A look back at the marvelous venues hosting MVP Attendee Parties over the years
As promised, here’s the list of venues hosting the MVP Attendee celebrations over the years since my entry into the program in 1996. I’ll admit, finding them all took some hunting, but, being the email hoarder, I am, I managed to compile what I hope is a complete list. Starting with my first Summit in 1997:
1997 – Tilicum Village
I described this one in an earlier article, we went on a five hour cruise to Blake Island and the Tillicum Village. For a small town Arizona boy, this was a Big Boat and a whole lot of water! Anyone want to guess the nature of the “Traditionally prepared fire-roasted fish meal”? (Seriously? Seattle/Pacific Northwest = Salmon.😊)
1999 – Lake Washington Dinner Cruise
Big Boat trip number two - this was the first of two dinner cruises we were treated to. This first cruise was around Lake Washington, the highlight was waving at Bill Gates’ new house as we passed it. I somehow remember someone conning the ship’s Captain into blowing the steam whistle as we passed, but I’m not sure if that’s a memory or wishful thinking.
2001 – Harbor Dinner Cruise.
Big Boat trip number three for me, this time seeing the sights of Seattle aboard the Spirit of Puget Sound. I believe this was the time one of the MVPs fainted while waiting in line to board the ship – gave us all quite a start! No real issues with him, standing in line apparently just didn’t agree with him this particular evening. The name Dave Berry sticks in my mind, but, it was a long time ago and my memory for names has issues these days, so that’s likely wrong. If someone else who was there remembers his name, please let me know.
2003 – Jillian’s Billiards
I don’t remember this one as well as I would like. I remember us being here, but not much else. It was a Billiards establishment, so not really my cup of tea; I'm a Dick Weber kinda guy, not Minnesota Fats. The business is now closed.
The Rainier Club, for those who don't know, is a relatively exclusive environment here in Seattle (https://www.therainierclub.com/club/info). It is only because we are booking the entire place that jackets are ties are not required. However, they do still require the following…Or anti-require…Err…anyways.
No Tennis Shoes or Running Shoes
2005 – Experience Music Project #1
This was the first of three visits to the EMP, now known as the Museum of Pop Culture. This is, by far, my favorite venue, thanks to both the music and science fiction museum displays. Can you imagine, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet (not his only film, but his best role, IMHO), and, of course, Robot B9 from Lost in Space, all full sized, the later two holding a conversation with each other! And then, there’s the music instrument museum and sights like the Guitar Tornado Tower. If you’re ever in the area, MoPOP is a Must See!
2007 – Museum of flight
This is my second favorite MVP Summit party venue. If aeronautics and aircraft are even remotely your thing, this is another Must See. Would you like to fly a full jet aircraft flight simulator, they have several. How about the Space Shuttle? The have a training simulator for that. Maybe you’d like to reach out and touch an SR-71 Blackbird – they have one for just that purpose, plus a WHOLE LOT more!
2008 - Experience Music Project #2
EMP visit number two. This time, I had a digital camera, something missing from the first visit. I had a 35mm film camera in 2005 and it was just too bulky, what with the interchangeable lenses and all, to deal with, so it stayed at home.
2009 – Experience Music Project #3
I was absolutely delighted to hear we would be returning to the EMP a third time. In the year since our last visit, I managed to leave my car unlocked one day while having lunch and the camera I used managed to grow legs and walk off along with my Garmin Street Pilot and a few other miscellaneous items. Losing the camera was no fun, but losing the pictures it contained that I’d taken the prior year was a tragedy. The third visit gave me the chance to replace some of them.
2010 – The Garage, Seattle
Frustrating! Lo and Behold, we went to a bowling center. This would normally give me great joy since the sport of bowling is the only athletic activity I’m any good at – three sanctioned 299 games and the gold rings to prove it! The frustrating part was that I didn’t know about it BEFORE heading up to Seattle, so my bowling balls and shoes were all back in Tucson. Sorry, but using a house ball and shoes really doesn’t cut it. This is the only multi-story bowling center I’ve visited
2011 – Safeco Field
Home of the Seattle Mariners, it’s now known as T-Mobile Park. We had the whole stadium, got to visit the clubhouse and check out the entire facility. There were several Mariners in attendance to meet, greet, and entertain us.
2011 – Safeco Field #2
Visit number two to the Mariners' stadium. We again had the whole stadium to ourselves, The highlight of this visit was a group photo of everyone shot from home plate.
2013 #1 – CenturyLink Field
2013 was the year with two Summits. The first gave us a trip to the Seahawks stadium. The main attraction for this party was a Zip line you could ride from one end of the field to the other. If memory serves, Marshawn Lynch was one of the players present that evening.
2013 #2 – Seattle Aquarium
I would have to say that the aquarium is in a virtual tie for second best venue with the Museum of Flight. Here, you have everything from Jacques Cousteau to Mike Nelson and Seahunt all under one roof...oh, and a LOT of fish! An absolutely fascinating place, this is my third Must See if you’re in the area.
2014 – Fremont Studios
From the party standpoint, this was a ton of fun, as they all were. Since this is an audio/video soundstage, it was like being home. The studio at KVOA TV in Tucson where I worked for 34 years isn’t quite as big, but had all the same equipment, so I was able to look around and compare how this big place stacked up against the smaller place where I worked. It was also fun to compare it with Tucson’s own movie production facility, Old Tucson. Sadly, this was the last special venue Attendee Party.
2015 – Party Cancelled!
In 2015, the MVP program shifted to Microsoft’s Developer branch and a number of changes were made. It looked like they weren't in a good budget position for the Summit due to the sheer number of MVPs they inherited. At first, they decided to limit Summit attendance to 1400 MVPs; this was NOT well received, as you might suspect. It represented a return to the first Summits where many MVPs would be left at home, so that decision was quickly reversed. Their budget wouldn’t change, so they decided instead to cancel both the Attendee Party, and another feature that was added a few years prior, the MVP Showcase, in order to have full, open attendance. The MVP Showcase was akin to a High School Science Fair, booths were setup in one of the Hyatt ballrooms where MVPs could setup displays to showcase their products, projects,etc. and was usually held on Sunday afternoon.
2016-2019 – Ballroom Parties at the Hyatt Regency.
The Attendee Party returned in a limited fashion in 2016. It would no longer take place at an outside venue, it was and remains held in one or more of the Hyatt Regency Bellevue ballrooms. Dates for the 2020 MVP Summit have already been announced, I imagine that party will be also be held at the Hyatt.
I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t highlight the individual behind all of these parties, the Summits, themselves, the yearly TechEds, both here and in Europe, an a good many other Microsoft events, Event Coordinator Extraordinaire Paulette Suddarrth. Without her, most of these would not have happened. She is an absolute genius and it was a sad day for me when I got the news that she’d retired after the 2014 Summit. Thanks Paulette, we all owe you Big Time!
I also want to thank some folks who helped with the timeline, John Marshall, who's been an MVP longer than I have and Olaf Engelke who has pictures from all of these events. I originally had several years out of sequence and his photos helped fix the discrepancies.
That’s it for now, please come back for more; methinks TechEd may need a visit. While I’m at it, If anyone has MVP history article suggestions, I’m all ears, please ping me and I’ll see what I can rustle up.