35th Annual AJHA Convention
St. Petersburg | Oct. 6-8, 2016
Welcome to St. Pete -- the Sunshine City!
Greetings AJHA Members!
If you’ve ever imagined a place where endless sunshine and white sand beaches meet fine dining and the arts, you’re ready for the 2016 American Journalism Historians Association conference in St. Petersburg, FL. Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, St. Pete is known as a cultural hub that is both innovative and rooted in history.
AJHA members who have attended our annual conferences know them to be scholarly, fun “destination” conferences featuring excellent research, memorable experiences, and inclusive amenities. Whether it’s the historic tour or the endless coffee break, the bar set for our conference is higher than ever. Although most of our members are pleased with our progress, a recent member survey let us know that a few things needed to be tweaked. (See the results of the survey in the Summer 2016 Intelligencer.) Thanks to everyone for your opinions and suggestions on how we can move our annual conference from great to greater.
Here are some of the new things that you can look forward to this year:
This year we’ll be staying at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront Hotel, located in the city’s downtown area. Unlike the historic hotels where we’ve stayed for the past few years, the Hilton Bayfront is known for its contemporary, minimalist décor because of its affiliation with the fabulous Dali Museum. The Hilton Bayfront is located across the street from the bay and a walking path (for early morning walkers), and it is within walking distance of the city’s dining. And, did I tell you that the room rate is $119 per night? I hope this rate addresses the concerns that some of our members had about the conference’s increasing room rates. See the hotel page for booking info.
The members of the local host committee—Berrin Beasley, Bernell Tripp, and Fred Blevens—worked diligently to make sure you enjoy the conference and the city, a challenging task because the bay area includes two cities with diverse populations as well as unique personalities and histories. In addition to this consideration, the survey revealed that attendees who preferred not to participate in the historic tour would appreciate structured options. Here’s what you can look forward to this year:
Tampa Bay History Center/Ybor City walking tour
Friday’s historic tour departs from the hotel at 1 p.m. The tour begins with a ride across the bay for a self-guided tour of the Tampa Bay History Center, located on the Riverwalk at Tampa’s Channelside District. Next, the buses will take you to Ybor City, home of Florida’s cigar industry and Cuban community. Here you can enjoy a walking tour and enjoy one of Tampa’s best dining and entertainment districts. The time of the historic tour was expanded so you could enjoy eating in Ybor City (and we can avoid the gridlock of Friday afternoon traffic on the return to St. Petersburg). I strongly suggest that you make reservations at the renowned Columbia Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Florida and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. The family-owned restaurant features Spanish and Cuban cuisine. If dining at The Columbia sounds appetizing, make your reservation for no later than 5 p.m. so you can enjoy your meal and return to the bus by 7 p.m. for our return to St. Petersburg. We should arrive back at the Hilton Bayfront at 8 p.m. (traffic permitting).
St. Petersburg Self-Guided Tour
Those who prefer to stay in St. Petersburg can visit some of the best museums in the country. Here are just a few of the museums you can enjoy and the cost for admission: the Dali Museum ($24), St. Petersburg Museum of History ($15), the Museum of Fine Arts ($17), and the Florida Holocaust Museum ($16). To get to these venues, you can walk or catch the Looper Trolley in front of the hotel.
Opening Reception and Closing Gala
The survey revealed that many of our members agree on the importance of the opening reception and the closing gala. One message, however, came through loud and clear: too much food at the reception! This year, you can expect a poolside reception (weather permitting, of course). Once again, Fred Blevens worked his magic to make the reception a meaningful event. The reception will be sponsored by Florida International University and the University of Georgia and will feature light hors d’oeuvres so that you’re not too full to enjoy dinner, which can include the best Gulf Coast cuisine that St. Pete restaurants have to offer. The Poynter Institute will host the closing gala at its St. Petersburg facility. For more information on these and other special events at the convention, visit the events page.
With those white sand beaches being so close to the Hilton Bayfront, I suggest that you pack your bathing suit, come in a day early, and catch some rays on St. Pete Beach. You don’t need to rent a car because getting to the beach is an easy 40-minute ride on the Central Avenue Trolley.
I hope you can see that a lot of thought has gone into planning a conference that continues our tradition of showcasing scholarly research and honoring the impact journalists have on the local community while incorporating the results of the survey.
See you in St. Pete!