HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Members of the National Caves Association will be traveling to Hannibal on Sept. 18 through 22 for the association's 52nd annual convention. It marks the first time since 1979 that the association has held its convention at the Mark Twain Cave Complex.
"It's a big deal, and we're fortunate to have this here," cave owner Linda Coleberd said. "They are usually well-attended, and this year we have members coming from the four corners of the country, including Hawaii."
Representatives from between 50 to 60 caves will be traveling to Hannibal for the event. Coleberd said she tries to attend the convention each year, and she is relieved that she does not have to travel for it this time.
During the convention, people will learn how the Mark Twain Cave staff runs cave operations. Association members will tour Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave and receive educational presentations on white nose syndrome in bats, among other activities.
"It's a wonderful collection of people who come, and I always enjoy when we have roundtable discussions on what works and doesn't work (for running show caves)," Coleberd said. "You take away wonderful things to try and things not to try."
She described the Mark Twain Cave as the ideal spot to hold the convention due to its central location within the country, the fact that the cave has no steps and because of how much people can do in Hannibal outside of the convention.
"On Wednesday, we play," she said. "We'll be touring Mark Twain's boyhood home, doing the riverboat cruise and other tourist activities."
The National Caves Association was founded in 1965 by a small group of private show cave owners. Since then, the association now has more than 80 show cave members who work together to promote the show cave industry to the public, share information and ideas and lobby for legislation favorable to the show cave industry.
"Caves don't change much over the years, but technology and the way people run them do," Coleberd said. "Having the convention in Hannibal will present everyone with a great learning environment, and it's a great way to promote the town."