The last thing I planned to do at Comdex was attend the 1999 Micrografx Chili for Children event. This is a fundraiser that is the single largest source of private funding for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC:, a non-profit organization dedicated to locating and recovering missing children in the United States.

The Chili Cookoff is a big party where sponsor organizations serve chili made to their recipes, there is entertainment, and people get to mingle. Tickets cost $50 each. The event has raised over $3.5 million over the decade it has been going on. It was founded and organized for those years by Micrografx, Inc.

I took a cab from the hotel. Here's the cab line:

Cabs in front of hotel

We drove over to the MGM Grand Conference center:

Front of conference center with beams of light

Here's the logo from a sign inside:

Micrografx Chili for Children sign with two red chili peppers

The Southwestern US motif included straw hats that were given out:

Woman giving out cowboy hats

This event used to be at the UNLV Mack Center, an indoor sports stadium where you walked around in the hallway surrounding the arena as well as sat in the seats or stood on the floor. Starting last year it is being held in the big room of this conference center instead. This is one corner:

People standing around with projected sponsor names on the wall

Walking around you run into people. Here are Sheldon Laube and Nancy Engel again as well as Bill Howard and Michael Miller of PC Magazine:

Four smiling faces all under straw cowboy hats

Here Eric Lundquist and John Dodge of PC Week dish out their "PC Week Zippin' Chili":

Eric holding cup and John with ladle

Gary Beach of CIO Magazine shows how the professional chefs package the chili made to his "C-hil-I-O" recipe as he slits open the plastic bag of hot chili:

Gary holding bag over pot

One of the entertainment things were artists who would draw a picture of you. This is my view, with the onlookers nodding knowingly (I didn't know if that was good or bad):

Guy drawing with two people in hats watching

I gave my camera to Nancy Engel who walked by. Here you can see me and the caricature (the artist is F. Andrew Taylor in Las Vegas, and he gave me permission to use it):

Me sitting and smiling with artist drawing  Pencil drawing of me smiling and holding camera

There was also some memorabilia sale or something. Here's a basketball signed by Larry Bird:

Case with ball and sign 375 dollars

I ran into other friends: Scott Cutler of Compaq and Bruce Fredrickson of Tactical Marketing Ventures. I see the two of them at various conferences a lot. (Scott was a classmate of mine as an undergraduate at MIT and we took gym together.)

Scott holding his chili  Bruce smiling

Finally it was time for one of the main events: The armadillo races. A raceway was set up and people stood around. Major donors got the honor of racing. You pick an armadillo and hold it at the starting line:

Green area with people around

This is an armadillo. Note the hair in the close-up:

Animal on green  Animal on green

When the race starts you hope your armadillo runs in the right direction and fastest. You are not allowed to touch them to make them go. (No whipping like with horses.) You can only blow on their tails:

People crawling and blowing

There were four races and then a run-off. Warren McFadden of Computer Associates won, beating out Shawn McMichael of Microsoft in the finals:

Two guys blowing with Shawn using a straw

John Walsh is co-founder of the NCMEC. He's also the host of the "America's Most Wanted" TV show. They were taping part of an episode. Here's the warning sign:

Caution. We are taping an entering you are giving permission...

They kept swinging a camera on a boom around and sometimes John would come up and speak. People stood around and watched:

John standing and facing a camera

Next was the passing of the torch ceremony. Jim McDonnell and Hewlett-Packard were taking over from Paul Grayson and Micrografx. Actually, they passed a big chili bowl. This will move the "...leadership of the Foundation and its annual event to a company that can provide maximum exposure and fund-raising capabilities for the NCMEC."

Paul on the left handing bowl  Jim speaking with bowl in hand on stage

Then John Walsh spoke, but briefly compared to years past. He related the story of the child abducted almost at birth and found years later thanks to NCMEC's computerized help (and a birthmark).

John being passionate about the Center and its work

Finally, there was the concert. There is usually a concert as part of the event. The entertainment this time was The Commodores. Lionel Richie left the band in 1982, but, they write, despite starting in the 1970's they won their first Grammy in 1986 (for "Night Shift").

The show started with fireworks:

Sparks coming down over outline of singer

Here's some scenes with Clyde, WAK, and J.D. doing their thing. Being in a private party like this you can get real close (especially if someone helps you get a VIP armband...). You see how hard they work. Notice the sweat on J.D.'s face:

Singer with microphone  Guy with guitar an lights  Guy with mike sweating and smiling

Some of the people were real devoted fans and really got off on the music. The VIP area in the front (actually, Patron area is more like it) wasn't very crowded, so those that wanted to climbed in after a while. We all love watching people really enjoy themselves, and these people really did.


I had a 6:40 AM flight the next morning, so I left after a while. Time to try to get some sleep. I think I averaged 4 1/2 hours a night the whole time I was there.

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