The World Massage Festival brought glad tidings to over 50 massage therapists yesterday when founder Mike Hinkle held the drawing for the Christmas in July contest, gifting all of them with free tuition to the 2011 Festival that will be held July 14-17 in at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. That’s what I call “community service.” The $350-value tuition covers all the classes you can pack in over the course of the three days. The plan was to have a winner chosen from every state in the union, all the Canadian provinces, DC and the American territories; only 5 states didn’t have anyone enter the contest. There was also an international winner chosen, who was from Poland, and two winners chosen from Canadian provinces (the others didn’t have any entrants).
Mike Hinkle has one mission: to help as many massage therapists and industry supporters as he can. Recognizing that people want great continuing education at an affordable price, he started the World Massage Festival in 2006 as an alternative national event. The WMF is not associated with any of the national organizations–who are ALL welcome to be there. Politics are not a part of the Festival; vendors are not excluded based on which organization competes with another and that kind of thing. All who wish to sponsor an event or have a vendor exhibit are welcomed with open arms. The Festival still needs sponsors for 2011, and I in particular urge those who have been turned down at other places due to politics to get on board.
There’s a vendor exhibit hall that anyone can enter at no charge, including members of the public who’d just like to know more about massage; there’s some very exciting live entertainment happening (I get to be the emcee), and the lineup of classes and instructors is nothing short of downright impressive. The 2011 theme of the conference is “Research and Education is Our Future.” Over 40 instructors, including Ruth Werner, President of the Massage Therapy Foundation; Nancy Porambo, AMTA National Vice-President; Dr. Ben Benjamin, and so many more will be presenting more than 285 hours of CE classes.
I cracked Mike up last year when I started touting the Festival as the “Woodstock of massage gatherings.” I called it that because it’s three days of peace and harmony…a big family reunion. I ran into so many friends at last year’s event in Berea, I couldn’t even spend time with them all. There was picking and grinning going on, too, as well as a number of free student events, social gatherings, and just a general good time. The Massage Nerd was there making free videos for anyone who wanted one. You couldn’t beat the whole thing with a stick.
Leave your coats and ties at home, and you don’t have to bring a pile of money. Accommodations and meals are available as low as $60 per day for those who wish to purchase a package. WCU has beautiful dorm rooms and a cafeteria that rivals most chain buffet restaurants, including vegetarian options. There are also a number of other food outlets and a convenience store on-campus. Transportation to and from the airport is available, and so is ride sharing and opportunities for room sharing to keep the cost as low as possible.
I’d really like to applaud the organizers for their generous gift. They don’t have a membership organization, they don’t collect dues or anything of that nature that would subsidize such a selfless act. Mike and Cindy’s generosity in giving this gift represents a personal cost to them of close to $20,000. A lot of this campaign was conducted over Facebook, and I noticed the comments immediately start rolling in from winning therapists as soon as they were announced. People are so excited, and I’m excited for them. Merry Christmas to the winners, to the Hinkles, and to all of you. I hope to see everyone in Cullowhee.