Katrina or Not,
New Orleans is Ready for You!
Our 47th Annual Conference is scheduled to take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 1-4, 2006. At last year's conference in Seattle, just a few weeks following the Katrina disaster, immediate past ATA President Scott Brennan announced that ATA would do its best to hold its 2006 conference in New Orleans as planned, as our way to support the devastated city. In my role as this year's conference organizer, I visited the Big Easy in mid-March, together with ATA President Marian Greenfield, ATA Executive Director Walter Bacak, and ATA Meeting Planner & Administrative Coordinator Teresa Kelly, to figure out the answer to a question we have never had to ask before:
Is the city ready to host our conference?
As you can surmise from the title, the answer is "Yes!"
The tour of the devastated areas of the city is not for the faint of heart. Seven months following Katrina, sailboats are still seen scattered in places they clearly don't belong, and abandoned cars are found in awkward positions around destroyed homes. Some of the affected houses have holes in the roof through which hurricane victims were airlifted, and all of them bear the sign of an "X" with the following information inscribed in each quadrant: a date, identification of the rescue team, the number of persons rescued, and the number of persons for whom the rescuers came too late
In the French Quarter, however, it's business as usual, and the recent Mardi Gras was a great success. The conference hotel, the Sheraton New Orleans on historic Canal Street, overlooks the French Quarter, the Warehouse Arts District, and the Mississippi River. The hotel is within walking distance of the Aquarium of the Americas, IMAX Theater, Riverwalk Marketplace, Harrah's Casino, and a number of award-winning restaurants. It is located only 16 miles from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
The Sheraton was the first fully operational, full-service hotel to reopen to the public after the Katrina disaster. It also played a crucial role during the disaster, serving as the police headquarters; it still serves as the media headquarters. Today it offers the usual amenities, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Roux Bistro, a Starbucks, a fitness center, high-speed Internet access in each room, and free wireless Internet access in the lobby and on the second floor, where some of the conference activities will take place.
Visit Sheraton Hotel Website and see for yourself!
When inspecting the conference venue in the wake of the Katrina disaster, we were also concerned about weather and health hazards. The hurricane season officially starts June 1 and lasts until November 30. With the conference at the tail end of the hurricane season, I was curious what the chances would be of experiencing one up close, and was repeatedly assured that our conference was late in the season and that hurricanes do not come to New Orleans in November. Further research showed that New Orleans is visited by a hurricane once in 12 years on average, and that those hurricanes usually occur in August or September. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Library, New Orleans has been hit by two major (Category 3 or above) hurricanes. Those were Hurricane Betsy (Category 3) in September 1965, and Hurricane Katrina (Category 4) in August 2005.
Another concern is water and air pollution. Dr. Kevin Stephens, director of the New Orleans Department of Health, recently stated that they have tested, retested, and continue to test land, water, and air in the New Orleans area, and the test results show that the city is safe for citizens and visitors. At the time of our visit (March 11-12, 2006), New Orleans had an OZONE level of 16 and a PM2.5 level of 35 (with the following rating scale: Good 0-50, Moderate 51-100, Unhealthy 101-150). For more information, see www.airnow.gov.
So much for the elements. As for the people, we spent a wonderful Friday evening and Sunday morning with Beth Nazar, an ATA member, New Orleans resident, and Katrina survivor. She not only showed us around and provided a fascinating personal account of the disaster, but she also offered help in a variety of ways to make our New Orleans conference a great success, and I would like to express our thanks for her enthusiastic support. Watch out for her articles on New Orleans in future issues. We are also looking forward to having local groups from Austin and Houston coming to town and helping out.
New Orleans is a fascinating multicultural city with superb food and music, and I encourage all of you to come and sample coffee with chicory and some beignets in Café du Monde, or Chef Darin’s Turtle Soup and Gumbo Ya Ya in the Palace Café just across the street from the hotel. The House of Blues is one block away from the hotel, and street performers and jazz clubs are back. Let us all enjoy what the city has to offer and let us offer back what the city will enjoy—a colorful bunch of translators and interpreters as well as the much-needed boost which an event like ours will bring to the city.
ATA President-Elect and