’ll be able to double your donation. For example, if you give $1, that automatically turns into $2 with the Innovairre Communications match. Give $5, and it becomes $10. What a way to make an impact! Look for the #GivingTuesday booth at convention. A surprise will be awaiting you.
Registration is simple! Contact your department headquarters office for information on how to register. Guest, delegate and alternate registration opens on Aug. 1. You also can tune in to live streaming of the sessions by visiting ALAforVeterans.org.
Need a new American Legion Auxiliary shirt? Scarf? Decorative pin? Stock up to make sure you’re part of our brand by proudly displaying our organization’s emblem during National Convention. Go to www.emblem.legion.org for a wide collection of branded gear. American Legion Flag & Emblem Sales also will be on site at convention in the Exhibit Hall if you’d like to pick up a few more items.
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