YAL 2008 National Conference Preview
June 18, 2008
For the first time in five years, the YAL National Conference is returning to the DC area, as the Marriott Wardman Park in Woodley Park will play host to the Conference from July 10 to July 13th, prior to the start of the Church’s week-long Clergy Laity Congress. It may be the best conference that most people only had started to hear about recently, as the Archdiocese only tapped the locals to start planning it back at the beginning of this year. Somehow however, things finally came together and we’re here to update you on what you’ll be missing.
The biggest surprise for many will be crowd on Thursday. Over 60% of the young adults registered thus far will actually be arriving on the first day of the conference for the all-you-can eat crab feast at St. Katherine, sponsored by McCormick (the makers of Old Bay for those of you not up on your spice manufacturers). With more on the menu than just crabs (for those who lack patience or don’t want to get their hands dirty) there’s no reason why this might not be the highest attended Thursday night Greek event in DC ever, which would be a fantastic kick-off to the week’s activities.
Friday afternoon offers unprecedented access to some of the most dynamic speakers in our church including Archbishop Demetrios himself. After a couple of rounds of workshops based on the registrants’ top choices, having the chance for an actual sit down with the Archbishop, one of the most engaging men one will ever have the pleasure of listening to in a Q&A. (Being able to attend these workshops and the discussion with the Archbishop is the biggest reason for registering for the whole weekend rather than just a la carting the social events.)
Admittedly it took the Committee a while to find a place for Friday Night’s Greek Night. It wasn’t an easy task given the Archdiocese’s criteria – 18 and over, on a Metro line, and big enough to hold 500 people. But finally after months of searching, kstreet lounge will be the site of the event, featuring DJ Manolis who will be donating his service for two nights during the weekend. This event features a $20 cover for those who didn’t register for the package, but it is still reasonable enough to attract a huge DC and Baltimore crowd.
While there are more church services at a YAL National Conference than other YAL events, two of these services are uniquely DC. Any service at Arlington National Cemetery is stirring, but being able to have Archbishop Demetrios officiating over a Trisagion at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Saturday afternoon will be particularly memorable. The largest service of the weekend will be on Sunday as the YAL Conference and the start of Clergy Laity overlap at St. Sophia’s Cathedral. St. Sophia is a large church, but there’s no way it will be able to handle the thousands upon thousands of people who are expected to attend from out of town and from the DC area. (Two years ago in Nashville an entire hotel ballroom still wasn’t enough to host the service, and that was Nashville, which doesn’t have the local Greek population of the DC area.) We would like to see as many young adults as possible at this service. While there is no designated area for the YAL inside St. Sophia’s, we urge everyone to remember what it was like when they were in college and camp out outside St. Sophia to fill the balcony and more. We can’t expect any VIP treatment as the YAL, particularly when it’s a guarantee that ambassadors and other dignitaries will be filling the front rows.
It wouldn’t be a YAL Conference without a semi-formal event on the next to last night. This year’s event avoids the two most classic venues for such an event a hotel ballroom or a church hall and heads to the Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington. We’ve been saying for years how special it would be to have a Greek event at such a venue – a large open space with a huge dance floor, an ample bar area, and a open rooftop. Apollonia will be the featured band for the evening with DJ Manolis working band breaks. In an ideal world we would have some classic DC venue like the Old Post Office Pavillion or one of the museums as the backdrop for this event, but with less than six months notice to reserve a spot, the Committee could have done worse than the Clarendon Ballroom. The same could be said about Sunday Night’s Farewell Cocktail Cruise on the Potomac. Even though it is the last night, there are already over 100 out-of-towners staying in town for the event. This is not the norm for most YAL events where everyone’s rushing to get back to work on Monday morning.
With the event now three weeks away, there’s still the choice of registering attending selected events a la carte (with discounts offered for purchasing those a la carte events online). A YAL National Conference only comes around once every two years and it’s a complete fluke that it’s back in the DC area after only five years. There’s no reason that the local crowd shouldn’t attend the crab feast on Thursday night which given the pre-registration numbers already promises to be the best attended Thursday night Greek event in DC in over 6 years. The locals will of course be at Greek Night on Friday and at the event on Saturday night, but what separates a YAL National Conference from any other YAL event is the workshops, the service projects, and the chance to be in the same room with Archbishop Demetrios and the other Bishops and Priests who serve the young adults in our church. It’s the hope of the organizers of this event that it will have the class of the event in Nashville two years ago with the hands-on participation of Baltimore in 2003 in a setting that only DC can provide.