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With the vote of the board in early 2004, Campbell, Hollis and two new employees, along with some very dedicated volunteers, went to work preparing for the first GSCO convention to be held in early 2005. The venue chosen was a beautiful facility, the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi.

To say that the first GSCO convention was successful is really an understatement. Truthfully, it was wildly successful, which is extremely uncommon for international conventions. Every square inch of convention space was filled to the limit with exhibitors, and the banquets were packed. The auctions raised well over $500,000 to not only help GSCO stabilize financially but to make it possible to expand conservation efforts.

It had already been decided that the GSCO convention would stay at the Beau Rivage for at least two years. Mother Nature decided to change those plans in a rather dramatic way. Hurricane Katrina all but obliterated the Gulf Coast, including the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, in late August 2005, and suddenly GSCO had to go on an emergency shopping trip to find a location for the convention that was to take place six months later.

The search committee was very fortunate in simply moving further up the Mississippi River to Tunica, which was a relatively unknown location but had experienced extreme growth as a gambling town. GSCO signed a two-year contract with the Grand Hotel and Casino in Tunica. The facilities were not nearly as lavish as the Beau Rivage, but were sufficient and obviously GSCO had very few choices at the time.

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The 2006 and 2007 conventions in little Tunica, Mississippi, were also amazingly successful. GSCO experienced huge growth in all aspects of a hunting convention. It became apparent that if GSCO wanted to continue to grow, it had to “go west.”

GSCO signed a contract with the Riviera in Las Vegas for 2008 and had a fantastic convention there … the largest and most successful to date. The next two years were spent at Bally’s, also in Las Vegas. The 2011 convention at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas was very successful as far as monies raised, but that hotel was far too expensive and had so many hidden costs that it created a big dilemma for GSCO.

GSCO was very fortunate then to sign a contract for a much more convention-friendly city, Reno, Nevada, for 2012 through 2015. These years were great, as the Grand Sierra facility there was absolutely perfect for a convention the size GSCO had chosen to hold. The staff at the Grand Sierra and its facilities were as good as one could ever hope to have. Also in 2015, GSCO renamed what had formerly been its “Hunter and Outfitter Convention” to the more comprehensive “Slam Quest Convention.” (More about the Slam Quest name later.)

However, the Grand Sierra went through several management changes during GSCO’s years there. By 2015, it became apparent that they could not continue with the Grand Sierra and the other venues in Reno were not conducive to a GSCO-sized convention.

GSCO was very hesitant to move back to Las Vegas because of being burned in 2011 by the Paris facility. But with a lot of negotiations, the leadership was able to secure an amazing contract back at the Riviera again for 2016. This facility was old but had been remodeled, and was a perfect size. The leadership and staff were stable and easy to work with. GSCO signed a multi-year contract with them.

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However, before that 2016 convention could take place, GSCO found itself in almost the same circumstance as back in 2005, when the hurricane hit the Beau Rivage. The Riviera was purchased by the city of Las Vegas and closed later that year. This turned out to be extremely fortuitous for GSCO.

The Westgate Hotel, just down the street from the Riviera, decided to honor the contracts of its now-closed rival. In fact, much of the Riviera management simply transferred to the Westgate. GSCO was able to not only get the same financial contract with the Westgate, but improved upon it. The Westgate is an upscale Las Vegas facility and much better than the Riviera in every way. It was “the place” for a GSCO convention, which has been held there each year since 2016. In fact, GSCO has signed with the Westgate through 2020. Maybe a hurricane will not hit Las Vegas and change those plans!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>