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Winter 2002/2003
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The Esri European User Conference in Bruges, Belgium--A Good Time for One and All

  participants at the Floreal Club
The Floreal Club provided a perfect setting to accommodate 700 participants from more than 20 countries.

The 2002 Esri European User Conference took place in the very well-furnished Floreal Club located close to the dunes in Blankenberge, about 10 miles from the historic city of Bruges, Belgium. It provided a perfect setting to accommodate 700 participants from more than 20 countries.

The conference started with a keynote speech by Esri President Jack Dangermond about the status of Esri and the future of GIS technology. David Maguire, director of products, Esri, then explained the details of the upcoming releases.

Part of the afternoon was set aside for a presentation tour of interesting GIS Web sites in many of the European countries, which presented many ways this technology is being used to disseminate data to the general public. Later that afternoon Henri van Oosterwyck of Esri BeLux hosted a panel of GIS experts from different regions in Belgium, who explained in detail how they have applied GIS. Vlaanderen, Brussels, and Wallon each have their own regional applications.

Monday night featured the opening of the poster gallery and exhibition that attracted more than 25 Esri Business Partners. Many people enjoyed tasting the famous Belgian beers while strolling around the many booths.

Tuesday and Wednesday were occupied with many technical workshops and user presentations. Special tracks were organized for utilities, cadastres and national mapping agencies (NMAs), transportation, and the European Union. Quite unique was that many of the technical workshops were presented in three languages: English, French, and Dutch/Flemish, a true European experience!

On Wednesday afternoon a special session was held for K-12 students. Last year, Esri BeLux provided approximately 100 copies of ArcView to many schools with the request that they begin local GIS projects. This was a big success as more than 80 schools participated. Results of the children's activities were shown in the map gallery, and special prizes were awarded during the afternoon session.

Of course, the conference would not be complete without the gala dinner, which this year was a memorable event because it was held in one of the historic churches in beautiful Bruges. Medieval musicians, jesters, jugglers, and fire eaters entertained the conference crowd who enjoyed a culinary dinner that ended with the spectacular "bird men" who flew their falcon, buzzard, and vulture over the amazed audience.

The perfectly organized event has already made everyone look forward to the next conference, which is scheduled for October 8-10, 2003, in Innsbruck, Austria.

For more information about the 2003 European User Conference, e-mail

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