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Convention or 7 days of spring observing?
The annual dilemma for many storm observers.
Since its inception, the annual Storm Chaser Convention has been held in Denver, Colorado. The convention's traditional location is the result of its organizers residing in the Denver area. And rightfully so, as without their much appreciated hard work, the convention would not exist at all. However, the cost of traveling to Denver has always been a major obstacle for many storm observers who wish to attend. An individual coming from the eastern and central US could spend upwards of $700-$900 for transportation, hotel and registration fees to be there. This amount of money could cover around a week of storm observing in the spring - making convention attendance a difficult decision for a storm observer with limited leisure funds. (Actually it's a no-brainer for those who have to make the choice - observing wins out every time, but a decision made nonetheless.) As such, the convention's demographic has been limited to those with high expendable income or those willing/able to share hotel rooms and transportation with 3-4 people.
The most dense concentration of active storm observers is without question in Oklahoma and Kansas, with a significant number residing in the Midwest, in the northern Plains and in Texas. If one were to plot a point marking the most central geographic location for all active US storm observers combined, it would probably fall somewhere in eastern Kansas or Oklahoma, with either Kansas City or Tulsa likely being the closest major city to that point.
As an illustration, I threw together this quick map which shows which locations in the USA are closer by automobile to Denver, and which locations are a closer drive to St. Louis. I use St. Louis as an exaggerated comparison point, as it is likely much farther east than the 'storm observer centroid', and therefore better demonstrates Denver's much greater distance from the storm observing community as a whole. I used travel mileage data from Google Maps to plot the boundary in which Denver begins to be the closer drive (by highway, not 'as the crow flies').
click to enlarge
So even if the convention was all the way over in St. Louis, it would still be a closer drive than Denver for the vast majority of USAn storm observers. If Kansas City were used as the comparison point, the map looks like this:
click to enlarge
So the question arises, why not look at having the convention somewhere closer to where storm observers actually reside? Kansas City, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Wichita would all be ideal. Kansas City is the least expensive of those cities to fly into. The most obvious answer to this question is because, as I mentioned before, the organizers live in Denver - making that area the only practical option for them. It is hard to organize/coordinate a major event remotely. No organizers means no convention. But what if a group was willing to take on some or all of the organizational tasks to help in bringing the event closer to where willing participants actually live - potentially halving (or more) the travel costs by making it a reasonable drive for the vast majority of storm observers? It seems that if that were done, participation in the event would be many times higher than what it is in Denver - resulting in a greater financial success for the event and more logistical possibilities. For example, what if by moving the convention to the Plains region, registrations/vendor tables doubled?
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