Another wonderful weekend was spent in Hershey PA full of fun, prizes and most importantly friends.

Craig (Borysowich) and I arrived late as tasks, errands along the way took us much longer than originally estimated.  Our plan was to arrive in the late afternoon, setup the vendor table, have dinner and join everyone for the Friday evening Hershey Bonanza and ice cream social.  However, we ended up sneaking into the convention room at 8:30pm.  As late as we were, it was wonderful to connect with old friends and spend a wee bit of time catching up.  Since we drove straight through, as not to be any later, Craig and I were starving as we had missed dinner.  We couldn’t even wait for the drawings to finish before we snuck off to The Winner’s Circle to eat pizza.  (Can you believe the country bar in the Holiday Inn is named The Winner’s Circle?!!)

We were up early Saturday morning to setup the vendor table before the sessions started.  The first speaker of the day was Bob Mannell.  (You may remember Bob as wrote the tax chapter in my book You Can’t Win If You Don’t Enter and was the volunteer host of the 2010 Annual National Sweepstakes Convention.)  He spoke about How To Be a Cheater.  As Americans must pay income tax on winnings of any kind and received a MISC Form-1099 for every prize with a value of over $600, Bob’s speech was a twist on how to cheat yourself when filing your taxes.  He covered all the different aspects one must consider when filling our their income tax form along with when and how each could be done.  Time was allotted afterwards for a general Q&A and many in attendance took advantage of Bob’s extensive tax knowledge asking a heap of questions.

Craig got Lucky and won a Movie Night gift basket.  I promptly claimed all the chick flicks for myself.  I bet I won’t be seeing much of the chocolate or candy that was also in the basket.

Craig won our first prize of the convention – WOOT!

After a filling buffet lunch, Patti Osterheld took the stage.  (You may remember Patti as she is the owner of SweepSheet.)  Patti began by reviewing the history of SweepSheet.  She had recently dug in the archives and was looking at some of the very first issues.  She described the types of sweeps listed and the prizes available “back in the day”. Patti then talked about how the hobby has changed, and what SweepSheet is doing both online and offline to keep up with those changes so that their subscribers can keep on winning.  Another general Q&A session followed.  The great thing about being in a room full of fellow sweepers is we get to ask questions and learn from one another.  Although I am a seasoned sweeper I have learned something new from each convention I have attended.  That is one aspect that keeps the hobby fresh for me.  There is always something new to learn, explore or try.

Craig won another basket.  This time it was filled with sweeping supplies and crafty items.  He decided he was going to give it to our daughter Nicole as she loves anything to do with art.  I was the big winner as I won the 3rd prize, $100 cash.

Nothing like winning cash – WOOT!

When the afternoon session let out the vendor room opened.  Since we had not been there when the room was open on Friday, it was the one and only chance for attendees to buy raffle tickets from me for the lucky basket I give away every year as the prizes are given away at the Saturday evening banquet.  As I am in the process of closing my online store, I also sold everything at the convention at 50% off.  (Many items I have listed in my online store are now the last ones in stock.  So if there is anything you are interested in, buy it now before it is gone.)

There was a 90-minute break between the vendor room closing and when the banquet began.  Craig and I took advantage of the time to ourselves and headed to the Sweetest Place on Earth, the Hershey Chocolate Factory Store.  I spent half of my winnings on chocolate and souvenirs.  Craig spent an additional $50 on chocolate.  Most of it to shell out at Halloween.  The kids in our neighborhood are going to be very happy this year.

We got back just in time to change and head down to dinner.  As we had arrived late on Friday we didn’t get an opportunity to preselect our table, which was wonderful, as we sat with sweepers we had never had the chance to chat with at length before.  The biggest prizes of any convention are always given out at the banquet.  Unfortunately, we didn’t win any of the big prizes.  I love that Carolyn H. won my lucky basket because we traded prizes at the 2007 Annual National Sweepstakes Convention.  She told me she still wears the jacket and I still have the MP3 player.

Carolyn H. won my vendor table raffle – WOOT!

Although neither Craig nor I was slated to speak, I found myself on stage Sunday morning.  The Sunday morning session was a Q&A with an expert panel.  Apparently, Patti was the only one on the panel.  They asked if anyone else wished to go up to answer attendee questions.  I didn’t, right away.  The first round of questions had to do with Facebook.  Patti didn’t have the answer to the specific question, and I did, so up on stage, I went.  I think Patti and I balanced each other off well with our varied business, marketing, and sweeping experience.  What was great was audience members, like Valerie, also got up to share their tips, tricks, and ideas.

Can Patti & I look any grumpier?!!

Craig (in the backgound as convention staff) & Valerie sharing some fantastic sweeping tips.

Sweeping buddies are the best part of this hobby.  Yes, the prizes are amazing, but the friends I have made over the past 10 years are priceless.  It was wonderful how much was shared over the weekend.  If you have never been to a convention, go!  You will so very glad you did.  (The next convention is the 2012 Annual National Sweepstakes Convention in Atlanta GA.  I already have my ticket!)

Also, if you have been following me for any length of time, you would know we have attended every Mini Convention which has been run by Carol McLaughlin (owner of Ann~Tics by Carol and This N’ That Sweepstakes Club Newsletter) you would know her partner ‘Fish’ passed away three years ago.  I was happy that Craig, and both her sons Tim and Stephen, stepped up, again, to fill his shoes assisting Carol in running the A/V, security, and generally keeping her on track.

MORE: If you are my friend on Facebook, you can see the entire convention photo album here.