It’s not often that I visit a destination for business and feel like I’ve gone to a party instead, but that is exactly what I thought as I walked into Indianapolis’ White River State Park for the opening celebration for MPI World Education Congress (WEC) 2018, held June 2–5.
I wasn’t sure if I was at a meetings convention or Coachella as I passed long lines for a flower-crown-building station, an essential oil bar, and a bracelet-making tent and made my way to Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn — a sprawling outdoor entertainment venue within the 250-acre park — where attendees could plop down on a lawn chair or inflatable seat with locally sourced finger foods and cotton candy. There, we had the chance to jam out to a capella group Straight No Chaser as they ended the evening on a high note with covers of rock songs, Disney movie hits, and everything in between. And while most on the convention circuit would expect the opening ceremony to be over the top, it was really only a preview for the party that would continue over the next three days.
Pep in Our Step
Every day of educational sessions during the conference started and ended with a Pep Rally — an inspiring, colorful gathering that attendees could enjoy from bleacher-style seating. To revive people after a long day of education, these pep rallies featured dance-offs, jump-rope champions, cheerleaders, and even a marching band, each time we reconvened.
This year, MPI WEC introduced WEC Villages, where nearly all of the educational sessions took place on the Indiana Convention Center show floor. The Villages represented four different learning tracks — Experiential, Leadership, Innovation, and Social — for attendees to choose the topic areas that best fit their interests.
After the first full day of sessions — broken up by an outside lunch break where attendees could choose from more than 10 food-truck options — it was time to party once more. I popped into the LGBTQ Reception and Monumental Block Party, both hosted by Visit Indy and held in the city’s famed Monument Circle, which was blocked off just for us. Then I was gathered by Visit Indy, along with other members of the media, to take a seat on our chariot for the night: The HandleBar, a pub on wheels. We enjoyed a local craft beer as we pedaled up Massachusetts Avenue, an arts, entertainment, and food district.
Good thing we worked up an appetite, because waiting for us at the end of our bike ride were chorizo empanadas, skirt steak, and more Latin American fare from Livery restaurant.
Day two of the conference featured another memorable lunch break, on the field of Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts and directly connected to the convention center. There, we feasted on burgers, salads, and nachos, and then hit the field, passing the football for distance and kicking field goals right where NFL greats have scored before us.
That evening, Caesars Entertainment hosted me at the MPI President’s Dinner, an exclusive event held at Indiana Roof Ballroom that this year honored U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. From there, attendees could head to their hotel rooms or continue the party at MPI Foundation’s Rendezvous afterparty.
After the final day of educational sessions bookended by pep rallies, it was time for one last celebration. We couldn’t possibly leave Indy without experiencing its iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I enjoyed a few hours of gorgeous Indianapolis weather as I walked around the track — a very Instagrammable spot — and watched other, more daring souls whip around the raceway at 100 mph in professionally driven cars. It seemed my time in Indy went by in a similar blur.