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Norfolk promises to be first-class reunion

Plans are in the works for the 54th annual convention of the 99th Infantry Division Association. Scheduled for July 2-5, 2003, in Norfolk VA, the convention will be held at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.

The hotel is situated in the heart of downtown Norfolk, adjoining the Waterside Convention Center. It is within two blocks of Waterside Festival Marketplace, Nauticus, and the USS Wisconsin, and two blocks from MacArthur Center Mall.

Room rates are $82 per night. That rate is good two days before and after the convention (approximately June 28 through July 7).

The Dining Room offers regional cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The NYC Deli & Pub features overstuffed sandwiches. The Piano Lounge serves cocktails in a quiet atmosphere. There are several other reasonably-priced restaurants and cafes within walking distance.

The Marriott also features a health club, atrium-enclosed pool, saunas, three whirlpools, and sundeck overlooking the waterfront. A gift shop, business service center, and laundry service also is available. Valet parking is available at the front entrance.

The hotel is 15 minutes from Norfolk International Airport. Commercial airport limos and taxi service from the airport is available. Self-parking is available at the Main Street Garage at a rate of $14 per day. It is directly across the street from the hotel and accessible from Atlantic Street. A covered pedestrian bridge connects the garage to the hotel and convention center.

Reservations can be made with the Reservations Department by calling 757-627-4200 or 800-228-9290. Request the 99th Convention Rate. The cutoff date for reservations is May 30, 2003. Don't procrastinate. Make your reservations now as the hotel will not honor the group rate after the cutoff date.

Tentative plans call for registration to run Wednesday through Saturday, The War/Video Room as well as a hospitality room will be open throughout the convention.

The board meeting has been moved to Thursday afternoon to accommodate those board members who do not plan to arrive until later in the week. The meeting is scheduled to be held after the tour returns.

The Checkerboard Chorus will perform Thursday evening. A Memorial Service will be held Friday morning. Entertainment for Friday evening will focus on the July 4th holiday.

Following a sit-down breakfast Saturday, the ladies' program and business meeting will be held. A board meeting for new board members will be held Saturday afternoon prior to church services.

The reception and banquet will be held Saturday evening to wrap up the week's events.

Two tours are planned for the week.

Tour A on Wednesday will include colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown Island. Buses will leave the hotel at 8:30 a.m. for the town of Williamsburg. A historical interpreter will guide everyone through the past and events that helped shape America's history during a one and one-half hour leisurely walking tour through the restored area of the colonial capital city. (Actual distance is approximately four or five blocks.)

There will be free time to shop and browse in the unique specialty shops in Merchants Square. Lunch will be on your own in one of the Colonial Taverns or in Merchants Square.

After lunch, board the bus and enjoy the view along the scenic Colonial Parkway to Jamestown Island, original site of the first permanent English settlement in America in 1607. Exhibits include ruins of the 17th century settlement and a visitors' center, museum, and gift shop. On display are recent archaeological finds, including the 400-year-old skeletal remains of one of the first settlers. Archaeological digs are ongoing and open for daily observation. Buses will return to the hotel at 4 p.m. Cost for the tour is $35 per person.

Tour B, scheduled for Thursday, will be a riding city tour, a visit at Norfolk Naval Base, and the Spirit of Norfolk luncheon cruise.

Buses will leave the hotel at 9 a.m. and travel to the Norfolk Naval Base, the largest naval installation in the world. Home port to more than 100 ships, 26 aircraft squadrons, and headquarters of the Atlantic Fleet, the base occupies more than 8,000 acres of land and is home to more than 100,000 military personnel. The tour will take you past the pier, through the Naval Air Station, and past the historic homes built for the 1907 Jamestown Exposition on "Admiral's Row" which now house the flag officers.

Following the naval base tour, learn about Norfolk's colorful 320-year history as you tour the lovely historic district and restored areas. View the stately homes along the Hague, old St. Paul's Church, the Moses Myers House, MacArthur Memorial, the Chrysler Museum of Art, the historic Freemason District, Nauticus, the USS Wisconsin and the restored waterfront area, and many other points of interest.

Next board the Spirit of Norfolk for a two-hour luncheon cruise. Enjoy a buffet lunch and hear informative narration as you cruise through the Hampton Roads Harbor. View interesting sights along the waterfront, including aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines at the Norfolk Naval Base. Enjoy entertainment following lunch. The ship has two climate-controlled lower decks and an open-air upper deck. Buses will return to the hotel at 2:30 p.m. Cost for this tour is $47 per person, including lunch.

All passengers visiting the Norfolk Naval Base must have a picture ID card (driver's license, military ID, passport). No bags other than pocketbooks or camera cases will be allowed on the base. All people are subject to personal search.

Fewer tours are being offered for this reunion to allow a slower pace for the week. There is ample opportunity to explore the downtown area on your own. The hotel is within walking distance of the Norfolk Festival Marketplace, a shopping and dining complex that contains a food court with a wide variety of choices.

MacArthur Center is one of the newest and largest shopping centers in the Mid-Atlantic region and also contains several fine restaurants. It is located a few blocks from the hotel and is accessible via Norfolk's free downtown bus system.

In addition to the Spirit of Norfolk, the Elizabeth River Passenger Ferry departs from a pier on the waterfront. Enjoy a 10-minute ride across the harbor to Portsmouth on the ferry to visit the Naval Shipyard Museum and the Lightship museum which are within walking distance of the High Street Landing on the Portsmouth side. The Virginia Children's Museum features a million dollar toy train collection, planetarium, and other exhibits and is only two blocks from the waterfront. The ferry is handicapped accessible.

Within walking distance of the Marriott is Town Point Park, containing several of the most widely known attractions of Norfolk. One is the USS Wisconsin, the largest and last of the Iowa class battleships. Access to the Wisconsin is via the National Maritime Museum (Nauticus). Nauticus is an exciting, interactive science and technology center exploring the power of the sea. Exhibits include interactive displays, films, exotic aquariums, touch pools, and more. The Hampton Roads Naval Museum, located on the second floor of Nauticus, contains artifacts and exhibits of naval history including some superb models of sailing ships and a fine exhibit of Civil War maritime history in local waters.

Nearby is the Armed Forces Memorial just yards from Nauticus at the water's edge. It contains bronze copies of letters written home by U.S. servicemen and women shortly before they lost their lives in war. The letters are scattered across the ground as though blown there by the wind.

Don't miss this reunion. The Marriott is a first-class hotel offering attractive room rates for the 99th convention. Interesting and informative tours are offered as well as the regularly scheduled events that occur at every convention. More importantly, this will be an opportunity to renew old friendships, reminisce with old buddies, and perhaps meet some long-lost comrades.

Convention packets will be mailed by the first of March. Registration deadlines for the hotel and convention are May 30. Don't wait! Make your reservations early. You won't want to miss a visit to Norfolk.

— DONNA BERNHARDT

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