Every year, for one weekend in September Lions begin peppering terminals in airports all across North America. They pile into vans and buses; check tickets, don their Lions caps and vests. From small towns and big cities, from the Rio Grande to the Arctic Ocean, Lions make their way to the USA/Canada Lions Leadership Forum.

If you’ve never been to this annual congress of North American Lions, you may be missing out. Make no mistake, while the formal title of the event makes it sound a bit…stiff? It’s anything but.

Not only do many Lions meet en route, becoming fast friends before they’ve even arrived in the host city, but from the moment Lions set foot on the conference grounds excitement fills the air.

The 2022 forum was held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and the host Lions went all out to make everyone feel welcome. Wearing the famous Calgary white hats, local Lions joined forum team members to greet attendees and guide them to get their registration packets and check in to their hotels.

But there was no time to get comfy. Each year the three-day event is so jam-packed with events that you won’t want to miss a moment of it holed up in your hotel room. “One of the best parts about the forum is that it’s physically impossible to experience everything,” says District Governor Daniel Elkins. “There are literally between 6 to 10 classes happening at the same time the entire weekend.”

Whether it’s a class about the latest trends in cyber clubs, a seminar looking at the leadership lessons found in Star Trek, a presentation about how Lions Quest is changing the lives of adjudicated youth, or an interactive conversation about how to recruit young members, there is something for everyone at the forum.

In between classes there are the obligatory selfies, a visit (or two) to the Lions store for some new gear, and plenty of reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Throughout the weekend there are a host of International Directors and other members of Lions leadership who make themselves available to chat so you can have the opportunity to connect directly with the folks helping to guide the association each year.

And don’t think you’ll have downtime at meals. Top notch entertainment and globally renowned speakers will get you feeling jazzed up and ready to take on whatever challenges you’ve been facing. In Calgary, International President Brian Sheehan and his wife, Lori, both spoke, along with Steve Farber, founder of the Extreme Leadership Institute, and Catriona Ann Le May Doan, an Olympic Speed Skater who was the first Canadian to ever defend a gold medal.

And because this is Lions, after all, there were plenty of chances for levity. In between keynotes, the forum committee debuted their entertaining new sketch comedy series, a courtroom sitcom parody featuring notable Lions from past and present.

The weekend closed with Past International President Judge Brian Stevenson leading the audience in singing “Happy Trails.”

The 2022 USA/Canada Lions Leadership Forum was a joyous celebration and return-to-form for North American Lions after the pandemic. But there is no true way to feel what it’s like without being there.

“It is a magical experience shared with thousands of individuals who become your closest friends and family for the weekend,” says Elkins. “The friendships and learning experiences created and shared at the forum are ones that last a lifetime.”

The 2023 USA/Canada Leadership Forum will be held September 21 -23 in Reno, Nevada, USA. For more information and to register visit Lionsforum.org.

Thank you to Daniel Elkins for his extensive notes from the 2022 forum, from which this article was written.