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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ M A Y 2 0 1 6 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 14 SMERF MEETINGS Safe Space for Every SMERF Event Due to the variety of events in the SMERF sec- tor, from reunions and weddings to educational functions and military groups, just to name a few, meeting space needs differ depending on the type of event and size of the group that will be attending. "The [SkillsUSA] organization meets at the Kentucky Exposition Center, the sixth-largest facility in the U.S. The facility is able to host their entire program under one roof with 1.2 million square feet of space and two on-site arenas. This creates a very safe and secure campus environment which makes it easier for teachers and advisors to manage their students who attend the conference," Burger said. "We are able to offer a very safe environ- ment for student groups, which is one of Skill- sUSA's biggest priorities." Indeed, one of the most important elements in planning SMERF events is to provide safety for these groups that tend to bring families and children, as well as specific groups that may have only females or a majority of older attendees. "Louisville consistently ranks as an extremely safe city, which appeals to groups with a majority of female attendees or at- tendees traveling with their families," Burger noted. Military functions flock to Fayetteville, N.C., another SMERF-friendly destination, be- cause of the unique military facilities that can accommodate several sizes of groups—even ones that need an impressive amount of space. "Fayetteville hosted the 60th anniversary of the United States Special Forces Group. The group was larger than any facility could hold, so we found them a private facility with a large open space. They had enough space to set up military displays of helicopters, tanks and other military equipment. The families enjoyed the outdoor atmosphere and they are returning for their 65th reunion," said John Meroski, presi- dent and CEO of the Fayetteville Area CVB. Fun For The Whole Family Beyond an array of function space, Fayetteville appeals to groups due to the plethora of attrac- tions for the whole family to discover, with the North Carolina Veterans Park; Carvers Creek State Park; and a host of military museums, including the Airborne and Special Operations, 82nd Airborne, Special Forces and Fayette- ville Independent Light Infantry Armory. All the museums and attractions are within an 11-mile radius of downtown. Fayetteville also has many public parks and recreation centers groups may reserve and use for private events, Meroski said. Maryland's Deep Creek Lake, located in Garrett County, highlights an amazing array of outdoor activities that draw SMERF groups. "Our activities range from hiking, biking and water sports to downhill skiing, tubing and ice fishing in the winter. We have both unique and traditional lodging and meeting space in- cluding vacation rentals, lodges, cabins, yurts, tiny-homes and so much more," said Durben. SMERF groups looking for a destination with small town charm will find that Seguin,Texas has much to offer. Located approximately 40 miles from San Antonio International Airport, this city of just over 25,000 is filled with tree-lined streets graced by Queen Anne mansions, charming bungalows, and other comfortable homes. At the same time, Seguin is big enough to boast a top-rated university and a state-of-the-art hospital. According to Myra Salinas, tourism assistant at the Seguin Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Seguin's meeting spaces include many multiple-use facilities, such as the Seguin Coliseum, a 12,000-square-foot con- vention center that seats 1,000 people, as well as some unique spaces, such as the historic Texas Theatre and the Big Red Barn, home of the World's Largest Pecan. Seguin's Downtown Historic District features an Art-Deco 1930s fountain, a bronze statue of Juan Seguin, an old-fashioned bandstand, granite historical markers, and Victorian gas lamps at Central Park on the Square. Additionally, visitors will enjoy the panoramic mural by Brent McCarthy, recreating the early pioneers and landmarks along the 1800s stagecoach route. There's also Heritage Village, built in 1849, a charming 1910 Victorian doll house built by master cabinetmaker Louis Dietz, and Texas' Oldest Standing Protestant Church, now more than 160 years old. Cultural attractions include the historic Texas Theatre, the Mid-Texas Symphony Society and the the Wilson Pottery Museum, while the Guadalupe River, the ZDT Amusement Park and several other facilities provide options for outdoor recreation. Seguin Offers Historic Treasures, Charming Atmosphere & Modern Meeting Space