Prep for Natives' convention in full swing

AFN's annual meeting to be held in Fairbanks for first time since 1988

Posted: Monday, December 27, 2004

FAIRBANKS - Preparations for the 2005 Alaska Federation of Natives convention are well under way, according to organizers in Fairbanks.

"We want an extraordinarily successful event for them," said Jennifer Jolis, the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau's meetings and conventions manager. "But we want it to be successful for the community."

AFN is the state's largest convention. The AFN board voted to move the convention to Fairbanks in 2005. It has been held in Anchorage every year except in 1988, when it was held in the Interior city.

The convention is annually held to elect officers and address issues important to Alaska Natives. This year it will be held in October.

In recent months, the convention and visitors bureau has hired an AFN community liaison, organized committees and had training from a visitor industry expert from New York.

The convention is estimated to have an economic impact of $4.8 million to $5.2 million if 3,500 delegates and others come to Fairbanks in October. FCVB expects about 3,000 people to travel to Fairbanks.

The AFN convention had a $4.1 million impact to Anchorage businesses with 4,500 conventioneers in 2003.

George Yaska was hired as the visitor's bureau AFN community liaison last August. He has been busy organizing committees to spread the word about the convention in Fairbanks.

He also was in Anchorage for AFN's 2004 convention, where he met with delegates and board members while coordinating a hospitality tent. The visitor's bureau gave out free coffee and 2,500 coffee mugs printed with a Fairbanks logo.

"It is an inspiration," Yaska said about the outpouring of support for the convention. "Many people have been involved and want to be involved."

Other activities have been moving along as well. One program, a longtime goal, has been spurred into activation by the convention.

Last week, the visitors bureau's visitor services and membership department had a training session with Lynn Brooks, the director of New York City's Big Apple Greeter program, a volunteer organization that helps travelers feel comfortable while visiting that city.

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