By Oliver Giles, SRFY
Let me just start off by saying this, I love NFTY. From my first event in 9th grade, C-DUBB Smash, I’ve always enjoyed it. But out of all the cities and events I’ve been to because of NFTY, Convention is probably my favorite. I was one of the few ninth graders who participated in NFTY Convention 2017 in Chicago. It was mind blowing, just seeing over a thousand Jewish teens in one place. I think it was when I returned home from Convention in 2017 that I decided that I would go to every single NFTY event, and so far I haven’t missed a single one.
And then, just a few weeks ago, I went to NFTY Convention 2019 in Dallas, Texas. Knowing that I was going to an awesome event was probably the only thing that stopped me from being extremely grumpy when I had to wake up at 3:30 A.M. so I could get to the airport and catch my flight to Dallas. Even though I had flown to two NFTY events before, to Chicago Convention in 2017 and to the Los Angeles area for Winter Kallah in February 2019, I was still a little nervous. All that changed however when I landed. There is no feeling in the world like making your way towards baggage claim and seeing familiar faces from NFTY.
Getting to the hotel, many people around me didn’t know what to expect. I had some idea as I had seen the Convention Location reveal story on the NFTY Instagram page. That didn’t stop me from being amazed though. Seeing the open scale of the place really enforced how different this was going to be than Chicago. At NFTY Convention 2017, we stayed at a Hyatt Regency, a nice enough hotel but we only had a small area to use. In this hotel, we had much more space.
We spent the next few hours waiting for all the buses to arrive. People could explore the NFTY Convention section of the hotel, participate in a “jam session” or just hang out. As for me, I just hung out by the fake fire pit as I was exhausted from the flight. Even though I knew there would be a lot of people there, I was still slightly surprised when over the next three hours the massive upstairs hallway filled with more and more people. The rest of the night was a bit of a blur. I remember eating Shabbat dinner and the huge opening ceremony. After this, we had permission to head to our rooms for the night, so I did.
Saturday morning, I woke up to the lovely view of grass and a parking lot outside my window… hey, it’s Texas! The day introduced me to a few things that I had never experienced. First off was the Convention breakfast. You had the option of either going to the dining hall for the breakfast made for NFTY, which I’ve heard was quite good, or buying food from a shop in the hotel. I personally bought a mango smoothie drink from Starbucks. This was probably because having this much freedom at a NFTY Convention was new to me.
Speaking of options, I honestly think that’s what made it feel like an amazing NFTY event. Throughout the day there was almost always multiple options for what to do. This is something that I’ve noticed in most of our CWR events and I really enjoyed. There was a quiet room for people who didn’t like lots of loud noise, but it was equally as nice to sit by the “campfire” in the huge upper hall. Another thing that was different from 2017 was the amount of NFTY branded things and signs throughout the hotel. As an example, the tables around the campfire and lounge areas, that also doubled as charging stations had the NFTY logo on all four sides. I really enjoyed the small details like this.
I spent my day participating in several activities as well as going on an extremely fun off-site trip to the National Video Game Museum. It was a great day that only got better as night came because this meant we got Big Fun. For the first time at any event I’ve been to, Big Fun was going to be off-site. While we were upstairs in our rooms getting ready to get on the buses, my roommates and I talked about what we thought it was going to be. All three of us agreed that we thought we remembered it having something to do with bowling. Little did we know we were only half right.
Big Fun, or as I like to call it “Massive Fun” because of how big it really was, was an absolute blast that night. As it turns out, we were headed to a massive arcade complex. Mini golf, bowling, and unlimited play arcade cards were just some of the things that made that night amazing. I wandered around the huge game area playing random games until I settled on a car racing game. Needless to say that night was amazing.
When I woke up on Sunday it was another great morning of wandering around the hotel, taking photos and going to various programs. It wasn’t until around noon when it really hit me that this would be my last full day at a NFTY Convention ever as I will be in college by the time 2021 rolls around. With this in mind I decided to spend my final full day enjoying the convention by going to some very interesting programs and having a great time. After a great dinner we ended the night off with a Dan Nichols concert and some ice cream before heading to bed. I stayed up the whole night with my roommates, watching tv and just having a good time. Around 4:00 A.M. they left for an early breakfast so they could catch their flight home.
There isn’t much to tell from this point on. One funny thing that happened was, being the forgetful person that I am sometimes, I completely messed up what time I had to be in the dining hall so I arrived half an hour early. After around an hour and forty five minutes I got on the bus to the airport and headed home.
That was my experience at the 2019 NFTY Convention in Texas… it was really amazing. NFTY is always a great time and NFTY Convention shows that in full. As a little bonus, I got a reminder of how great it was just two weeks later when at NFTY CWR Spring Conclave, we went off-site to an arcade for Big Fun. Overall, NFTY Convention 2019 was a wonderful event that will stay in my memory for many years to come. I loved every second of this event!