This past weekend, we had the first ever SQL Saturday in Fargo, North Dakota. It turned out to be an awesome event, in more ways than one!
I was fortunate enough to be part of the organizing committee for this SQL Saturday event with Jason Strate (@StrateSQL|blog), Jes Borland (@grrl_geek|blog), and Ted Krueger (@onpnt|blog). Although all four of us have experience planning SQL Saturdays, this one was unique in that we were planning it completely remotely. Jes and Ted are both on the East/Southeastern side of WI, Jason and I are in the Twin Cities in MN. Microsoft was generous enough to not only offer us the facilities for the event, but also took care of many of the details for us. Being that the event was at one of Microsoft’s Executive Briefing Centers, and there was going to be a certain important visitor later, they had pretty high security in place. The staff printed hard plastic name badges for everyone registered. They had them all laid out, and had lanyards for attendees to grab. They also told us they’d be printing signs for each of the rooms with the schedule for the day. I expected a printed sheet of paper, instead, they printed very large, very professional signs for us! They also printed out Event Evaluation forms for attendees to complete. There were two staff members, Star and Kelly, available to help us. They were amazing!
When we got there, we got right to work setting everything else up. Paul (@mnDBA) and Jen Timmerman (@JenUMN) were extremely helpful volunteers, in that Jen “manned” the printing station for those who did not print their Speed PASSes. Paul helped with that as well, I cut the tickets once they printed, and made sure people got their swag bags with information from the sponsors, and their SQL Saturday lanyards, courtesy of PASS. We tweaked the process once or twice, and it went as smooth as I’ve seen registration go! That was a good way to start the day.
Once sessions start, the organizers got to sit back and just let the day flow. Over lunch, Karla Landrum (@karlakay22), Community Evangelist for PASS, Jason, and a few other Regional Mentors and Chapter Leaders met with some locals who wanted more information on getting a user group started in the Fargo area. The goal of holding this SQL Saturday, was to get a user group going in that area. It sounds like it’s really going to happen soon! As they say in the twitterverse, “#winning”!
The second session after lunch, we were asked to make sure everyone was in sessions. We were on the second level of the Briefing Center, and could see a stage set up just below us. We knew Bill Gates happened to have a Q & A session scheduled for his employees and their families that day. We didn’t realize we’d be able to see and hear him! Microsoft expected about 900 employees to come hear him talk, that’s why they wanted us to clear the area. Some of our attendees were disappointed. Shortly after Bill Gates began, they told us that our attendees were welcome to watch him talk as well. They said community is very important to him, and he would not want anyone to feel they weren’t welcome. I think the fact that it wasn’t as crowded as they had expected also helped with this decision.
A quick aside that’s very exciting for PASS: There were two smaller “Executive Briefing Rooms.” We were using one for sessions. Bill Gates was apparently in the room next to it, waiting for his turn to go on stage. He saw the signs, and asked what SQL Saturday is. The employees told him a little about it; that it’s day of free training for SQL Server professionals, etc. He asked how often they have them, and couldn’t believe they are are happening almost every weekend all over the world. He thought it was really cool. When we heard this, we got very excited! There were a few “You guys, we are on Bill Gates’ radar!!!” exclamations going around!
Bill Gates wrapped up shortly after the session got out. Most attendees got the opportunity to listen to him, at least for a few minutes. Then it was time for the last session of the day to begin. Jen and I left during the last session. We wanted to make sure we got the signs picked up, and got back to the Hampton Inn where our social hour was to be held. We wanted to make sure everything was ready when SQL Saturday attendees came. We ordered pizza, pasta, and breadsticks from Pizza Hut. Dinner was sponsored by PASSMN. We figured pizza was the easiest thing to order when we didn’t know how many people to expect. It would be easy to order more if we had more than the estimated number of people came. It ended up being a good thing, we ended up needing to order a few more pizzas!
After the social hour was all cleaned up, those of us who remained decided to head out to a local karaoke bar for some #SQLKaraoke (yes, it IS necessary to put the hashtag first). We went to Divas & Rockstars, a pretty cool little place, located in a strip mall. Some of us sang a few songs, but it was a hopping place, so not everyone got to get through all the songs they put in. What started out as mostly country when we walked in, ended up a good mix of rock, pop, and a hodge podge of other styles of music. This was a good thing, as far as we were concerned! Oh, did I mention, they had a decent sized dance floor, so some of us got a little dancing in too. It was a perfect way to end a great day. I’m pretty sure everyone who came with had a great time too!