Over the past 123 years, ZTA Convention has changed in format, growing along with the Fraternity, but the core structure of Convention is still very similar to the first gathering in 1903.
Speakers, programming and most importantly, time with sisters of all ages from across the country, are still highlights. However, jobs, schoolwork and finances prevent members from gathering at a camp or resort for a week or longer as in years past. Long-held traditions like choir performances, skit nights and off-site field trips have been eliminated to shorten Convention to less than a week, but other practices remain very much in place.
Bonding with new sisters at Convention is one of the most exciting parts of this biennial gathering, whether it’s during programming or in free time. In the past, attendees often roomed with three or more people. At Convention 1923, delegates had 10 women to a tent or cabin at a camp in the Colorado mountains!
In decades past, Convention photos were a tradition. The earliest group photos, hanging on the walls of the Historical and Educational Center and in our Research Library, are very casual, but the photos from the 1930s through the 2000s show hundreds of women, all dressed in white. As Convention got larger, it became harder to get everyone in the photo, and the process took up a lot of valuable meeting time. Convention 2006 was the last time a group photo was taken, where over 1,000 sisters posed—mostly for posterity—after struggling to fit everyone in one space.
Most Zetas associate Convention with awards, but did you know awards have not always been part of the Convention experience? Today’s Recognition Banquet evening is a thrilling night where the Fraternity presents more than 30 major silver awards for varying accomplishments, but the tradition began with just one small silver trophy, given out at the 1930 Convention in French Lick, Indiana, to the individual with the highest grade point average in the Fraternity.
One aspect of Convention that never changes is ritual services. The Installation of National Council and the ZTA Memorial Service are commonly held at Convention. The Memorial Service used to be conducted outside as the sun was rising; but as the number of Convention attendees grew, it was no longer practical to set up hundreds of chairs outside the hotel, and it was harder to keep the service private. Even now, seeing a sea of sisters dressed in white walking silently through the halls is an impressive sight.
Although we adapt traditions over time at these biennial gatherings due to necessity, the true purpose of Convention remains the same: to participate in the governing of the Fraternity, celebrate successes and strengthen sisterhood.