Written by Tom Thrun.
The 2003 M.F.D.A. Mid – Winter Conference began a little like an episode of Fantasy Island. The group was greeted at the thatched roof Punta Cana Airport by a very tropical looking President Sam Smith and a very sunburned Scott Meyersieck shouting ” De plane! De plane!” Suddenly all the stress of the holidays and the chill of below zero temperatures back home melted away in the Dominican sun. We all looked forward to our week in paradise among friends and associates.
Our home away from home was the all-inclusive Paradisus Resort on Bavaro Beach. This sprawling five-star property featuring international restaurants, a swimming pool the size of a small lake, full casino and nightly entertainment was the perfect place to forget about old man winter. Well traveled participants Dave and Martha Brown said that the beach was one of the best that they had ever seen and Harold Rediske commented that the scenery was world class! Although it was difficult to tear yourself away from the beautiful surroundings of the Paradisus, most people took advantage of the many sightseeing options available in the Dominican Republic.
A small group of us went south to the Italian inspired village of Altos De Chavon in La Romana. Here we had the pleasure of hearing Mary Lynch sing in the outdoor amphitheatre inaugurated by Frank Sinatra in 1982. Then, after the stirring performance, Mary jammed on the maracas with a very impressed local calypso band! Several people headed out on Jeep Safaris into the Dominican outback where movies like ‘Jurassic Park’ were filmed. James and Mary Riley said that going into the countryside and visiting with the local people was a cultural experience not to be missed. Their only regret was not purchasing more of the fabulous rum that they got while on the tour. The golfers in the group were in heaven with the many golfing options available in the area. In fact, Lee Miller played so often that he is under consideration for the head pro position at the Cocotal Golf Club. In the middle of the week the group set sail on the party boat Kon Tiki. People snorkeled in the turquoise waters and danced merengue under the Caribbean sun fueled by tropical libations served up by ‘special guest bartender’ Tom Hoisington.
Sailing back to Punta Cana we were treated to a concert by international superstars Celine Dion and Michael Jackson. But the real show stopper was when Joe Pray and Joy Thrun wowed the crowd with a dazzling jitterbug demonstration. After witnessing this energetic performance, Michael Jackson wanted to dangle himself over the railing! With people enjoying the magnificent weather and the many pleasures of Punta Cana the week passed all too quickly. On our final night we all enjoyed a private Valentine’s Day dinner on the beach. A sumptuous buffet complete with grilled lobster, roses for the ladies and Dominican cigars for the gentlemen was the perfect ending to a perfect week. As the tradewinds gently caressed Bavaro Beach we all reminisced about the wonderful time we had at this year’s Mid-Winter Conference. The upscale all-inclusive concept was a fantastic value and a definite crowd pleaser. With practically everything covered in the price of the trip, even tipping and Mamma Wannas, this truly was Fantasy Island!
Mark your calendars for next year’s exciting Mid-Winter Conference in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico , February 14-21, 2004. We will be staying at the deluxe all-inclusive Iberostar Paraiso located in the heart of the Riviera Maya. With fabulous shopping, vibrant nightlife and ancient Mayan ruins this is one of the most complete destinations in the entire Caribbean. Thanks to everyone who was with us in Punta Cana and we look forward to seeing all of you again in Mexico!