I arrived the arena at 7am and one volunteer, Keely, was there. The Downunder folks hadn't shown up yet. Shana was rehearsing with Jillaroo for her trick riding demo, so we watched for a few minutes. When the crew came in our first chore was to wipe down all the graphics and displays and then fill in any missing merchandise from the previous night.
Clinton had had a crew doing interviews with guests, crew, vendors, and volunteers. They had interviewed me on camera Saturday night. Pretty straight forward questions, "What's it like to be a volunteer? Why did you volunteer?" Stuff like that. I ran into Renee, a long-time crew member, and she asked how my interview had gone. I said, "okay", but I told her I spent way too much time thinking about what I could have said. She had been interviewed the night before, too. We both agreed our "best lines" came about twenty minutes too late.
Shana did her trick horse demo. It was slick. A lot of laying down and sitting up, nodding and shaking of heads. Shana felt teaching the horse tricks kept both the horse and you from getting bored from doing the same exercises over and over again. DUH is scheduled to have a trick teaching DVD out in the fall.
Next was the spooky horse demo and they had found a really good, fearful horse for this demo. This horse was literally scared of his own shadow. By the end of the demo Clinton had the horse calmly dropping its head every time the crowd gave a huge roar. Before each break Clinton would give away a whole bunch of merchandise.
We broke for lunch and that's another big selling time. It was hard to know what to restock as we were all well aware we would be packing everything up in a few hours. There's an old adage in retailing, "You can't sell from an empty wagon", so we brought out as much merchandise as we could.
The afternoon session was Gaining Respect Under Saddle followed by the Trailer Loading Demo which always a hoot. By the end of that demo Clinton couldn't keep the horse out of the trailer.
About 5pm they gathered all the volunteers together and told us what we could start taking down. Once Clinton was out of the arena things hit a fevered pitch. We took down the banners, the arena manager took down the panels and they moved two big semi-s and Clinton's trailer into the arena. We busied ourselves tearing down all the retail displays. I hooked on to Rob, Clinton's dad, who has to be well into his sixties. This guy looks tough as nails. He was lifting all kinds of heavy stuff. I find guys like this are the best to lend a hand to. You don't want to say much, because if you're talking you can't hear what they say, and they only say it once. And, you better be walking at top speed or you'll be left behind. And, have your gloves on if you need them (he didn't) because he ain't stopping to let you put them on. Clinton didn't fall far from the tree.
The teardown went fairly smoothly and extremely efficient. Most people knew what their jobs were and they did them well. Once everything was just about loaded Clinton came down and pictures were taken with the Downunder Crew. They had a professional photographer, but I sneaked in behind him and took this shot.
A short while later they gathered up the volunteers to give us our free stuff for volunteering and to get a picture with Clinton. In 2008 my camera ran out of batteries. This year I gave my camera to volunteer Scott from Montana and he took a picture. I didn't realize Amy was taking pictures too and Clinton, at one point, tells me to look over at her camera.
I'm not really an autograph person, most of them look like squiggly lines on a polygraph of a terrible liar, but I had him sign my copy of That Winning Attitude, the motivational book he wrote with Ian Francis. We were told that we could ask questions. I didn't have any training questions (because those are answered in the DVD's), but I did have a question about riding on the hard-pan roads that we do and wondered if I should be concerned about injuries. He told me as long as she wasn't having problems, don't worry about it, and keep riding.
So, we were turned loose. After saying my goodbyes to some of the staff we headed for the exit. After the last two hours of intensity it was oddly calm. I was tired, but not sleepy. I hadn't eaten much, but I wasn't hungry. I went back to my room, cleaned up and got a fresh change of clothes.
I hadn't been to Vegas in 10 years. My games are roulette and Blackjack. I had a system of roulette I had been working on the first three nights and it had worked moderately well. (That means I hadn't lost all my money.) Since this was the last night, I was going to take my meager winnings and put my system to the test. I headed down to the roulette table and lady luck was on my side. I didn't keep track of the time (who does in Vegas), but I think I was there for about an hour and I was doing well. When the wheel turned cold, I cashed in my winnings and headed for a blackjack table.
The night before, I had sat down at a blackjack table where Aaron, Clinton's sound man for the event, was playing. He's a nice guy, heck they all are, but he didn't talk much, and when I saw him playing at a table with an open seat I passed it by for another table. You never know if these guys want company or to be left alone. I had played about half a dozen hands and was just about even when Clinton walked over to Aaron's table. He asked him how he was doing and after a minute or two sat down. The table was full, but a moment later the seat next to Clinton opened up and I immediately grabbed my chips and moved over there.
Ha! I was sitting right next to Clinton Anderson at a blackjack table! You could tell this was his first time playing blackjack. He was asking for advice on which hand move to make. The "wave" for "no more cards" or the "come hither finger" for "hit me". Some of the Downunder staff gathered around. The table came alive. We were all encouraging the dealer. She was doing the best she could. At one point the pit boss came by and most of us lost that hand.
"Who's the guy in the suit?", Clinton asked.
"He's the pit boss", someone said.
"Well, keep him away from here. He has a bad vibe. We don't want that."
Every one was razzing and encouraging every one. After one winning hand we threatened to "bring the casino to it's knees". After a losing hand, "what just happened there?"
Clinton asked the dealer if she knew the rules. "Of course" she said, "I've been dealing for sixteen years".
"Well", Clinton said, "are you familiar with a little black and yellow book called Blackjack for Dummies? 'Cause I've read it and you better watch out!"
Once he was trying to decide on whether to hit on 14 with the dealer showing a two. (All the strategy books say no). We were all screaming, "Stand" "Don't Hit" "Let the Dealer Bust". Staring at his cards he stroked his chin with his fingers and said, "Sorry guys, I'm just going to have to trust my gut here, and my gut says take a card." He draws a six and wins. The table erupted in cheers and laughter.
We played for 45 minutes to an hour and it was great fun. We were up at times, but in the end, the South Point Casino is still standing. It was quite surreal sitting inches from Clinton the person, and for a brief time the Clinton I know and the "real" Clinton blended into the same friend.
The South Point is a great venue. By staying there, I was only an elevator ride and a five minute walk to the arena. Their restaurants seemed nice although I preferred to walk to the little sport's bar across the street just to get away for the casino noise.
Monday morning I headed out to Hoover Dam to take in another wonder of the world. It's an amazing piece of architecture and one that will never be matched. This was THE thing that had to inspire the saying "They don't build 'em like that anymore".
I was exhausted by the time I got home. I've had to spend most of the week just catching up, but the experience and memories have been energizing enough to get me through.
Just for snickers and giggles here are the two blog posts from my first volunteer experience. This one describes the experience and this one offers my ideas on how to make things more efficient. Many of the things in the second post are in place (kinda like Windows 7 - it was my idea) but only because DUH has a powerful marketing engine working for it now.