March Madness with PASS and SQL Server 2012

(Reposted from my blog - you can read the original here.)

March brought the much anticipated SQL Server 2012, and with it a slew of events, including Microsoft’s Special Ops tour, several PASS SQLSaturdays, and rounding out the month with DevConnections and SQLBits X.

My own March Madness took me to three of the month’s SQLSaturday events. Two were first-time events: #103 Silicon Valley, organized by Mark Ginnebaugh [blog|twitter] and his team, and #105 Dublin, organized by Sandra Gunn [twitter] and her team. The third, #110 Tampa, was organized for the fifth straight year by Pam Shaw [LinkedIn|twitter] – the Queen of SQLSaturdays and my mentor. All three events were very successful, with strong attendance and fantastic speaker lineups, great sponsor support (all with several exhibiting onsite, always nice to see), and as much SQL Server 2012 content as you could pack into a day.

Registration and logistics flow at the veteran Tampa event coasted along smoothly, with the first-time SQLSaturdays experiencing a few bumps, as is typical. There’s still more we can do with mentoring new events in this area, although sometimes you just don’t know the best layout for registration and sponsors until you’re onsite and shifting things around. The events all resembled each other, as they should since there is a “model” to follow for a SQLSaturday – most importantly providing high-quality free training to attendees. But it’s always fun to see how each team puts its own stamp on SQLSaturday, often expressed in the speaker/volunteer appreciation parties. March brought some very special touches.

Silicon Valley catered to the Big Geek in all of us by having its Friday event at the nearby Computer History Museum. I think we were all more interested in getting our picture taken in front of Charles Babbage’s Calculating Engine than eating what was probably the best food I’ve ever seen at a SQLSaturday appreciation party (my particular favorite was the asparagus spears wrapped in pancetta - had to fight Denny Cherry [blog|twitter] over these).

Closer to home, Tampa’s Friday evening featured the traditional sit-down Italian dinner, fostering that comfortable feeling of family. The SQL Florida Mafia (yes, we really do call ourselves that – ask Scott Gleason [twitter] why) was joined by many of our out-of-state SQLSaturday circuit speakers, and even the godfather of SQLSaturday himself, Andy Warren [blog|twitter], was present, rounding out the #SQLfamily dinner.

And Dublin, the last of my SQLSaturday March tour, provided dinner on a barge, which turned out to be much different than what I first envisioned. The barge wasn’t the large bare-bones steel ship that you see transporting goods or military supplies. This one was a large cabin cruiser-style boat, with a cozy dinner room downstairs, décor in a lavish plum color, and soft lighting. In between courses during the 3-hour canal cruise, we took in the wonderful evening weather from an open upper deck. I’m pretty sure this type of party was a first for a SQLSaturday event.

Everyone who attended these parties took away the special feeling and character of each SQLSaturday.