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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

FAM Tours to Highlight South Bend Area

Come early or stay late — meeting planners have a choice. Many who attend the annual Small Market Meetings Conference either come before it begins or stay on a while after it to take FAM tours of the host city. The 2017 Small Market Meetings Conference will be held September 26-28 in South Bend, Indiana.

The conference will keep delegates busy due to a tight three-day schedule, but many planners want to check out South Bend in more detail to potentially book future business. A preconference FAM will take place Sunday, September 24, through Tuesday, September 26. After the conference, another FAM on Thursday, September 28, through Sunday, October 1, will feature tours of local conference facilities and attractions, as well as a University of Notre Dame home football game.

FAM participants will get the chance to experience this fabled Midwest college town. Notre Dame’s many quads, historic buildings and athletic facilities make it a popular stop for South Bend visitors. The university offers excellent tours from knowledgeable guides, who will also include, if requested, the school’s impressive conference and dining facilities. Also on the tour will be stops at the Main Building, better known as the Golden Dome building; the spectacular Basilica of the Sacred Heart; and the Grotto behind it.

“It is a very beautiful campus,” said Dick Tucker, a Notre Dame tour guide. “There’s a lot of history and interesting buildings.” Another potential visit could be to nearby St. Mary’s College and its fine meeting facilities.

South Bend is a city of appealing museums. The Studebaker National Museum preserves the history of this famed automobile- and carriage-and-wagon-manufacturing company that traces its roots to the middle of the 19th century. Car lovers will gush at the display of cool, classic automobiles.

The History Museum presents the region’s past, including the growth of the area’s manufacturing sector over the past 150 years and the emergence of the University of Notre Dame as a worldwide center of higher learning. The museum is also the depository for memorabilia from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which played primarily during World War II and a few years after. The teams and players inspired the popular Penny Marshall-directed movie “A League of Their Own.” The museum’s artifacts also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of the film.

“In the evening, guests could have a reception in the museum lobby,” said Marilyn Thompson, the museum’s marketing and community relations contact. “We can set up a bar, and people can mill around.”

Also available for a tour and just a short stroll from the museum is the 38-room James Oliver mansion. Oliver was a South Bend industrialist and inventor who perfected designs for farm plows and became a millionaire doing it. If a group met at the museum for an event, participants could easily walk to the Oliver mansion for abbreviated 15- to 20-minute tours, said Thompson.

Meeting planners interested in attending the FAMs should contact Lindsay Ference, director of sales at Visit South Bend Mishawaka, by email at Space is limited, and applicants must meet certain criteria.

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.