Yesterday I returned home from the MQX East convention in Rhode Island. Over the next 3 weeks or so, I’ll be blogging about specific classes, experiences and purchases. I wrote up a careful evaluation of each class so that future students will be able to judge whether to attend (spoiler alert — they were all great). For today, however, I thought I’d do an overall evaluation of the convention.
The good …
This was the 10th anniversary of the convention, and they have it down to a science. It is well-organized, the classes are treasure troves of information, and the quilts are spectacular. Here are some of the many positives:
1. The Rhode Island convention center is fantastic. It is new. It is spotless. There are escalators between floors (no nasty stairs or waiting for elevators). All the toilets and escalators seemed to be working. Overall, it was a stellar venue.
2. The room setup was well-done. Rooms with longarms had cameras, and it was easy to see what the teachers were doing. Teachers also had microphones, so you had no problem hearing. All of my teachers allowed photographs (but not video taping).
3. Rooms were the perfect temperature. I wouldn’t have commented on this, except that most of the classrooms I’ve been in lately have been too hot or too cold. These rooms — and I took 10 classes — were “just right.” Nobody had to spend their class time bobbing up and down to fiddle with the HVAC system.
4. Teachers were top-notch and organized. One of my pet peeves is teachers that just “wait a few minutes” until everyone arrives. Not at MQX. If the schedule says you have a 1:00 PM class, plan on it starting precisely at the top of the hour. This makes us punctual people happy.
5. The Providence Place Mall is an easy walk from the convention center — and you can reach it without going outside. This is a really nice mall with a Macy’s, J.C Penny’s and Nordstrom as anchor tenants.
6. Generally my classes were not crowded. I had many classes with 6 or 7 students. While this sucks for the organizers, it makes for a great class experience.
7. The convention parking garage has an early bird special of $9 if you arrive by 9:00 AM and are out by 8:00 PM. It is easy to park there and it leads you directly into the convention center. This is especially good if don’t want to drag around a coat or any heavy purchases.
8. Classes — with one minor exception — were EXACTLY as promised in the description.
The bad …
Overall I had a fantastic experience. I have a couple of suggestions for improvement, but they are truly minor in the scheme of a 4 day convention.
1. I would like to see new name tags. While they are very cool (include a note pad and pencil), they are heavy. Several of us were having issues with our necks and the weight of the name tags appeared to be a problem for more people than me.
2. Convention food is expensive. I’m not sure why you must pay $2.50 for a tiny bag of chips or $3.00 for a small coffee. (I did have a great chef’s salad for $7.50! And there’s a very nice stand in the lobby that sells fudge and chocolate — which may or may not be a negative, depending on your waistline). I realize that this is beyond the control of MQX but it irks me to pay $3 for a bottle of soda.
3. Much fewer vendors than previous years. This is my biggest criticism and made for a disappointing shopping experience. There were no batting vendors, which many people commented on. There was no one selling Signature thread. I heard gossip that a couple vendors pulled out at the last minute. Plus there are larger and larger numbers of competing machine quilting shows, which may explain the reduced number. Regardless … my biggest purchase was thread, which is pretty unexciting and atypical for a convention.
4. I was disappointed, upon check-in, that I did not get a “participants” ribbon for my name tag. (I did get a ribbon, but it was after the show was over and included with the judges’ comments.) I like seeing people with ribbons, because you can ask about their quilts. It’s a good conversation starter and also makes visiting the quilt floor more interesting.
5. We had to print out our own schedules and name tags. That was okay, but the schedules were in a very tiny font. It might work for 20-year-olds, but the font was way too small for us middle-aged quilters. Next year, I will make sure I adjust this on my computer.
The hotel …
I stayed at the Marriott Providence Downtown at 1 Orms Street. Overall the hotel was awesome. The room was large and immaculate. Beds were comfortable, there was an abundance of pillows, towels were thick, and there was good water pressure on the 3rd floor. Parking was free, which is a bonus given that the hotels near the convention center charge $25+ per day. My only complaint was that I’d reserved a king bed, but they were out of kings so my room had two doubles.
Our MQX information said that this hotel was “5 blocks from the convention center.” I was looking forward to a leisurely walk to and from the conference. I’m not sure how they defined a “block” but it is a substantial walk and the front desk clerk told me it was a mile and would take 20 minutes. I decided to drive to the convention center and would guess it was farther than a mile … some of my fellow Marriott guests tried walking it and were shocked at the distance. I decided to drive every day and got an early bird parking special for $9 at the convention center. Still a good deal compared to the closer hotels and I would stay at this hotel again.