An Interview with Brady Holmes, Organizer of Geocoinfest 2015

by J.D. Parkman, Custom Coin Project Manager

In my last post I talked about the great time I had at Geocoinfest 2015.  I also hinted at an interview with one of the organizers.  Here it is and I think it is great as Brady Holmes (bjmccacher) provides all sorts of insights on preparing for and holding a major event. 

In the picture above, Brady is on the far left.  Continuing to the right we see the rest of the committee members Steve Skalak (whichwaydidigo), Coby Boring (TwoFingersDown), Jason Judt (GeoJudt), Andrew Duschene (8601delphinium), and Dave Sanderson (TeamDAAK).  Enjoy the interview on how this gang put it all together!

(Not entirely positive but I'm giving credit for the photo to Keith Petrus, TheFTFGuy of FTF Geocacher - the magazine for Geocachers,   www.ftfgeocacher.com.  He's the cool guy who put up with my fold early/fold often strategy sitting next to me at the poker event!)

CA: Who hatched the idea of hosting a Geocoinfest?

BH: While multiple of us on the committee dreamed of hosting a mega, we really didn’t know it was possible until Jason Judt presented the idea of putting in a bid for Geocoinfest. We actually put in a bid for 2014, and were passed up, but then won the bid for 2015!

CA: How was the committee formed?

BH: Jason originally choose the “most addicted” coiners in Nebraska to join the committee, and then he added a couple others that had some special skill sets that we knew we would need to pull this mega event off.

CA: How does the bidding process for the event work?

BH: For Geocoinfest each year, Mark Clemens announces that he is looking for potential bids for the next year. You then have to provide info like a venue, hotel info, and airport info. It’s the bidder’s responsibility to put the bid together how they want. Early on in our bid process, we decided we wanted the wow factor on every portion of our Mega, so our bid, was very well done. Our bid was put together by Jason, and it was basically a movie with music.

CA: Nice!

CA: When did the committee learn that Geocoinfest was awarded to Nebraska?

BH: We found out sometime July of 2014, that we would host Geocoinfest 2015. We started our coin process immediately, and we still didn’t get them in until the week before the event! Just a heads up to all mega event planners, START EARLY!!!

CA: How long does the process take from application to approval?

BH: We applied in 2014, and finished behind Houston. So it was about a 2.5 year process for us. Honestly, losing that first year, was probably for the best, because it allowed us more time to plan even a bigger and better event.

CA: I remember in Houston when the announcement was made for Omaha that you guys came parading through the room wearing your T-shirts, handing out balsa wood airplane kits, and launching assembled versions about the room.   Now I don’t solve mysteries for a living but that told me you already had the awesome venue in the bag.  Is that true?

BH: Absolutely! We signed the venue up sometime midyear 2014. We were lucky enough to get a little support from our state Geocaching organization – Nebraskache. Their donation allowed us to pay the deposit for the SAC Museum. When we walked into the venue, we knew immediately, that it was what we had to have. As I mentioned before, that WOW factor was part of our goal, and we knew this was the right location. Having the airplane in the hangar, was just another piece of the puzzle.

CA: Was it hard to arrange the Strategic Air and Space Museum for the venue?

BH: Not at all! We signed a contract over a year before our event! Of course there are always little hiccups, their event planner switched careers about a year before our event. So we had to regroup, and work out all the details with the new event planner. She was great to work with, and made things very easy on us!

CA: How did the committee for the event work?  Was each person assigned a task like “You, book the SASM.  You, find a place to hand out registrations.  You, make breakfast…” 

BH: We had a few pre-assigned. One member was in charge of all the volunteers, so he basically handled the registration table. Another was in charge of the workshops, so he stayed in that area. A few of them, handled everything else, and me personally, I socialized, it’s what I’m best at!!!

CA: I have been a vendor at many mega events.  You guys made vendors feel welcome, important, and we were well taken care of.  I lost count of how many times a representative came around asking if we needed anything.  This had to be a conscious decision by the committee.  Talk about how you guys came to this conclusion and why you implemented such an awesome caretaking plan.  

BH: I take this as a complete honor that you are saying this! It was my biggest goal of the day, was to make sure you all were taken care of. One of the reasons we wanted an option for food on site, was when we travel to other megas, we notice that vendors cover each other’s booths so they can go eat. We really wanted to give them all an option so they didn’t have to leave if they didn’t want to. We also felt with food onsite, with the amazing venue, that maybe our attendees would stay on site all day, which would help the vendors sell more product. Megas aren’t megas without the vendors. Priority number 1 – take care of them!!!

CA: Ya hear that people!  Start EARLY and take care of the vendors, LOL!

CA: The coin sets were indeed spectacular.  Detail for us how many different coin designs you guys created. 

BH: Personally, I have never designed a coin, neither have 3 other members on our committee! 2 of our members, have designed personal coins. Those 2 are also members of our state Geocaching organization (Nebraskache) and we design a coin each year, so they have both worked on those designs.

CA: Who designed each of the coins?

BH: One of the nights at GCF 2014 in Houston, a group of us sat around a small table with Christian Mackey, and our idea was born! Chris is an amazing asset to have, he has done this so many times, and knows so much about the process, that he made our lives easy! Working with him and Bev on the main event coin, was absolutely amazing. Jon-Paul Barr handled our welcome event coin. For years, our state logo has been Nebraska – The Good Life. Last year, they decided to change it, and a lot of us were upset by this. We are proud to be from Nebraska, and loved The Good Life. When you enter the state driving, the signs say that, Welcome to Nebraksa – The Good Life. So, we wanted to include that in the design. Brainstorming for this coin was so much fun. It really was a group effort. When we presented it to JP, he took the ball and rolled with it. We also minted a fundraiser coin, which was really vital in our fundraising process, and I highly recommend it to other committees planning megas. Jason Judt, our committee chair designed the coin, and presented it to us, with a few of our ideas, he tweaked a few things, and the coin design was complete! The coins really were part of the wow factor that we were looking for at each portion of the event.

CA: How many of each design were produced?

BH: Fundraiser Coin: 25 XLE, 65 LE, and 110 RE

Welcome Event: AE 40 (only available via Jon-Paul Barr), 110 LE, and 200 RE – we sold out of all available coins within 30 minutes of opening the doors at the welcome event.

Main Event Coin – 350 RE, 200 LE, 100 XLE (VIP), 85 (Friends/Sponsors), 15 Committee/Special Attendee Version

CA: How large was the event day crew?

BH: We couldn’t have pulled off the without our approximately 80 volunteers

CA: Talk about the event from the perspective that time has passed.  What would you have done differently?  What would you do the same again?

BH: Every big event has hiccups. We had a couple issues with people grabbing the wrong registration bags, we could have maybe done something a little different there to help with the registration process. One of our biggest issues was with the funnel cake vendor. They couldn’t be inside the hangar because the cooking oil. I think it would have been better to leave the back hangar doors open a bit, and put them out there so they could be seen. A little better sound system would have been nice, we were told that people on the opposite corner from the main stage couldn’t hear announcements. Outside of those items, all very minor, I think it was a perfect event!

CA: What advice would you give a group considering hosting a Geocoinfest?

BH: Plan ahead! Stay ahead of the game. Keep organized. Don’t be afraid to talk to local businesses about sponsoring. Choose an amazing venue. Cater to the vendors, without them the attendees will get bored! Mint an amazing coin, it is Geocoinfest! Use Facebook and other social media to your advantage. Through this process, I was super vocal on Facebook. I joined all the neighboring states Facebook groups, and made announcements on these pages every so often! Most of all, have fun, and enjoy the new relationships you grow during this process!

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