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Conference Traditions

Ship’s Steering Wheel

The tradition of presenting a steering wheel to the incoming chairman of the Steering Committee began as a private joke between 1996 Conference Chairman Ed Taylor of Minute Maid and 1997 Conference Chairman Stephanie Richardson of Preventative Environmental Management.  At the beginning of the 1997 conference, Stephanie presented Ed, then the Steering Committee chairman, with an old car steering wheel dug out from a salvage yard, the idea being the Steering Committee Chairman needed something to steer. Ed had the last laugh as he took great pride in ceremoniously presenting the old steering wheel back to Stephanie at the end of the 1997 conference.  The old car steering wheel has since graduated to a ship’s wheel as a gift from Ted Weller of B&A Health and Safety Consultants.  This steering wheel has been handed from the outgoing Steering Committee Chairman to the incoming Steering Committee Chairman since 1998.  It is the responsibility of the outgoing Steering Committee Chairman to keep the wheel during the year of their service, engrave the name of the incoming Steering Committee Chairman on the next plate prior to the next conference and to present the ship’s wheel to the next Steering Committee Chair at the Wednesday evening awards dinner.


Honey Dipper

This conference tradition began in 1970 when the most important environmental issue was wastewater. One of the traditional slang terms used to discuss wastewater is ”honey wagon,” which refers to pumper trucks used for septic tank pump outs.  In 1977, the chairman of this conference was presented with the Honey Dipper, which recognizes the origins of the conference.  To this day the conference chair receives the Honey Dipper from the outgoing conference chair and it is worn around the neck throughout the entire conference.


The Talking Stick

In 2002, the conference left the U.S. for the first time and landed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with Gottfried Haase of Kraft as the chairman. On Sunday evening the entertainment with dinner was performed by members of a native Canadian tribe. The chief of the tribe presented Gottfried with a Talking Stick, which is a native tribe tradition that recognizes who has the right to speak.  The Talking Stick is displayed throughout the conference next the speaker’s podium.


The Tie

Try as we may, some folks never get the message: don’t wear ties. The conference dress code is business casual.  In 2005, in Savannah, Ga., Bruce Wright of Basic American Foods made the mistake of wearing a tie. The portion of the tie that encircled his neck now travels with the Talking Stick, and is hung over the base as a reminder.

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The Big Dog Award

The Big Dog Awards were created at the 1997 Conference by Quentin Davis of Fehr-Graham & Associates. They were originally called the MC-T awards, owing to the fact that McDonald’s had sent some “Environmental T-Shirts” to the conference that were given away as prizes. The idea was borne from the 1997 conference, when several presenters added humor and uniqueness to their presentations.

Three nominees are chosen for each award and the idea is to select unique and funny comments from presentations and create categories based off the comments.  The winner is announced after the category is explained.  The awards are presented at the Wednesday evening awards dinner, and past categories have included: Best Lawyer Joke, Best Technical Term and Best Technical Lie.  In 1998, the name was changed to the Big Dog Awards.  Awards have been given every year since 1997.  Award recipients receive Big Dog t-shirts. 


The Little Kitten Award

The Little Kitten Award was created by Carol Kenfield, of Pillsbury in 2000.  She recognized that this is more than a conference; it is a venue where life-long friendships and caring relationships are developed.  The recipient of the award receives a little kitten and a certificate.  The recipient is responsible for the care and upkeep of the kitten for 1 full year and for selecting the next recipient