In an innovative twist, the Antique Advertising Association of America is taking pandemic lemons and turning them into virtual lemonade.

Because of the coronavirus, the AAAA Board of Directors has cancelled its annual convention in Columbus, Ohio, in July, replacing it with a free virtual convention July 11-12 using the popular Zoom platform.

While the decision to cancel the convention was incredibly difficult and painful to make, convention coordinator Paul Lefkovitz said, “Reaction to the change has been incredible. One hundred percent of the response has been positive.”

Concern for the well-being and safety of club members during a pandemic was the overarching reason for making the move, Lefkovitz said. The Ohio convention was originally scheduled for July 8-12. In late March, when the pandemic hit, AAAA considered postponing the event until the fall but learned there was no hotel availability in September or October.

“No one has a crystal ball. You can’t be certain what things are going to be like in July,” Lefkovitz said. “We wanted to be respectful to the hotel, so we made the decision now instead of waiting any longer. This allows us to provide enough time to plan something else and it gives the hotel time to make other plans.”

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Lefkovitz hopes the virtual convention will offer “a new kind of electricity” for members.

“We’ll need to get past a few technological hurdles but at the same time we’ll be able to reach more folks,” Lefkovitz said. “We hope to replicate as much of the physical convention as possible while introducing new opportunities to connect and share. The whole idea of a convention is to engage your membership and we’re excited to do just that in a new way.”

The virtual convention is free to AAAA members and promises to include most traditional convention activities, including seminars, raffles, sharing of favorite advertising collections, breakout groups and “room hopping” – the opportunity to buy vintage advertising items from multiple dealers.

Moving the convention online promises the opportunity to learn something new for members, which can be exciting, Lefkovitz said. “We will provide instructional materials and rehearsal sessions to help ensure a successful experience.”

In the past few years, AAAA has opened its convention doors to kindred spirits at the National Graniteware Society and The Ice Screamers, whose members enjoy researching ice cream history and collecting ice cream parlor and soda fountain memorabilia. Lefkovitz said the shared convention experience has been a boost of interest and camaraderie to all who attend.

The organization hopes the same will be true for the virtual convention.

The message to members is simple, Lefkovitz said: “Don’t be shy or intimidated by something new. We’re here to help anyone who needs it. By all means, give it a shot!”

For more information, contact Lefkovitz at plefkov@gmail.com or call 317-501-3832. 

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