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In a culturally rich city that blends French, Creole, African, Irish, and German heritage and lays claim to the best beignets in the country, not to mention some of the best jazz, there will be plenty of opportunity for diversion at this year’s ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo in New Orleans Oct. 21-24. With the theme, “A Celebration of Place,” to guide 120 educational sessions, 15 field sessions, four workshops, and two general sessions, the weekend is sure to be a delightfully mind-swelling whirlwind.

But between sessions led by some of landscape architecture’s most influential thinkers and practitioners, or maybe after taking an adventurous stroll through the French Quarter, come visit us at the EXPO in the Ernest N. Memorial Convention Center. You’re going to need a break.

Giveaway Details
Plus, we will be offering visitors—you—the chance to win a Dancer. Throughout the conference weekend, there will be an ongoing contest to see who can climb aboard the oval disc and get the marble around the labyrinth the fastest. Check it out on YouTube.

The Dancer will be shipped to the location of choice for the winner, and the top three runner ups will receive Starbucks gift cards. Visit us at Booth #501 for more details and your chance to win. The competition closes Sunday, Oct. 23, at 5 p.m.

The Dancer, Hula

Dancer World Champion, MJ Meneley of Hitchcock Design Group
If your curiosity is not yet sufficiently piqued, consider the rare opportunity to dethrone reigning champion, MJ Meneley, ASLA, principal of Hitchcock Design Group, who snatched the world record of 2.71 seconds at last year’s conference in Chicago. “Tell the people at this conference to bring it on,” Meneley said, rather confidently, when we spoke to him by phone.

Meneley won’t be at this year’s conference but his colleague Randy Royer will be, so the competition is already heating up.

With offices in Indianapolis, Chicago, and Naperville, Illinois, Hitchcock Design Group is known for client-focused planning and design in real estate development, health care, education, and recreation. The firm earned the President’s Award of Excellence from the Illinois chapter of the ASLA for the Morton Arboretum Children’s Adventure Garden in Morton’s Grove, a village-like landscape of ponds, pergolas, rope bridges, hidden tree houses, and sensory learning stations that, at least to this observer, evokes J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.


Morton Arboretum Children’s Adventure Garden, photo courtesy of Hitchcock Design Group

Other award winning Hitchcock Design Group playgrounds include Hawks Hollow Nature Playground at Peck Farm Park in Geneva, Illinois, Bowen Park in Waukegan, Illinois, and Mount Greenwood Park Play Environment in Chicago.

More recently, Meneley says, the firm devised master plans for playgrounds at two Indianapolis-area elementary schools. “If and when we move forward, we will donate the Dancer to one of those construction projects. Right now, it is in our office, and it has become quite a conversation piece.”

Why? Part of the reason may be because the Dancer is designed for hip swinging. After stepping on top of an oval-shaped marble labyrinth, users place their feet roughly shoulder width apart, manipulating the marble ball with their hips and legs as they coax it through the maze. As with any ball-maze game, it can be marvelously addictive. Meneley says he came back to Goric’s booth several times before clocking the winning time.

Multi-Functional Design
Consistent with an emerging trend in playground design, the Dancer allows for multiple uses simultaneously: requiring concentration and mental finesse to direct the marble’s progress, while engaging the core muscles and improving coordination and balance.

In addition, it creates opportunities for interactive group play, an option Meneley says his clients are hungry to see specified in playground equipment. Because there are three different labyrinth designs to choose from (the Hula, Twist, and Charleston) and multiple units are often grouped together on playgrounds, the Dancer can be used in school dance-off competitions.

And because the stainless steel design is low-slung, graceful, and just a little more than two-feet in diameter, it’s easy to incorporate within the context of a more elaborate site plan. “Like a lot of Goric stuff, it has an architectural and structural quality to it. It’s not just your standard old-school playground equipment,” Meneley says.

So stop by and take a spin. And if we miss you at the conference, we’ll be sure to fill you in on this year’s winner and whether we crown a new world champion.