The Making of a Dziesmu Svētki, Part 5: The Folk Dancing Show

On a gray day in early December, a small crew of folk-dancing organizers from Philadelphia was hard at work inspecting the nooks and crannies of the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, thoughtfully jotting sketches in their notepads, counting seats and wheelchair spaces, and talking with arena management. All around, staff members were busy setting up for an indoor soccer game. All business, the folk-dancing group’s leader stood in one goal, pulled out her stopwatch, and proceeded to polka past the forklifts and rolls of astroturf, timing how long it would take an ordinary folk-dance troupe to get from one end of the arena to the other. Eventually the representatives from the lighting company arrived, and the dancers headed to the center of the floor to greet them.

“Hi, I’m Astrīda,” the group’s leader said as she extended her hand. “I’m a math teacher.”

Astrīda Liziņa has danced in more Latvian song and dance festivals than she can recall. Her first was Cleveland 1973, where she performed as a member of the children’s group Ņudžersijas Zaglītis. She continued dancing with Ņudžersijas Dzintars in high school and Montreālas Ačkups in college. After school, Liziņa moved to Philadelphia, where she began teaching Latvian language and folk dancing at the local Latvian school and leading children’s dance group Filadelfijas Dzirkstele. Under her 26 years of leadership, Dzirkstele has expanded to include three generations of dancers; the original children grew up and continued dancing, and the children’s parents, wanting to join in on the fun, formed a senior branch of the troupe. In addition to her lifetime of dance experience and quarter-century-plus of dance leadership, Liziņa is no stranger to large-scale logistics, having run New York’s Latvian children’s summer camp Katskiļi for a full decade in the 1990s.

When Marisa Gudrā, the future XIV Latvian Song and Dance Festival organizing committee chair, first floated the idea of hosting a festival on the East Coast, the committee knew the idea would be a non-starter without three difficult-to-find yet crucial elements: a city with available and appropriate venues (which we have already covered in this series), a music director (coming up in a future instalment), and a folk-dancing director. Liziņa, with her extensive dance leadership, her deep East Coast roots, and her proven organizational skills, was the natural choice for the latter role. But she says she was surprised by the proposal, and spent a full month considering whether she had the time and skills necessary for the task. Having participated in festivals as a troupe leader for decades, she was already aware of what a titanic job this would be, and recognized that her experience leading three troupes in front of a couple hundred people at a Jāņi summer solstice celebration was different from leading three dozen troupes in front of thousands of people at dziesmu svētki.

Support and encouragement came from two sources. First, recognizing that such an undertaking would realistically become a full family project, Liziņa called a family meeting, where her husband (and de facto co-organizer) Andrejs and their three children overwhelmingly agreed that the project was worth taking on. Second, she turned to the masters: previous festival folk-dancing show leaders and renowned choreographers Māra Simpsone and Selga Apse (Hamilton) and Iveta Asons (Indianapolis). These folk-dancing icons were immediately reassuring, offering and continuing to provide counsel for the duration of preparations.

Even with the support of her family and advisors, Liziņa recognized that no one person could manage a project of this magnitude, so her first step upon accepting the job was to recruit a full team. For this she turned to the current and former members and supporters of Dzirkstele. In the spring of 2016 she called an all-hands meeting, and Philadelphia Latvian society responded with enthusiasm; 32 eager people attended. Volunteers signed up for various tasks and committees (though after prodding, Liziņa admits that she’d already mapped out who should take each task), and they were off!

Philadelphia dāmu komiteja leader Baiba Akkerman, who, along with Ieva Bundža, has been tasked with providing lunch to several hundred hungry dancers at this summer’s festival, says she was surprised at the first meeting by just how much goes into putting on a show – and how much it all costs. From lighting and sound design to large-scale decorating, catering and the logistics of moving hundreds of dancers around the arena, she had never realized, having danced in previous festivals, just how much was going on behind the scenes and how each element eats up time and resources. Even her somewhat straightforward task of finding caterers has been complicated by factors such as arena requirements and a dearth of caterers willing to work over the holiday weekend.

Similar complications exist even for something like dance selection. It’s not just Liziņa picking her personal favorites and calling it a day. Instead, a committee has been assembled of dancers and former dancers of various ages. First, each member went out on his or her own and brainstormed a list of favorites. They then came together and assembled a master list. Then the toughest job began: picking which beloved dances to remove from the very long list. An early and relatively easy step was to avoid repetition and cut (almost) every dance performed in the past couple North American festivals. Another major consideration was whether there were enough fun dances for the increasing number of smaller groups, which are often left out of the more popular eight-pair dances. The committee also wanted to ensure there were options for various dance abilities, ranging from simple dances for older or less experienced troupes to fast, complicated dances for more advanced groups. Finally, the committee strove to evenly fill each segment of the program, titled Dejā uz Latvijas simtgadi (“Dancing to Latvia’s Centennial”) and divided into three historical sections: dance before exile, dance during exile, and dance after exile. Once the committee had come up with a solid list, Liziņa sent it to previous folk-dance program leaders for their expert opinion, resulting in a few more tweaks.

But Liziņa still faced a summer’s worth of tasks before anything could be finalized: informing choreographers that their dances had been selected, and tracking down all the apraksti (written instructions), videos, and audio recordings necessary for troupe leaders to adequately instruct their dancers. Particular attention was paid to finding audio recordings good enough to use during the actual performance, as the idea of using live music was quickly scrapped for budget considerations (for which I as a dancer am thankful, since live music can often differ in pacing and arrangement from the music used to learn the dances).

The deadline for troupe sign-up came in the fall and provided a first reliable gauge of interest. An initial questionnaire in the spring had yielded positive results, but with this new official response, any lingering fears about diminished dancer counts disappeared. Liziņa had initially hoped for 450 dancers; instead, 650 (spread across 35 troupes) registered. Why the surge? Good news: it has come largely thanks to the next generation of folk dancers. Children will make up one third of all performers in this summer’s show, a welcome sign for the future of Latvian dance, considering that previous years have shown a decrease in child participation. For one, GVV (summer high school Gaŗezers) will be in attendance, bringing with it nearly a hundred young dancers – and in many cases inspiring younger siblings to make the trek with their respective children’s troupes. There is also a single troupe coming from Latvia with 85 child and teen dancers. But even without the infusion of young dancers from these two sources, the participant count happily exceeds expectations.

A lot can be gleaned about the changing nature of Latvian dance from the demographics of the participating troupes. In some ways this folk-dancing performance will be the same as it has been in festivals past, but in other ways it is changing. Baltimore will continue a recent festival trend of welcoming participants from around the globe, with five troupes arriving from Latvia and two from Ireland. Stateside, areas like Rochester and New Jersey are seeing the rebirth of dormant troupes, while newer groups such as Denver’s Virpulītis are thriving. Several chapters, new and old, are being run by first-time leaders, many of whom have arrived from Latvia and thus have little to no previous experience with an American festival. And a few long-standing, established troupes are run by non–Latvian speakers. All of these factors signal a rebirth and continuing growth for the North American Latvian dance scene, but they also require clear communication by Liziņa and her crew; gone are the days of saying, “Just do it like we always do,” as plenty of new folks are inspired to enter the scene.

Five months before the festival, what is still on the plate for the capable team from Philly? Plenty. Dāmu komitejas from across the continent have been chipping in to help cover the costs of feeding the dancers. Following the December walk-through, the decorating committee started planning under the leadership of Ņujorkas Jumis dancer Andris Krūmkalns, who works on Broadway sets for a living. For them the focus will be on efficiency: giant space, limited budget – good luck. And sound and lighting design continues apace, requiring the careful planning of set pieces, lights, and sound equipment; elaborate calculations regarding the length and number of trusses, the weight of the lights, equipment, and set pieces, and the size of the motor needed to lift that weight; as well as a full team of paid staff. After several meetings, estimates, and evaluations by friends in the lighting business in other cities, an overall plan (and acceptable quote) has finally been hashed out, but details are still being finalized.

For Liziņa, the next big step is designing floor plans – a much more involved task than it might seem. For each dance, Liziņa has to check which troupes are dancing, where they’re coming from, and where they need to go. A troupe can’t dance off through Gate A and immediately dance on through Gate B. It takes meticulous planning and attention to detail. Thankfully, Liziņa is up to the challenge, as you will see for yourself this summer in Baltimore.

“The Making of a Dziesmu Svētki” is an ongoing series documenting the behind-the-scenes process of organizing a Latvian song and dance festival.

The XIV Latvian-American Song and Dance Festival will take place in Baltimore, Maryland, from June 29 to July 3, 2017. For more information, please visit or write to

The Making of a Dziesmu Svētki, Part 4: Venue Selection

As soon as I heard we might be hosting a Latvian song festival on the East Coast, the flashbacks hit. “Well,” I thought with a laugh, “It’s a good thing that we just had all that practice with venue selections.”

It had only been half a year since Washington, D.C. had hosted the traveling annual multi-sport tournament ALA Meistarsacīkstes. Several of us who had helped organize Meistarsacīkstes were now working on the song festival, and the memories came rushing back: All day every day for several months we had been glued to our phones, attempting (and repeatedly failing at) what should have been a simple task: booking some venues. It’s the type of thing that seems straightforward and easy until you try it; you call and ask for availability and wave some cash, the venue says yes or no, and boom, you’re booked. Simple, right? Oh no, not even close. Where event venues are concerned, nothing is ever simple.

Before I go any further, I want to make clear that the organizing committee could not be more thrilled with the festival’s venues, from the grand hotels that provide impressive views of Baltimore Harbor to the intimate Baltimore Soundstage, just a six-minute walk away and host of the festival’s first party. Indeed, one of the main reasons we selected Baltimore as the host city was because we knew it has excellent theaters, arenas, clubs, hotels, churches, and restaurants, and we’re confident that you’ll agree once you experience them. But that doesn’t mean that getting all of the pieces aligned has been easy.

The very first challenge regarding pinning down event venues was timing. Arguably the single greatest obstacle we’ve faced as an organizing committee has been having just 20 months to plan the entire festival. That may seem like a long time, but many venues get booked much earlier. One major theater was already reserved for a touring Broadway show. A hotel that we had visited and seemed promising as the festival’s home base got snagged by another group in the couple weeks between our first and second visits. Even earlier, when we were considering in which city to host the festival, towns like Boston were immediately scrapped due to venue unavailability (see Part 2 in this series).

Ironically, the surprisingly more common timing dilemma was that venues often wouldn’t know their availability that far in advance, and we found ourselves making inquiries too early rather than too late. The issue mostly came up as we searched for locations for smaller events, like the play (Ceļā uz mājām, presented by the Latvian National Theatre Company) and smaller concerts. Baltimore has a handful of very cool little theaters, which seemed promising at first, but at the time when we approached them, most didn’t yet know their rental availability for 2017. In many cases their own company’s season needed to be set. Or construction projects got in the way. A world-renowned music conservatory with a plethora of potential stages told us to check back at the start of the school year, which we did, only to be met with: “Turns out we’re renovating. Check back in the spring.” Considering that we were hoping to start selling tickets in the fall and were budgeting for and expecting thousands of attendees, checking back was not an option. And so it continued. Each venue had a different sweet spot in terms of timeline; catching them at just the right time proved to be difficult.

The second major challenge regarding pinning down venues for our shows was budget constraints. Letting our imaginations run wild and disregarding financial limitations, we explored all sorts of inventive scenarios, from a dance party among the dinosaurs of the science museum to jaundejas at the open-air pavilion on the waterfront. But these wish-list ideas ran up against one hard truth: Our largest events require seating for a couple thousand people and stage space for several hundred. This audience-performer ratio is not too common, and it most certainly does not come cheap. The only two ways we could have made these larger events break even on their own would have been to double their ticket prices (don’t worry, we wouldn’t do that to you folks) or to double our audience size (please bring friends!). And so, with the larger venues uncompromisingly eating up big chunks of the festival budget, finding affordable options for the other events so that they could help subsidize the main events was crucial. Unfortunately, the search for modestly priced smaller venues turned up less-than-ideal solutions, as nearby options (such as local high schools) failed to meet the professional standard of the event, and more appropriate options were too far away.

Luckily, we were saved by two perfect sources that served as financially responsible options. First, our trusty hotels came to the rescue, offering up fantastic spaces for most of the evening events, the art and fashion exhibits, and even the theater performance. And a local Latvian led us to a hidden gem of a church so beautiful and ideal that we probably would have jammed every event into it if we could have (in the end, we went with just two concerts).

Timeline and budget are obviously the main factors in venue selection, and in theory, the story should end right there. But even once you are on a venue’s calendar, things can go wrong. You can never really rest until the contract is signed and countersigned. And waiting on the finalization of the contract can be frustrating, since even in today’s modern world communication is rarely instant. Our seemingly monumental festival is small potatoes to our largest and priciest venue, and so while we got a base price estimate right away, getting a final estimate that included correct audio/video and staffing costs (which had the potential to more than quadruple our expenses) took weeks. Considering that this venue’s rent and all of its non-negotiable ancillary costs constitute the festival’s single greatest expense, we were understandably anxious to receive an estimate so that we could figure out if the rest of the festival was financially possible. It was the very epitome of catch-22 timing: we had to book right away to reserve our slot, but wouldn’t know for months whether or not we could afford it. We also needed to advertise the festival far in advance so that potential attendees would keep their busy summer schedules open, but we wouldn’t know if the festival was financially viable until after we had announced that it was taking place.

Our single greatest venue-booking frustration came in June, mere weeks before hotel and flight reservations would become available: one of our venues went MIA. A major one. One that had been on the books as a safe bet from the very beginning. All that remained was to sign the contract and send our deposit. But no contract came. Several members of our team called and emailed repeatedly over a several-week period. Nothing. Radio silence. To this day, we still have not received an explanation, though we gather that, despite assurances in the winter that logistics would not be an issue, they likely backed out due to the headache of assembling choral risers with a short turnaround time.

Thankfully, we found a solution when we discovered that one of the city’s most beautiful large concert halls was available — and not only available, but, as it turned out, perfect for its intended event. While some (myself included) might initially envision a doomsday scenario when such potential setbacks reveal themselves, this situation proves that, with careful attention and planning, you can find a solution or workaround for virtually anything.

And now, I end with a confession: this article was originally intended to come out months ago, because we had fully expected to have all of our venues, big and small, completely finalized by the end of the summer. Alas, though we almost made it — we opened the ticket store in October– one venue-less orphan event was responsible for the delay.

That event, surprisingly, was the chamber music concert. At first glance it should have been easy to procure a location: musicians can set up pretty much anywhere, right? Baltimore’s own symphony orchestra recently performed a pop-up concert at nearby Penn Station. And audience capacity shouldn’t have been an obstacle: we only needed seating for a couple hundred (instead of the couple thousand expected for larger events). Dozens of venues in Baltimore fit the bill, but almost all had issues with scheduling or were too far from the hotels. But the real obstacle was the flīģelis (a word I’d never heard before and had to repeatedly look up because I thought our music director had pulled it from a Dr. Seuss book just to mess with me). Few places (including our otherwise-convenient church venue) have a grand piano nowadays, and there are considerable additional costs associated with bringing one in from the outside. With all traditional venues crossed off the list, our quest for a grand piano, or for a nearby space where we could afford to bring in a grand piano, forced us to look outside the box again.

We fell in love with one of these unconventional spaces as soon as we saw it: a whiskey warehouse turned outsider-art gallery, the American Visionary Art Museum is walkable, affordable, and just plain cool. But could we manage the cost and logistics of bringing in a flīģelis? It turns our we didn’t need to worry about it. “Well, sure – we could probably get a grand piano up to the third floor by tilting it on its side in the elevator,” explained the rental manager, “but…  we can also use the baby grand that’s already on that floor.” Sometimes providence truly saves the best for last.

For full descriptions, photos, and maps of festival sites, check out the festival website’s “Event Venues” and “Location” pages. And, of course, you’ll have the opportunity to experience all these amazing venues for yourself this summer in Baltimore.

“The Making of a Dziesmu Svētki” is an ongoing series documenting the behind-the-scenes process of organizing a Latvian song and dance festival.

The XIV Latvian-American Song and Dance Festival will take place in Baltimore, Maryland, from June 29 to July 3, 2017. For more information, please visit or write to

The Making of a Dziesmu Svētki, Part 2: Baltimore

If you ever want to feel like a total rock star, host a dziesmu svētki (Latvian song festival). Yes, the majority of your time leading up to the event will consist of unglamorous sweat and tears, sleepless nights poring over non-profit status applications, budget woes, marketing plans, and music selections, but for one brief moment, at the very beginning, you’ll go through one of the most ego-stroking experiences I have ever known: the hotel tour.

In March I, along with a small group of my fellow organizing-committee members, toured a few high-end hotels in Baltimore in search of a host venue. At one, the tour led us to a luxurious penthouse suite larger than my house. The view was phenomenal; we stared down at the ant-sized tourists a few dozen stories below as they made their way along the tall, historic ships in the beautiful Inner Harbor. We could make out Fort McHenry in the distance, and I wondered if Francis Scott Key’s work would have improved or suffered had he been privy to this penthouse view during the fort’s bombardment. “And the rockets’ red glare (Is that champagne? Wait, where was I?) / The bombs bursting in air (We have a jacuzzi in the third bathroom? Never mind, focus, Francis!) / Gave proof through the– (Did room service just bring us fresh crab cakes? Splendid! I’ll get back to this poem thing later…).”

Our tour continued to the club lounge, where my attention was captured by a roped-off display of tote bags full of Maryland-themed goodies and a beautiful array of puff pastries. “Oh yeah, that’s for you,” our guide said with a sly grin. “Our pastry chef heard you were coming and he whipped these up specially for you.” The tour concluded with complimentary lunch in the hotel restaurant. I could get used to such VIP treatment.

But everyone knows that things are not always what they seem. As our guide showed us the ballroom, he bragged about the number of large events the hotel could host simultaneously. We might have been impressed, had the guide himself not confessed that it meant our group would not get the full attention it deserved, as the hotel would try to cram other groups into every unclaimed space and would not allow us to decorate or congregate in central areas. The illusion of majesty further shattered over lunch when he asked what our main concerns were, but then shrugged them off as if to say, “Deal with it.”

Ultimately, we wound up choosing a different hotel – one that didn’t resort to pastry offerings and bags of swag to woo us, but instead spoke for itself. The Renaissance Harborplace Hotel fit perfectly with the Latvian song festival spirit, winning us over with genuine hospitality, practical solutions, and honest enthusiasm for our event (even the hotel’s chef excitedly offered to work with us on serving up Latvian dishes). Add to this winning recipe a prime central location and idyllic gathering areas, and we didn’t even have to think about it.

Sometimes a place just feels right, and all the personalized pastries in the world cannot counter that. On a larger scale, I feel the same way about about Baltimore assuming the role of host city for next summer’s XIV Latvian-American Song and Dance Festival. Baltimore is genuine. Those of us who have experienced what it has to offer love it. And we have full confidence that everyone else will love it too. We just need people to get there.

The festival’s organizing committee has no illusions that the public’s perception of Baltimore is every bit as glowing as our own. Last fall we conducted a small opinion poll among board members of two Latvian-American organizations. The poll offered up such questions as “In which of these cities would you most like to attend a dziesmu svētki?” Of the three cities listed, Baltimore came in dead last. On every question. Often by a landslide. Even after the organizing committee had officially decided to hold the festival in Baltimore, we received an urgent email from a concerned (non-local) citizen demanding that we switch the city. “Surely there’s a better location somewhere on the East Coast!”

Actually, no, there isn’t. We checked.

As mentioned in the previous entry of this series, finding an ideal location for a song festival is difficult, due in part to the scarcity of appropriate, available venues, particularly for the folk-dancing show. We began by considering major East Coast cities with sizable Latvian populations. New York was expensive. Philadelphia’s venues were in undesirable areas. Boston’s hoped-for venues were already booked. Even Charleston, South Carolina, was briefly considered due to intel from a Latvian familiar with the venues there, but it was just too far from any other organizers (maybe next time?).

From the very beginning, Washington, D.C., the home of most of the organizing committee, was in the lead, but hanging on by a thread: it had a million factors working against it, including possible hotel overcrowding due to the Independence Day holiday (the busiest weekend for the nation’s capital), tiny hotel ballrooms that would require evening events to be held in astronomically expensive outside venues, and a folk-dancing arena with virtually no backstage area and relatively limited seating. In essence, a D.C. festival would have no room for error, and would only work if barely anyone showed up – an utter dream for a committee of first-timers hell-bent on ensuring the future of the Latvian American song festival tradition.

It’s not clear exactly how Baltimore took root as a serious candidate, but I do remember the first time I heard the idea. It was shared in passing years ago by my friend Inga Bebris when we were kids. “If D.C. ever hosts, we should do it in Baltimore,” she said. “Just think about it – everything we would need is right there in the Inner Harbor. And at a fraction of the price of D.C.” it turns out Inga might be psychic, because roughly a decade later she was serving as the ticket coordinator for a song-festival organizing committee that was rapidly reaching the same conclusion she had reached years ago.

As we moved into the new year and our city selection process gained steam, the reasons to pick Baltimore piled up. Local institutions were welcoming, from the chamber of commerce to hotels and venues (which, most importantly, were available on the dates we were eyeing). Most potential festival locations were within walking distance, and non-walkers could easily catch the Charm City Circulator tourist bus for a convenient free ride to the show. The area was full of family-friendly things to do between performances, from the astonishing National Aquarium to the historic home of the Star Spangled Banner, Fort McHenry. Food options were virtually limitless, from quality quick bites like Noodles & Company and Chick-fil-A for dancers on the go, to Maryland’s signature Chesapeake Bay crab cakes, available at legendary Phillips Seafood. The icing on the cake was BWI airport: ranked one of the world’s best airports and connected to the Inner Harbor by a quick and easy Light Rail ride, it was also the second-least-expensive major airport in America, a sure-to-be welcome bit of news for folks looking to fly in from the Midwest and West Coast.

Some people were still pulling for a D.C. plan to work out, but to many of us locals, the choice was obvious. This point was made abundantly clear one day in late January, when a couple of us sat down with a handful of leaders from the D.C. Latvian community. We carefully laid out the pros and cons of both D.C. and Baltimore. When we asked the group which city they thought we should go with, some looked back at us like we had two heads. “Baltimore, obviously. Why are we even discussing this?” they responded. But what of the opinion poll suggesting non-locals would prefer to come to D.C.? These concerns were quickly waved off with eye rolls, an affirmation that Baltimore is no difference than any other major U.S. city, and a baseball movie reference: if you build it, they will come.

A couple weeks later, on the very same day that we gazed down from the swanky VIP penthouse suite while munching on gourmet treats, one of the festival’s out-of-town organizers described the reaction of some Latvians in her own community when she enthusiastically told them about the upcoming festival. Her interaction had fared very differently than our meeting with the D.C. elders.

“Where?” they had all immediately asked with excitement. But at the mention of Baltimore, their faces had instantly frozen, then dropped. “I guess that’s where we’ll go, then.” While it was a good sign that they still planned to attend, the lack of enthusiasm was less than ideal.

I asked the storyteller and first-time Baltimore visitor how we could best convince skeptics to make the journey and to thus experience what she was experiencing. “Pictures! Lots of pictures,” she answered immediately. She gushed at how pleasantly surprised she was by the city’s beauty and vibrance. If people could see everything that Baltimore had to offer, they would get excited and be driven to visit as well. With this in mind, we created an entire section of the festival website devoted to Baltimore’s transportation, neighborhoods, and attractions, complete with photos. We included a rotating collection of Baltimore fun facts on the home page (for example, did you know that the popular Food Network show Ace of Cakes was filmed in Baltimore, and that its starring bakery is still in operation and open to visitors?). And last month organizing committee member Aija Moeller made us of our inaugural Facebook LiveVideo post to give folks a brief walking tour of the Inner Harbor area surrounding the festival hotel. We committed so wholeheartedly to Baltimore promoting that one organizing committee member asked whether we were organizing a song festival or a Baltimore festival.

Still, during several months of an active website, very few people had ventured to the “Location” section of the festival website, leaving us to wonder whether Field of Dreams may have been wrong: if you build it, but they haven’t seen the promotional photos, will they really come?

We got our answer this past week, when reservations became available for the festival hotel. It was our first opportunity to get a sense of potential attendance and enthusiasm. It turned out that reservations poured in faster than any of us could have imagined, and we found ourselves badgering the hotel to continually add more and more rooms to our block. I guess our worries about Baltimore’s rep had been unwarranted, if for no other reason than that Latvians’ energetic love of song and dance outweighs all other concerns.

We’re glad that you all are excited about the song festival, but I also strongly believe that, once you’ve been here, you will be excited about the Baltimore festival as well. Seeya in Baltimore!

“The Making of a Dziesmu Svētki” is an ongoing series documenting the behind-the-scenes process of organizing a Latvian song and dance festival.

The XIV Latvian-American Song and Dance Festival will take place in Baltimore, Maryland, from June 29 to July 3, 2017. For more information, please visit or write to