This past Saturday a time-honored event was held in Alpharetta, GA. That tradition, straight out of past — or is it future? was SQL Saturday Atlanta. Called by some the “PASS Summit of the South,” SQL Saturday Atlanta was the 392nd event in the SQL Saturday series and continues the yearly streak in Atlanta since SQL Saturday #13 in 2009.
It seems each year, the stakes are raised higher and higher as far as size, quality, and theme — and this year was no exception. With this summer marking the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, it seems appropriate that the event was called Back to SQL Saturday and given a full, over-the-top Back to the Future theme. But, before we talk about Saturday, we first have to travel back in time — to Friday…
As is common for many SQL Saturday events, paid all-day pre-conference sessions were offered on Friday prior to the event. From the many great sessions to choose from, I chose to attend Power BI With an Exciting New Twist by Patrick LeBlanc (B | T) and Brian Jackson (B | T). The Microsoft Power BI landscape is a rapidly changing environment and Patrick and Brian did an excellent job of covering the highlights of the on-premise Excel tools (Power Query, Power Pivot, and Power View) as well as the new Power BI Designer and the cloud-based Power BI Preview. An excellent session full of great information and entertainment, it was time very well spent.
Following the pre-con on Friday evening, it was time for another task. This year was something new for me — volunteering to help at SQL Saturday. The major task that needed to be accomplished for Friday evening was getting the 600+ bags stuffed for the 750 registered attendees who would be arriving first thing in the morning. It was a big job, but the amazing crew knocked it out with great efficiency.
Taking a page from SQL Saturday Nashville, the SQL Saturday Atlanta organizers lined up some amazing badges for the speakers, volunteers, and organizers. These amazing Back to the Future themed badges came out looking great and make for awesome souvenirs.
Saturday morning, the day of the wait-listed event. I arrived early and was surprised at just how many people were already waiting outside the building for the doors to open. The Back to the Future theme was taken to the next level in a major way. On the sidewalk, just behind the waiting crowd of people, the organizers had managed to line an a real honest-to-goodness (but non time travelling) DeLorean for everyone to see and take pictures with. Now that is going the extra mile! I think this was the first time I’d seen one in person up close.
After registration, attendees entered the building and received their swag bags. Inside the bags, among a number of other great things, was another example of amazing attention to detail — the program guide. But this was no ordinary program guide, oh no. The front was a modified version of the sports almanac that Marty buys in the future during Back to the Future (which causes all of the trouble) and the back was the flyer which mentions the lightning strike used to eventually power the DeLorean. Awesome, awesome stuff.
As a volunteer, one of my duties was proctoring a room for a few sessions. Keeping with the movie theme, each room had a name, such as “Twin Pines Mall,” the “Brown Mansion,” “Hill Valley High School,” and my room — “Biff’s Garage.”
Despite volunteering and performing various tasks throughout the day, I managed to watch a number of great sessions, including Dave Mattingly’s “Database: The Motion Picture,” Javier Guillen’s “Are Users Working Against You?,” Damodaran Venkatesan’s “Self-Service ETL with Microsoft Power Query,” and Stuart Ainsworth’s “Eating the Elephant; A DBA’s Guide to Hadoop and Big Data.”
Finally, it was time for the day of awesomeness to come to a close. The day ended with the traditional closing announcements and sponsor raffle. Rain had been predicted previously, which would’ve made the outdoor raffle a bit problematic, but we were fortunate that the forecast missed and we had nice and clear (albeit hot) weather for the raffle. But wait! There’s more…
Did the amazing theme stop with the end of day raffle? Nope! Following the raffle was the SQL Saturday Atlanta after party. But this was no ordinary after party, oh no. This was the “Enchantment Under the Sea…er, SQL Dance.” A great get-together with attendees as well as the folks who made it happen with drinks, food, and a live band who, of course, had to play Johnny Be Good at some point.
SQL Saturday Atlanta 2015 was an extremely well run event. Everyone I spoke to had a great time (including myself) and I really enjoyed volunteering to help out for the event for the first time. I look forward to future opportunities in the future to help out where I can to help make other events go off as well as this one did. The over the top theme really took things to the next level and I can’t wait until next year!