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Clearwater YAL Memorial Day Weekend 2008 Preview

 

UPDATED April 6, 2008

The Clearwater YAL recently released its much-awaited details on its 17th Annual Memorial Day Weekend Event Convention. Amidst many months of rumor and speculation ranging from the unbelievable “no event this year” to the plausible “the hotel might not be on the beach,” we are glad to see that the organizers seem to be taking some subtle yet positive steps in reversing some of the less desirable aspects of last year’s convention.

Back to Clearwater Beach, well, not exactly...

The most striking development of this year’s convention is the return to a Clearwater address after a two year hiatus to St. Pete’s Beach. The Belleview Biltmore Resort seems to be the most impressive venue for this Convention this decade. Its website opens with the following description that makes it sound like the hotel was out of its mind or living under a rock for the past few years when it allowed this group to book the entire resort:

Situated on a 22 acre bluff overlooking the crystal waters of Clearwater Bay, The Belleview Biltmore, built in 1897 by the railroad tycoon Henry Plant, sits in a private waterside enclave in the Bellair community of Clearwater, FL. This is a full-service resort that includes the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club - an 18 hole PGA Donald Ross designed course, the Belleview Biltmore Tennis Club, the Belleview Biltmore Spa and the Belleview Biltmore Beach Club on Sand Key. Historical tours are held daily and open to the public. The original hotel is a historic property and one of the last of the great American Victorian "Grand Dame" Resort.

Words like “private” and “historic” unfortunately find themselves out of place when paired with the disruption caused by over 1000 Greek-American young adults; one that can best be described as “epic.” This resort is frankly too grown-up for some of crowd which this convention has been attracting the past few years. But perhaps this is exactly what the organizers were trying to accomplish this year, if only as a subtle reminder that our collective Greek-American “play hard” tendencies need to be balanced with the reality that many of us are spending over a $1000 dollars for the event, taking valuable time off of work and our daily responsibilities, and should appreciate being surrounded by this type of luxury and amenities. (Don’t get us wrong, we enjoy your average Waffle House as much or if not more than those of you who will be staying next door to us at the Belleview Biltmore in a few short months, but Waffle Houses are more for road trips than the destination that Clearwater should be.)

The only drawback we’ve been able to see with this resort is bussing to the beach. The Belleville Biltmore Beach Club on Sand Key is about 5.9 miles away and a 15 minute bus ride around Clearwater Harbor that separates the resort from the beach. While shuttles from the resort normally leave on the hour, the Clearwater YAL has promised us that there will be at four shuttles each hour leaving every 15 minutes.  Once on Sand Key though there appears to be plenty of options for food and drink to be able to make an afternoon of it, particularly since The Biltmore has a restaurant and private pool at the beach as well. The one advantage to the separation of hotel from beach is the ability to separate oneself from the non-stop partying if needing to recharge in the late afternoon before a late night out, as there will definitely be a split between those on the beach and those at the pool, leading to less crowds at the pool on most days.  (There is some confusion as to which pool is meant on different days, but from what we understand from the organizers, Fridays pool activities will take place at the Beach, Saturdays pool activities will take place at the Resort, and Sunday will be back on the beach.  The volleyball tournament will be taking place at the hotel.) 

A Return to Matheos Hall

While from the proposed itinerary it does not appear that transportation to the Sunday liturgy at the church is being offered again this year, we are quite pleased to see the return of Sunday Night’s Dinner Dance to the church hall, if only to break up the pattern of every event at the hotel, and to bring back a sense of tradition to Sunday night. Thursday and Friday night’s events will take place at the resort and Friday night features a pre-party sit-down dinner which will hopefully get people to the event earlier and keep them there to avoid the phenomenon of no one showing up to any of the events until 1:00 A.M. For the second year in a row, there is no “official” concert event on Saturday night, but with the return of the event to Clearwater, the ability to head into Tarpon Springs for the evening is more realistic given that the trip is cut in half.

Winning Back the Core Audience

This convention is designed to follow the National Young Adult League age guidelines, catering to those between 18 & 35 years of age. Those 18 and up are welcome to attend this year’s event as long as this is kept in mind!! Thanks – Clearwater YAL (www.clearwateryal.org)

A few subtle changes to this year’s packaging and promotion of this year’s event shows a commitment to winning back the older young adults who have been supporting Clearwater for years and deterring the non-YAL crowd. The opening message on the Clearwater YAL’s website serves as a reminder that this is a YAL event and that it is still being marketed to those in their late 20s and early 30s.  According to a conversation we had with one of the organizers, the Clearwater YAL does not have anything against the over-30 crowd so long as they dont creep out the younger conference attendees (i.e., the 18 year old girls who get hit on by the 35 year old guys.)  Our advice is so long as everyone remembers the half-your-age plus seven rule thought up by our founding father Ben Franklin over 200 years ago, everyone should be fine.  (That means a 35 year old guy shouldnt be hitting on anyone under 24.)  Be on the lookout for DCGreeks.com age-identifying tattoos for those of you colorblind folks who cant notice that the girl youre talking to is wearing an under-21 bracelet.  But the Clearwater YAL is also consciously trying to work on the image of this event, particularly in excluding some of the younger crowd as well.  The newly imposed lack of an ala carte option for any event may either price-out the mostly younger crowd that is just there to drink in their rooms and just attend the cheaper events, or on the flip-side, ensure full attendance at all the events, which is what a YAL Convention is supposed to be about. These rates are $165 until April 30th and $225 afterwards. Perhaps the most telling sign is less marketing on the Clearwater YALs MySpace page where the majority of the 18 to 21 year olds seemed to have learned of convention details over the last couple of years.

2008 Clearwater YAL Memorial Day Weekend Info

 


 

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