My friend Becca and I recently attended the “Erie Gala” in, of course, Erie, Pa. I had first heard of the “Erie Gala” on the “Mature TG” Yahoo site and it sounded so interesting and the prices were so very reasonable that Becca and I immediately decided to attend. We both agreed that driving would be too long and would probably involve an “overnight” somewhere along the way. We thought of going by train because Becca had always wanted to take a long train ride . Well the train would have taken 13 hours to get to Erie and arrive there at 1:00 AM. We checked airline schedules and lo and behold there was a flight available from Manchester to Erie for $160.00 round trip. In a heartbeat, our decision was made. We would fly to Erie.
At first, I did not give any thought at trying to travel as Rita but as the time for our trip got closer, I kept thinking that this was a great opportunity for an adventure so I decided to fly as Rita. My friend, Kimberly Huddle from Austin, Texas, flies all over the country as Kimberly and has written countless blogs about her adventures. I mailed her and told of her my intentions and she told me to “go for it”.
On the morning of our departure I dressed and made up as Rita. I must admit that I dressed pretty androgynously, jeans, sweater, short leather jacket with scarf and boots with only a 2″ heel, just in case I ran into a problem. When we got to the airport we handed the young female ticket agent our boarding passes and our driver’s licenses and she did not even so much as blink.
I thought to myself, Wow that was easy. When I approached the metal detectors, I suddenly remembered that I have a pacemaker and internal defribilator and cannot go through metal detectors. So I handed the TSA agent my boarding pass and license and then came the $64 question, Was I male or female? I guest they were trying to figure out who would be doing a “pat down” search on me. The TSA agent was very courteous in the pat down. Then I was informed that my “boobies” would have to be checked for any “gel” substance. Again the TSA agent was very nice and led me to the security office and there in a private room, I had to reach in under my sweater and into my bra and show him my “boobie”. It checked out OK but I think that he was more embarrassed than I was. From then on it was smooth sailing all the way.
I would not attempt to compare the “Erie Gala” with First Event. I must admit though that the “management team” for the Gala was very well organized and that everything moved so smoothly. Unlike First Event, the “Erie Gala” does not have Workshops or Conferences of any kind. They do not hand out awards (except for fun things) and do not have a keynote speaker. However, they have “tours” arranged and entertainment all day and through the evening.
On the day we arrived, the group had taken a bus trip to a winery in Ohio and stopped for lunch at a Restaurant and did some shopping at a mall.
On Thursday afternoon we were fortunate to be joined by Deanna, a Tiffany member, and her wife who had driven all the way to Erie. They joined us for all of the events and it made for a most enjoyable time.
That evening, there was a “Barbecue/Western Theme Buffet” followed by entertainment. The meal was excellent and the entertainment, considering that it was a last minute replacement for what had originally been scheduled was also very good and professional.
On Friday, our day started with a “Golf Tournament”. Forty of us got on a very nice and plush bus and headed out to a Sports Complex that had an 18 hole indoor miniature golf course. So we matched up in foursomes and threesomes and we had to keep scorecards and turn them in because there were to be awards handed out the next day at the Luncheon. Following that we all went to lunch at a restaurant called “Oscar’s Pub” whose claim to fame was a “Big Ass” fish sandwich. After lunch, we went to the Erie Maritime Museum and were given a conducted tour aboard the frigate “Niagara”. It was entertaining, but our day was not over yet. We made one more stop at a place called “Romo’s Chocolates” which would have made Willy Wonka proud. Judging by what was carried out of the there, I would think that it was a profitable stop for Romo’s
Our Friday night buffet was a Hawaian Luau and they had Silk Flowers with barrettes for all the girls. It was very festive. Again, the meal was excellent. The entertainment for the evening was provided by two guys who call themselves “The Dueling Pianos.” They were wonderful musicians/comedians and there was a lot of audience participation. They have been doing this for five or six years and a good number of the girls got “roasted” . They entertained us for 2 hours non stop. That was followed by a “Trans Band” made up of some of the members. They were pretty good except that Deanna, Becca and I thought they were a little too loud for our taste and we went off to bed.
On Saturday, we had a nice luncheon at the hotel, and the awards for the Golf Tournament were handed out. This was followed by a short “Fashion Show” with the fashions provided by the “Fashion Bug”. There was a tea at a salon called “Veronica’s” for the spouses and some free time before the banquet that evening.
Entertainment during the afternoon was provided by one of our guests, “Sophia” who hails from Quebec City and is a professional musician. There was a baby grand piano in the lobby area and she kept us entertained with Broadway show tunes for almost an hour. Very, very enjoyable.
They call Saturday night “Glitter Ball” and it was that and more. All the “First Timer” attendees were introduced and presented with roses as were the spouses. An announcement was made that we represented Tiffany Club of New England and that we would be holding our First Event in January and that guests should contact tcne.org for brochures and registration forms. The “Canadian ” contingent led by “Sophia” also invited everyone to a Spring Fling which they would be holding in Ontario in May 2010.
On Sunday morning we enjoyed the traditional “farewell brunch” much the same way as it is at First Event. A professional photographer had taken a series of pictures during the events and put it all together on a CD for sale. It was a wonderful souvenir and everyone walked out with at least one copy.
I hope to return next year and would strongly recommend it to everyone.
[ed. - our readers can find a link to Erie Gala, held yearly in November, as well as other conferences by visiting the TCNE Conference List].