Laramie, WY October 22-24, 2008

For the last six years, Latitude Geographics has attended every Southwest Users Group (SWUG) conference. From Jackson Hole in 2003 through to Laramie in 2008, the SWUG conference brings together GIS users from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. This year’s high plains geospatial roundup offered up blowing snow and chilly temperatures – a big departure for a guy like me accustomed to Victoria’s moderate climate. But the warmth of the SWUG organizers (kudos to the entire organizing committee for an awesome job!) allowed the attendees to quickly forget about the cold temperatures, and settle into a dose (actually, many, many doses) of Wyoming hospitality!

geo_cortex_Rodeo_v1The SWUG event is not your regular, regional GIS conference. John Calkins, ESRI’s “Corporate Technical Evangelist” kicked things off with an interactive keynote session that engaged the group in a geographic approach to problem solving. Plenty of great user and vendor presentations followed, topped off with an evening keynote by Wyoming historian Bruce Blevins. Aside from all the interesting work-related stuff, I’d have to say that the highlight of the conference was the BBQ, Bluegrass, and Broncs event (disclosure: we were also a sponsor). This was not my first rodeo - but it was undoubtedly one of the most unique I’ve seen. The University of Wyoming Rodeo Team put on a presentation just for us, and we got to enjoy steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing and bull-riding. Yee-Haw! Later in the evening, we two-stepped to music served up by the Zarks, a local country-western band. I reckon the user sessions were a little subdued the next morning, but attendees (AKA SWUG-uhs) seemed to be wearing a collective grin.

It’s events like these that make me appreciate the industry we work in, given its great mix of knowledge sharing, professionalism, and appreciation for local cultural activities!