Getting Ready for Jax – Part One

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

In mid-November, Daila Boufford and I traveled to Jacksonville (Jax) to check out the site for the 2015 AAFCS Annual Conference.  We were excited to learn more about the hotel, the city, and preview the educational excursions planned for conference.  We had a fantastic time, and we are eager to share what we learned with you!

sculptureDaila and I flew into Jacksonville International Airport on Sunday night—the picture at left shows one of the beautiful sculptures you walk by on the way out of the building. Be sure to take a moment to look at the featured art as you exit.  Taxis are readily available, and we will also have great discount deals on rental cars and shuttles! We arrived at the hotel, the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront,  and headed right to bed, since we knew the next few days would be long—but did take a moment to appreciate our great view of the St. Johns River before collapsing into the very comfortable Hyatt beds.

We got up Monday morning bright and early—ready to meet with our hotel and AV representatives, along with a rep from Visit Jacksonville!  We ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Trellises—the shrimp and grits is quite a generous portion and we had a great breakfast! Afterwards we embarked on a tour of the facility. The Hyatt Jacksonville is a gorgeous space that is going to be the perfect place for our 2015 Conference.

One of our favorite spaces was the River Terrace, where we’ll be holding the “Sun and Sandals” Welcome Reception on Wednesday night! It opens onto a patio that overlooks the river, and is a beautiful spot to take in the views of Jacksonville.   Be sure to arrive early enough on Wednesday to attend this event, which will showcase some of the tasty recipes the South has to offer.  A ticket to the event is included in full and Thursday-only registrations, but please plan to bring your checkbook, as we will be raising funds to further awareness of Family and Consumer Sciences.

After exploring the hotel, we walked down the riverfront to Jacksonville Landing—a two-minute walk—where we enjoyed some delicious Mexican food al fresco! There are many restaurants to choose from, along with shopping options.  If you’d like to explore restaurants and shopping on the South Bank, you can catch a water taxi nearby.


L to R: Melanie Thomas, Duval County Extension office, and Phyllis Stafford, volunteer

After lunch, we headed over to the Duval County Extension office, to visit the Canning Center. While the Canning Center is associated with the Extension office, it’s run entirely by volunteers, which is a big endeavor! The space holds canning equipment for both jarred items and canned items. Members of the community can schedule an appointment with the volunteers and come in to can their own produce or other items. The Center also holds classes throughout the year, with the gift classes during holidays being the most popular!  This visit was one of our most inspiring excursion visits—we added a canning class with local produce on Wednesday as part of our Food Safety & Processing Tour, which will visit the Beaver Street Fisheries, the Farmers’ Market, and the Canning Center. We will offer a shorter trail mix canning class on Saturday, which will cover the basics of canning. Wednesday excursion attendees will also spend time in the Urban Garden, learning from a Master Gardener.

historyOnce we were done at the Canning Center—and we did not want to leave!—we headed down to historic Amelia Island. We began our time there at the Amelia Island History Museum, meeting with Tour Coordinator Thea Seagraves and learning about the history of the area.  Eight flags have flown over Amelia Island—can you guess which ones? The museum is located in a space that used to be a jail—and they use the space very creatively. It’s fun for all ages! Be sure to visit the gift shop—in my experience, museum gift shops are the best!

Next, we headed into Fernandina Beach, where the walking tour of the town’s historic buildings will be held, and where attendees will have time to explore!  The town, right on the water, is very quaint and offers a variety of small shops and eating options.  Excursion attendees will receive a Visa gift card, which can be spent at any of the many restaurants. Daila and I stopped for a mid-afternoon snack at Amelia Island Coffee and shared an Island cookie.  It was delicious, and the perfect stop on a cold and rainy evening (not weather to expect in June!).

We made it an early evening and headed back to the hotel to get some rest, as we knew Tuesday would be even busier!

Check back next week to read Part Two of my blog post.  Registration will be opening very soon, so stay tuned!

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