I drove up to Jacksonville Friday afternoon to allow for bad traffic and immediately hit bad traffic, all four lanes of I-4 blocked that resulted in a 30 minute detour. Friday traffic in Florida, always something! Traffic aggravation aside, it felt good to be on the road to an event again, just like life used to be.
The speaker/volunteer dinner was held at Angies Subs. It’s been in business a long time and has quite the eclectic decor, maybe a slightly less eclectic menu. We lined up to place our orders, then moved to the next line to order a drink and anything else we wanted. It moved fairly quickly and from what I saw all the orders came out correct. Easy to find, parking was good, and reasonably priced, all good things for a Friday dinner. Driving back to the hotel I looped through the campus of UNF and saw the direction signs were out already, nice to have it done instead of rushing around Saturday morning.
Saturday I was on site before 9 am and it all seemed normal. Lots of people, coffee, donuts, and sponsors too! Easily a dozen sponsors, a positive sign for resuming events nationwide. I watched Steve Jones talk about pipelines at 9 and at 10:15 I did a presentation on Devops for the DBA, a topic that makes everyone sit up a little when I talk about delivering database changes while customers continue to use the app – far different than taking an outage to make changes.
Lunch was boxed meals from Panera consisting of a sandwich, chips, and a cookie, plus plenty of soda and water (but sadly, no iced tea). Easy logistics, the meals were in a room off of the main hallway, a volunteer collecting tickets and pointing people to the right stack for their meal selection. A little bit of a wait, but not enough to be an issue.
After lunch still seemed to be a good crowd, not much of a drop off. I chatted with maybe half of the sponsors, all were having a good day and were glad to be back, and were excited about doing more. Around 2:30 they had the usual ice cream break from Kilwins, I think a choice of six flavors plus a table in the hallway with sprinkles and other toppings. The line for this moved somewhat slower, but most people are patient for ice cream.
At the end of the day we all gathered in the auditorium in the next building. Lots of thank yous to volunteers and sponsors, but the next part was the hit – the t-shirt cannon. Powered by compressed air, performance varied from close to fail where the rolled up t-shirt came apart and only went a couple rows to almost catastrophe as some narrowly avoided the overhead mounted projectors on the way to bouncing off the back wall. It definitely engaged the crowd and while I wouldn’t call it dangerous (other than worrying about projectors), if someone takes a t-shirt to the face it’s going to sting some. I’d be much for enthusiastic about doing it outside, but it did add a lot of excitement to the end of the day. Lots of prizes from sponsors to be given away which always take a while, but everyone stayed until the end.
The after party was at Buffalo Wild Wings in their screened patio and again, a good location. Close to the event, good parking, and the event provided a bunch of food (everything fried except carrots and celery) and drinks. It started around 6 pm and there still some people there when I left around 9:30.
Typical attendance in Jacksonville is 350-400, this year it was 222. So still down somewhat from pre-Covid and hard to know what the new normal will be, but as we start to plan for SQLSaturday Orlando I think our target will be about 50% of the old normal (usually 250-275, so we’ll shoot for 12-150). South Florida is hoping to have a SQLSaturday in August and I look forward to seeing those numbers as another hint of what should expect in October here.
Aside from the line for ice cream, everything went fine. Well organized, everyone good natured and having a good time. A few people wearing masks and I saw no issues related to that (the good natured crowd again). Kudos to Jeff Taylor and the volunteers for providing a wonderful event.