Strange Times, Tough Decisions

It is with great sadness but also some relief that we have announced the cancellation of the 2020 Annual Gathering in Kansas City, Mo. This is the first time in our history we have had to take this step. We have had an AG every year since the first North America Mensa Annual Gathering in 1963.

There’s great sadness because we will all miss seeing our friends and family from across the country, as well as the hugs, camaraderie, great speakers, and more. Please join me in commending Tabby Vos and her AG Committee for their great efforts preparing for this event.

It is also a relief we can take this measure because ever since the pandemic started, we had concerns about holding the AG. How could we do it safely? What processes would we have to put in place? There was a lot going on. We’ve received numerous comments and questions about why we didn’t cancel earlier. The reason relates to Mensa’s financial liability for the event.

Had we just walked away from the event, the cost to American Mensa could have been up to $600,000. Incurring such an expense would not be meeting our fiduciary responsibility to the organization or the members. We had the hotel contract, speaker contracts, and more to address before we could officially announce the cancellation.

It would have been simple to cancel earlier if the governor of the state declared the stay-at-home orders extended past the date of the Annual Gathering. That would have enacted the force majeure clause in our contract. However, that did not happen, so the financial liability for canceling the event remained with American Mensa.

We needed time to negotiate with the hotel, either to cancel outright with a minimal cancellation fee or to reschedule the venue for a future AG. Fortunately, and thanks to the work of Executive Director Trevor Mitchell, we were able to reschedule the AG to our next open year, 2024. In doing so, we were able to cancel this year’s event with no cancellation fees.

I feel it is important to explain why we couldn’t let you know what was happening at the time. Providing the news publicly could have interfered with our negotiations, but now that we’ve reached an agreement, we can move forward. Thank you all for your patience and understanding.

I’m looking forward to getting together again; it’s the bright light I’m aiming toward. While some of the Local Groups have been quite active with their online events, which have been a lot of fun, it will still be nice to see you in person. The World Gathering, celebrating Mensa’s 75th anniversary, can’t come soon enough. I hope to see you all in Houston next year for that big party! Until then, please take care, stay safe, and don’t forget to wash your hands.

— AMC Chair LaRae Bakerink