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An Invigorating Opening General Session
Sets the Tone for Congress 2011

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It was a packed house Tuesday at the Thomas B. Murphy ballroom for the Opening General Session. As Congress attendees filled the room, there was a buzz and excitement that was hard to ignore as the audience anxiously awaited the arrival of skateboarding legend and keynote presenter Tony Hawk.

Prior to Hawk, NRPA leaders spoke on the state of the profession, the association and future priorities.

Janna Rankin, chair of the NRPA Board of Directors, noted important progress of NRPA and called for park and recreation professionals to join together and be a strong voice among legislators and elected leaders. Dianne Hoover, president of the NRPA Board of Directors, announced some of the new offerings from NRPA, such as PRORAGIS and the Certified Park and Recreation Executive program, and discussed the merging of the titles of president and CEO. Barbara Tulipane, NRPA CEO, inspired park and recreation professionals to embrace conservation in their mission.

This all culminated with Hawk's much-anticipated keynote. He spoke candidly about his experiences as a youth skateboarder, his professional career and what inspired him to start the Tony Hawk Foundation. He urged attendees to harness the power of youth, especially those who might approach you with interest in bringing a skatepark to the community.

Above all, Tony Hawk's message was about providing local communities with safe places where youth have a chance to be active, practice a sport they love and feel empowered by being involved in the process.

Congratulations to the 2011 Gold Medal Winners
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During Tuesday's Opening General Session, the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association, announced the winners of the 2011 National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, proudly sponsored by Musco Lighting LLC. In case you missed it, the winners are:

  • Class I (population 250,000 and more): Portland Parks and Recreation, Oregon
  • Class II (population 100,001-250,000): City of Lakewood Department of Community Resources, Colorado
  • Class III (population 50,001-100,000): Waukesha Parks, Recreation and Forestry, Wisconsin
  • Class IV (population 25,001-50,000): Town of Parker Parks and Recreation, Colorado
  • Class V (population less than 25,000): City of Fairfax Parks and Recreation Department, Virginia
  • State Awards (for state agencies, awarded every other year): Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities in the U.S. that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition. Applications are separated into five classes based on population, with a state park system category included every other year. Agencies are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of citizens, staff and elected officials.

Congratulations to the distinguished winners!

Curious Kids Play on Headless Chicken at new Colorado Community Center
“When we were planning our new center, we didn’t want to call it a recreation center,” says Rob Cook, Facility Manager. “We called it a community center because this is a gift to our community. So, we added a free play area and, even though it’s small, it’s getting a ton of use!” more

Top 5 Things Not to Miss Today
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It is another jam-packed day of innovative education sessions, inspiring speakers and valuable networking. Here are the top five things you can't afford to miss today:

    1. PRORAGIS Training: Work Smarter, Plan Faster, Compare Better
    8:30 a.m. — 9:45 a.m., Room B313b
    This training will showcase NRPA's new national standards, PRORAGIS. The groundbreaking tool will equip park and recreation departments with the ability to share best practices, benchmark their operations against others, and justify additional funding and support. Have you discovered PRORAGIS yet?

    2. NRPA — Get Involved
    4:30 p.m. — 5:30 p.m., Room B203
    Attend this session and meet with NRPA staff, receive an overview of NRPA membership offerings and discover the value of your membership!

    3. Leisure Research Symposium Poster Session
    6 p.m. — 7 p.m., Hallway outside Room B408
    Hear from presenters from the Leisure Research Symposium on a wide range of information, from scientific data to programming ideas.

    4. Student Quiz Bowl
    6:30 p.m. — 9:30 p.m., Room B408
    Teams of students from schools throughout the country will compete on stage in a Jeopardy-style format. Come cheer on your alma mater and wear your school colors — you even might learn something!

    5. Progressive Networking Party
    Begins at 6:30 p.m., Luckie Marietta District
    Make sure to bring a stack of business cards to network with like-minded professionals in Atlanta's Luckie Marietta District. Designated restaurants/lounges include STATS, Der Biergarten and Max's, offering a 20 percent discount on food purchases.

Follow @PlayfulCityUSA on Twitter

Join Playful City USA on Twitter for Parks & Recreation news, best practices in play from cities, and grant announcements. Follow @PlayfulCityUSA now!

Making Connections at Congress
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This week, there will be thousands of park and recreation professionals from throughout the country, all gathered in one place. Congress is a great venue to make memorable and valuable connections, but with so many people, networking can seem overwhelming.

Wouldn't it be great to have an opportunity to mingle and see some of the fun Atlanta restaurants and night life? Tonight at 6:30 p.m. you have your chance at the first-ever Progressive Networking Party. NRPA has mapped out a designated meeting area to enhance your networking opportunities within Atlanta's Luckie Marietta District. Designated restaurants and lounges will be offering a 20 percent discount on food purchases. Make sure you are wearing your Congress badge; you will need it to receive the discount — and you might find it handy to help break the ice.

The Latest and Greatest is Plentiful in the Expo Hall
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There is no shortage of new information and technologies at this year's park and recreation expo. With more than 400 exhibitors, you could spend days going from booth to booth exploring all that is new to the field.

You'll find everything from innovative playground equipment and high-tech exercise equipment to skate ramps and mobile stages. There is even an indoor leisure park this year where you can hang out and relax!

While strolling through and visiting with exhibitors, you can get into the running to win great prizes. Pull out your EXPOdition game card and, as you visit with exhibitors, ask them to give you a stamp. After you have filled up your card, drop it by booth 2727. You have until 3 p.m. Thursday to submit your entry and be in the running for an Apple iPad, a Tony Hawk signed skateboard or full registration to the 2012 Congress.

You also won't want to miss the opportunity to come by the various NRPA booths, including the Career Center, Parks & Recreation magazine (2726) and the Parks Build Community booth (2727).

As a reminder, the exhibit hall will be open today from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. are designated as exclusive hours to visit the exhibit hall so you can come by without worrying about missing something! Tomorrow, visit the exhibit hall from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

In Case You Missed It: Conservation Best Practices Report
Available Online

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If you weren't able to attend the Conservation Task Force Recommendations session Tuesday, don't worry! The ideas, inspiration and innovations are available online in a comprehensive report, "Conservation Leaders in Our Communities — Report of the NRPA Conservation Task Force with Best Practices and Case Studies.

Additional resources available include:

Keeping Up with Congress

Keeping Up with Congress is the official daily electronic publication of the National Recreation and Park Association's 2011 Congress and Exposition.
Learn more about NRPA Congress or contact:
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Colby Horton, Vice President of Publishing, 469.420.2601   Download media kit.
Valerie Hunt, Content Editor, 469.420.2690   Contribute news!
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