Conferences, Events, and Fairs… OH, MY!

We interview Bob Barnes from Bluewater Atheists Humanists and Agnostics in Sarnia Ontario, about their conference coming up in August. Then we note other conferences and events this summer

Episode 41: Conferences, Events, and Fairs… OH, MY!

As the weather turns warmer, Humanists look to attend various conferences, events, and fairs. We gather in groups for affirmation, networking and the fun of socializing. We speak to Bob Barnes, President of Bluewater Atheists Humanists and Agnostics in Sarnia Ontario, about their conference coming up in August. Then Douglas talks about some other events of note this summer including some local outreach from SHoWLE.

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Our Guest

Bob Barnes - President of BAHA
Bob Barnes

Bob Barnes is President of Bluewater Atheists Humanists and Agnostics based in Sarnia Ontario although they have members from both sides of the border. They will be hosting the BAHACON on August 26 through the 28th in Sarnia. BAHA is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the image of freethinkers and atheists and to give back to our communities. All profits from the conference are returned back to the communities.

Joining him is Jim Vergunst and Paul Pinel


BAHACon – August 26-28 Sarnia, Ontario (in-person)
Travel to Canada: Requirements for COVID-19 vaccinated travelers

Other events of note:
AHA/American Atheist Virtual Lobby Day June 22nd
81st Annual American Humanist Conference June 24-26 (virtual)

Skepticon July 29th-31st, 2022 St. Louis (in-person)

Women of Color Beyond Belief September 30th to October 2nd in Chicago (in-person)

Freedom From Religion Foundation National Convention October 28-30 in San Antonio TX (in-person)

American Atheist Convention Easter weekend 2023 (in-person)


Read Transcript Here

Bob Barnes 0:00
I think we’ve got a super location. We have nine great speakers and what a reasonable price. You know, I’ve been to a lot of conferences Doug, a private vendor over 30 abandoned both reason rallies and all that stuff. So I got a firm idea what a good conference is. And I’ve been disappointed at some by lousy meals when Congress was advertised that lunch was included and you find out you gotta go to the parking lot and have a hot dog on the grill. I’ve tried to make this conference the premier conference. In North America.

Voice Over 0:41
This is glass city humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values by a humanist. Here’s your host, Douglas Berger. As the

Doug Berger 0:51
weather turns warmer, humanists look to attend various conferences, events and fairs. We gather in groups for affirmation, networking and the fun of socializing. We speak to Bob Barnes, president of blue water, atheists, humanists and agnostics in Sarnia, Ontario, about their conference coming up in August. Then we talk about some other events of note this summer, including some local outreach from SHoWLE itself.

Voice Over 1:18
Glass City Humanist is an outreach project of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, building community through compassion and reason for a better tomorrow.

Doug Berger 1:27
Our guest today is Bob Barnes. He’s the president of Blue Water atheists, humanists and agnostics based in beautiful Sarnia, Ontario Canada. And but they do have members from both sides of the border. But it will be hosting the BAHACon on August the 26th through the 28th in Sarnia. his group is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the image of free thinkers and atheists and to give back to our communities. All profits from the conference are returned back to the communities. And also joining him in the group shot there occasionally is Jim Vergunst, who’s the secretary of the group and Paul Pinel, who will be the master of ceremonies at the conference and is also in the group. Thank you, gentlemen, for joining me today. All right. Could you go ahead, Bob, and tell us a little bit about the conference that’s coming up that you’re hosting.

Bob Barnes 2:34
It’s, we’ve we think we’ve got a super location, or so easy to be found, you just come out with the blue collar bridge in the conference centers right there. We have nine great speakers when I put out feelers on our conference, but comments I keep getting back is what a great lineup. And what a reasonable price, you know. And so I’ve been to a lot of conferences, Doug, I’ve probably been to over 30 I’ve been to both reason rallies and all that stuff. So I got a firm idea what a good conference is. And I’ve been disappointed at some buy lousy meals when Congress would advertise that lunch was included. And you find out you gotta go to the parking lot and have a hot dog on the grill. I’ve tried to make this conference, the premier conference, and Northam America, I we’ve done that by great meals, our VIP dinner, for instance, our cost and that’s over $50. So we’re gonna get a great meal, they’re going to VIP dinner, they’re going to have great entertainment, Dan Barker is going to sing and play the piano for us. And then when the next day, we have eight speakers on Saturday, we have we have a break between each of the every two speakers have a break. So people have time to go to the bathroom and whatever they have to do. But the conference I’ve been at, where they have a whole bunch of speakers that talk for 15 minutes would turn me off. I’d rather have good quality speakers that are going to give you a good question and answer period afterward. Most people if you’ve talked on the title, the part they enjoy the most is a question and answer periods. And so we’ve gotten a lot of detail and making that great. We’re having a committee that the questions will be submitted to and they will pick out the questions so that we don’t have someone coming out and giving you a big, long winded fairy tale you know, so But when then on, after all our speakers are done, we’re having a two hour dinner on your own, if people want to go and visit some of the restaurants or we have an option, they can have the meal at the hotel as well. But we want to give the people the option if they want to go and try another restaurant. And then we have after party afterward, and our after party is going to be for for from eight o’clock till midnight. On Sunday, we have a boat cruise planned, we have a meeting or a talk from nine o’clock to 10 given by Marga Rue from aces Alliance, and then we go to our our boat cruise. Now the one thing I would, I would kind of caution, people listening to this, the bowl, it’s licensed for 192 people, and but when you get up around 150 160, it gets crowded. So we’re going to limit that, we’re going to limit that to 160 people. So And right now, we’ve had registrations coming from the far side of Chicago and several from Ohio and all that stuff. And the bulk of them are buying the total package or and the boat crew. So I just want to caution people that you know, I don’t want to get make it sound like a big hard sell. But I don’t want to be disappointed by registering later on and don’t want the boat cruise, the location where we have our conference. Just within walking distance. There’s a beautiful casino with an river walks if you probably haven’t been this area, but we have beautiful walkways right around the river. People go for these walks, our beaches are probably less than two miles away. We have beautiful beaches. And the one thing on all our advertising that we’ve been doing, we’re promoting people to come early and stay late. We want them to enjoy the area. There’s a lot to see here either in our conference.

Doug Berger 7:18
Now, I know recently Canada did change their entry requirements. You don’t have to have a test anymore or a COVID test to get in. But you still you still have to use that. Whether they call it the arrive can app. Yeah,

Bob Barnes 7:35
it’s it’s

Doug Berger 7:38
we throw those in the US. I mean, yeah. And we do

Bob Barnes 7:42
expect 80% of the people that come from the US. The Y Rive can we’ve heard it’s going to be dropped and we expect it to be totally drop. If it’s not, it’s so easy to do. I was so important during this morning, I got a part here a couple of times a week. It’s such a simple thing to do. But there’s no sense we’ve given a lot of instruction from it now because we don’t think it’s gonna be there. But people will register, we will give them full instructions how and it’s so easy to do. It’s just gonna go on a computer hit a couple of things. It’s like I say I go reporting in two or three times a week, and it’s just no problem.

Doug Berger 8:21
Yeah, I’ll have the link up in the show notes for this episode too, just in case people want to check it out before they have to do it. Yeah, I did see in the speaker list that you do have some big names. How hard? Was it getting the speakers? I mean, was it was it a lot of work or?

Bob Barnes 8:38
Well, first of all, Doug, let me just go back a little bit about our group. Our group is not a huge group. But we’re very, very active group with big ideas and stuff like that. What we did, back a couple of years ago, we had a speaker come into town, we promoted it very well. And we filled the library auditorium, that Around 400 people. And we had such successful that the speaker came with seven boxes of books. And he sold them all out. And he had to ship me a couple more cases for people, one of them. So we at that point in time, we wanted to do bigger things, and that was to put on a conference but a Quality Conference. And so I personally know a lot of speakers. I know Dan Barker quite well. I know quite a few of them. So it wasn’t hard for me to get the speakers. It’s still a lot of work. But at least the learning curve was over. We knew how to go on Eventbrite. We knew how to do all the stuff that like the speakers you asked about. We have a great lineup. I’ve been told I told you I’ve been to a lot of conference and I haven’t been to 10 Too many that have this great lineup. There’s something dug about if it’s going to be for charity, the main reason we’re holding this conference is there’s actually two reasons. One, we want to improve the image of atheism and our community. And the second thing, we want to raise money for charities, and we have two great charities already selected, we’re going to be donating to the Alzheimer’s Society, and to the hospice here and sign it. And when you’re when you’re doing thanks for charity, you know, the speakers, they respond to that, like a speaker that would normally charge of $500. No waving it. And we’re not spending a lot of money in speakers because the speakers are helping us make this successful.

Doug Berger 10:52
In general, how much is it going to cost to attend,

Bob Barnes 10:55
there is a great advantage for Americans to attend. And I said earlier, we’re expecting 80% coming from the United States because we have such a population and a driving distance. But the cost for our VIP dinner is $110. Canadian, but that translates into about $85 American which is when you check what other conferences charge our conferences the same price is 110. So the come to it, it’s it’s two Americans only but $85. And we have a what we call a total experience package. And, and most 80% of the ones we’ve sold so far are buying the total package, which includes the boat cruise includes afterparty and the VIP dinner and the whole works. The, the, the advantage is so great. And the other thing is the hotel, we’ve made a super deal with the hotel, and the rate for the you know, they add your taxes and whatever onto that. But our rate is $109 you convert that into American dollars around $85 for a quality hotel, that’s really reasonable. When most conferences you go to you’re gonna pay at least $150 So the one thing I do want to stress here, the hotel we’re we’re we’re holding an it’s been converted to a four points shared all the rooms every room in there when the people come will be brand new, everything changed new TV, new beds, new ever, the ballroom, where we’re holding our conference, brand new carpets, sealing everything’s brand new. The only thing that I we’re not 100% Sure, whether it’s parts of the of the hotel may have to be closed, like the pool, and exercise room, etc. Because they’re spending $30 million. And we’re still a lot of months away, but I can assure by the room will be a brand new great room and facility where they’re going to see their conference is another great room brand new.

Doug Berger 13:15
Are you planning on having like an exhibit hall or an area for vendors or for group tables and things like that?

Bob Barnes 13:23
Yes, we have several of our our vendors that will be coming different, like the American Atheists or the CFI. And all these people will have tables for them to further put your books at some of the speakers like Dave Warnock. He’ll be bringing his book and that Seth Andrews is bringing his books. So we’ll have areas for them to sell their books as well.

Doug Berger 13:50
And you mentioned the the boat tour is is part of the conference. What other activities are there available for conference attendees in the area?

Bob Barnes 14:01
Well, like I said, we have we have beautiful, white sandy beaches. We have great restaurants, we have a casino almost next door, your beautiful walks along the river. It’s just gorgeous. The boats come by so close and you’re right there. And and we’re giving everybody a tote bag when they come in. And it’ll have tourism box in there and all kinds of information on the area. And that because we’re encouraging people to come early and stay late, because the hotel rate is fixed for the whole time they come. It’s like a lot of people only have a turn a conference. If they want to come three or four days early stay for 334 days later, they get the same hotel right so they can come and enjoy the area.

Doug Berger 14:48
Okay, and how does somebody go about registering for the conference?

Bob Barnes 14:54
They go on our website, which is it’s just www ba And right on there, there’s all the information there for tickets when they hit that automatically goes, right. And Eventbrite is, is holding our ticket sales.

Doug Berger 15:16
And what is the deadline for registering for the conference?

Bob Barnes 15:20
Early Bird is over, it’s up till June the 15th. And then then the regular price goes on after that. And then they can register right up to the teleconference, oh, the only caution, I know, the boats gonna sell out, I feel bad. I was hoping I could have got a double run. Because I know we could fill up but unfortunately, a boat wasn’t available for a double run. So we have to cut it off that part of it.

Doug Berger 15:53
Finally, if there’s one thing that you would like, listeners to know about your conference, and to take away from it, what what would you want them to know about?

Bob Barnes 16:05
It’s we have great All Star lineup of speakers, we have great meals, we have a great program, we have a great venue. And in great value, like to the camera conference and the price that come here, they’re going to be so satisfied, because it’s so it’s so low. And like I said earlier, one of the reasons why we can keep it low and stuff, we’re getting tremendous support from our speakers and stuff like that. They know what we’re doing, and trying to raise money, it’s all going to charity, we’re not getting any of it. So I’ve been to a lot of conferences, Doug, and I know what’s what’s at a conference, and people will just be ecstatic when they come from ours. You know, we have lots of stuff we’re giving away like pens and tote bags, and we’re pretty organized. I’m fortunate that I have a great board. And I mean, Jim Brigantes is sitting here beside me. He is responsible for doing all the logos and all the MailChimp things and our posters. And, and the website I is he’s been at it for probably 40 years. And so he really knows his stuff. I’m lucky enough to have the NFL sitting there with me as Paul Bunnell. He’s the best wordsmith I’ve ever seen. You give him a paragraph. And he’ll just make those words flow. And it’s so nice when you have people I guess, supporting you, when you want to put something on Eventbrite. If we run it by Paul first, let him you know, flavor it up, you know. And then we have Ben, who’s on our, our board who does video, producing by train, that’s his job. So what a bar to have working behind you.

Doug Berger 18:05
Well it sounds like an interesting conference. And it’s something that I’m sure I would be going to in a minute. And I think everybody should, you know, we need to support our groups here in the northern Ohio and Southern Ontario and Michigan, you know, we really need to support our groups. And I really appreciate you joining me today.

Bob Barnes 18:29
Yeah, I would like to ask Paul, who’s our emcee? Maybe just to give a final word.

Paul Pinel 18:41
Bob is catching me flatfoot. Here, Doug, if you didn’t do that, I was only supposed to have this mug on the cameras. My involvement with with Bob Kahn came about as a result of just attending one breakfast dinner one day, and the engagement of the people the discovery on my part that a number of churches have closed in this area and in certainly over the last few years. And that was indicative of something that I identified with and I said okay, fine. If that’s what’s happening here, Baba Khan is was was not alive at the time, but to today, it is very alive and well and the group is very vibrant and involved. And I jumped in the deep end, and I’ve enjoyed Bob’s company and Jim certainly, and the rest of the board of directors super bunch of people. I really sincerely hope that everyone’s gonna take the opportunity to step in here. Come on down and see us. You will not be disappointed, I promise.

Bob Barnes 19:37
Okay, and okay. I’m not just Jim have a word. Okay. Hey, this guy. This guy is the brains behind it all. I gotta tell you that.

Jim Vergunst 19:48
Well, I just want to reiterate what Paul said that we have a great group. And we’re very involved. It’s I’m looking forward Do a big time. I mean, to get these nine speakers involved in our little community, it’s awesome. And for them to support us the way they are. That’s great. And it’s about time we get some common sense over here, you know, and, you know, but we’re not bashers we’re, we’re inviting everybody. Whether you’re secular or not, and this, these speakers are the best out there. I mean, I’ve looked at a lot of the other conferences, and by far we have the best lineup. It’s unbelievable that we managed to get these guys coming down. I think for them, it’s a big family reunion. So and we have a beautiful spot beautiful beaches. So yeah, I mean, I can guarantee you this promises to be a great time.

Bob Barnes 20:55
Thanks, Douglas. We really appreciate the support we’re getting from you as well. Spread the word. I look forward to seeing

Doug Berger 21:05
Okay, thanks.

Voice Over 21:08
For more information about the topics in this episode, including links used, please visit the episode page at class city humanist dot show I

Doug Berger 21:22
Wanted to thank Bob Barnes and, and the other two gentlemen from the blue water group, from Sarnia, to spoke about their conference, they were really excited about it. And it looks like it’s going to end up being one of the premier conferences in North America. And as Bob once so if you get a chance to go to it, go to it. I wanted to take this time to talk about other activities to do that we can do during the summer as as humanists, atheists, free thinkers, if you’re looking to network, or to get together with other humanists, now that the scourge of the pandemic has subsided, and you’re willing to take the risk of being amongst other people, here are some opportunities for you to do that. For that, that’s coming up this summer and, and usually, air at Sholay. We kind of schedule into that, that people are going to want to do things or go on vacation or, or go to these conferences. So that’s why we normally don’t have any formal meetings during July and August. Mainly because I like to go to conferences or or set up info booths at festivals and things like that. And I’d rather do that and have to also spend time scheduling for meetings. So with that being said, here are some conferences and some other activities that might interest some of you out there. Normally I would talk about the American Atheist convention, they have one every year. They hold it during Easter weekend. So it has passed it was last month in April. But if you go to next year, when they announce it, you’ll be able to register and go. I’ve never been to it before. But it sounds like it’s a good time. Also coming up soon in June, we have the 2022 American Humanist conference that’s put on by the American Humanist Association and scholey is a chapter of the HA. And they’re conferences June 24. To the 26th. Registration is open. Now they don’t have any precise scheduling of speakers yet, but that will come soon. Last year, we had Dr. Anthony Fauci was the humanist of the year and that was pretty cool. And so you can register there if you go to the American website, and they have a big banner on there. Also coming up in July, we have skeptic con, as July 29, through the 31st in and they will be having that in St. Louis. The unique thing about skeptic con is that it’s free to attend. You still have to pay for your own hotel or lodging er, or however you’re going to stay down there stay there. But to get into the conference itself, it’s free. They do take donations. I have been to skeptic con i went to the last one they had before the pandemic hit and I had a very good time. It’s a it’s a decent drive from Toledo but it’s not insurmountable. You know that we have the Baja con in Sarnia on august 26 two To the 28th. Then we have in September, we have the women of color beyond belief. And that’s September 30, to October 2, and that’s going to be in Chicago, at a hotel near the Midway Airport. This is one that I’ve been wanting to go to and just have not been able to do it yet. And we’ll throw up the link on the on the show notes. But it’s W OC, beyond And they’re taking registrations for that as well, that cost money to get into the Freedom From Religion Foundation is having their next national convention, October 28, through the 30th, in San Antonio, Texas. And there was a little bit of controversy about that, because of the anti religious freedom that Texas is known for. But they were in kind of, they had a contract, I believe with probably the venue. And so they have to go or they’re going to have to pay a lot of money. So they didn’t want to have to pay a lot of money. And so I’ve been to the FFRF convention, and that’s also a good time. Here, a lot of good speakers, and I guess they have John author, John Irving, this year, this year coming up.

Doug Berger 26:24
And and then they always have the good. The other good thing that they do during that time as they they list all their accomplishments from the previous year, and they have slides and everything talking about the court cases and the letters they’ve sent out. We when Sean and I went, we went to when they because they have it, usually one year in a city in the US. And then another year they have at Madison and we had we went to the one when they had at Madison, Wisconsin at their headquarters, you know where their headquarters is located. So those are the main conferences that I wanted to point out that people might be interested in. Some other activities we have coming up is a virtual Lobby Day, hosted by the HA and American Atheists, that’s going to be on June the 22nd. All day 9am to 5pm. And the blurb that they have that goes with his lobby day is an opportunity for members of our community to speak directly with their elected officials and staff in Washington to advocate for the issues we care about in a friendly and empowering environment. The John Lewis, every child deserves a family act will be the centerpiece of the event. virtual meetings will be scheduled with your congressional representatives, it’s most likely going to be a staff person. There will also be training available the weekend before the event. And so if you go to the human, American website, or the American Atheist website, you’ll see they’ll have banners up saying the lobby day to sign up. They do. They are charging for it. It’s a virtual Lobby Day, which means you’ll do it from home on Zoom. But they are charging an admission to participate. And that’s to help pay for the infrastructure and the supplies and all that stuff that they use. And if you haven’t done a lobby day, I really encourage people to do a lobby day. It can be very scary at first, but it can be very rewarding. Several years, there were several years, five or six years ago when the CFI chapter and Cleveland hosted a lobby day in Columbus that I die participated in. Got to talk to my state elected officials. This one is national, you’ll talk to your congress persons staff. Very rarely will you actually talk to the Congress person. It could happen but it may not. But that’s going to be a good time. If you could do that as June 22 from 9am to 5pm. We’re also going to be having Sholay is going to have some outreach going on this summer. In August August the 13th. We’re going to have an information booth at the mall me summer fair. That was a new low venue for us. We participated in that last year in 2021. And it’s in beautiful downtown mommy off Conant Street. And we were handing out. One of the free things we were given out to children were plastic dinosaurs, little toy dinosaurs and we plan on doing that again. And then August 20. We are going to return to the Toledo Pride festival in downtown Toledo it promenade Park will have a booth there as well. So if you are a member of Sholay or want to be a member of Sholay. And we’d like to staff our booth and help out with it setup or teardown, you know, just go to our website, fill out our contact form or shoot me an email. Because we do need volunteers for the booth for that’s two. That’s two weeks, back to back set both Saturday, Saturday and then the next Saturday.

Doug Berger 30:22
And so that’s what we’re going to be doing this summer. And then Sunday, September 11, Sholay will be having our come home picnic. And we really lucked out. And we were able to reserve the rotary roundhouse shelter at the middle grounds Metro Park. And for those not familiar with the middle grounds Metro Park, it’s under the Anthony Wayne bridge, near downtown Toledo. And what we’re going to be doing for that is, we’re going to be inviting anyone who has ever attended a meeting, who’s ever had contact with our group, and we’re going to previous members and have them come to the picnic. And it’s going to be outdoors. So the COVID will be less likely to happen. And but so for that we need ideas and people to bring picnic fun stuff like games and activities. So again, you know, if you want to participate, you don’t necessarily have to be a dues paying member to come to the picnic. That’s the whole thing that we’re doing is we’re inviting everybody who is interested in our group, so that we can start back up again, trying to get the momentum back that we lost for two years because of the pandemic. So basically, that’s what I wanted to do. I just wanted to let you know what was happening this summer. The Baja con and Sarnia is going to be a premier event. I do encourage you here in Northwest Ohio, Southeast Michigan, and beyond if you’re able to go go they got him at Mata Seth Andrews, David Warnock and some other people, the women of color beyond belief. They have some great speakers already lined up for that, if you’re able to do that. And skeptic con, that’s it’s free. It’s they got some workshops. It’s a good time. It’s all a good time. So you know, you can’t say that there’s nothing to do as a humanist in 2022.

Voice Over 32:24
Thank you for listening. For information about the topics in this episode, please visit the episode page at Quest city humanist dot show. Quest anti humanist is an outreach of the secular humanists of Western Lake Erie, and is supported in part by a grant by the American Humanist Association. The AJ can be reached at American scholey can be reached at humanists, W. Glass city humanist is hosted, written and produced by Douglas Berger, and he is solely responsible for the content our theme music is glass city jam composed using the amplify studio See you next time.

[Transcript is machine created and lightly edited]


Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley

The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio

This episode by Glass City Humanist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.