Paul Oldham, MCAA Chairman
Well, the World of Concrete/Masonry is set for June 8-10 this summer. Unless Global Warming harms things by then, it is guaranteed to be a warm one. We encourage everyone that can attend and support the industry to please do. There will be more information coming with schedules and COVID-19 rules during the event.
After a lot of work, the 2021 Midyear meeting is scheduled. You have seen save the dates for September 12 to 16 in Memphis, Tennessee. Many are asking how we ended up in Memphis this year. As we all can attest, the Pandemic has continued to provide challenges and that includes trying to plan for a national meeting. I won’t go into the list of possibilities and hurdles that we encountered; I will focus on sharing with you that Memphis will be an excellent location for our industry to visit.
We will be staying at The South’s Grand Hotel and The Peabody Hotel. As Chairman of the Board, I have felt it’s essential that we visit and stay in masonry structures, and the Peabody is one of those grand masonry structures since its opening in 1869. This structure will remind you of the elegance and grace that we experienced last year in French Lick, IN. These buildings were built when Masons built the building, and society held that craftsmanship in high regard.
As you enter the Peabody, you know you are somewhere special. The two-story main lobby area with its beautiful fountain is stunning and, depending on the day you arrive, the five resident ducks may be swimming around in the water. Yes, the hotel is home to five resident mallard ducks. The ducks live on the roof of the hotel (not bad accommodations at all and a great view), and twice a day their caregiver escorts them down the elevator, into the lobby, and they march out to the fountain and take a dip. You can also visit the ducks’ residence on the roof. Kids love this aspect of The Peabody.
The Peabody has also recently finished a complete renovation of all 464 guestrooms and suites. It may be an ancient structure, but it has a clean, updated feeling within now. The hotel is three city blocks from the Mississippi River, making for a leisurely walk with many places to sit and watch the boats and barges. If you’re not as much into walking a lot, Memphis does have an extensive Trolley system throughout downtown — the trolleys are old-fashioned, not busses on rails. It definitely should be on your list to experience and move around to the many parts of downtown.
So, what is Memphis, Tennessee about? As far as business, the town is the distribution center of the United States. Centrally located and on the Mississippi River, the city has been able to accommodate goods’ movement for a long time. Memphis is home to many large companies and is where FedEx began, and still has its international headquarters. If you arrive by air when you land, you will notice that there looks to be a whole additional airport just north of the international airport. You would be correct: That is the original, and still functioning, Federal Express Airport.
As many of you know, Memphis is “Home of the Blues & Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll” — not to mention gospel, jazz, R&B, rap, and soul. You will have the opportunity to experience as much of the music of Memphis as you would like. Just one block to the south of The Peabody Hotel is Beale Street. Beale Street is a fantastic experience. Also not far from the hotel is the famous Sun Studio, known as “The Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It’s the discovery location of musical legends such as B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. I hadn’t pointed out that Memphis is where Elvis lived. On the south side of town, his home “Graceland” still stands today, and you can tour it. It’s a 15-minute drive from the hotel. You can stand in the very same spot where Elvis first recorded a song at Sun Studio.
Memphis is home to the world’s largest Bass Pro Shop. A few years back, when Memphis upgraded and built a new sports arena, Bass Pro Shop purchased the facility and converted it instead of tearing down the existing one into a destination. You can use the trolley system to get there and back.
Memphis is also known for its barbecue. There are not many street corners that don’t offer barbecue. One of the most famous barbecue restaurants globally is located just across the street from the Peabody Hotel, down the alley, and in the basement. The Rendezvous is known internationally for its dry rub ribs. Each year, the city hosts the “Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.” Teams from everywhere converge on Memphis to compete for the best barbecue every May.
Many of you know I live, and was born, in Indiana, but I grew up just outside of Memphis, Tennessee, so I have a connection with Memphis. I look forward to sharing the experience that Memphis has to offer you in September.