If you own stock in a U.S. corporation, you probably receive those very boring, business-like announcements of the annual stock holders meetings. They are usually in some distant city from Arkansas--- usually some huge, metropolitan complex. So, years ago, when I noticed that the WalMart Shareholders meeting was going to be at a place I was familiar with---Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas ( http://www.experiencefayetteville.com/ ), I decided to check out what a shareholders annual meeting was like. This photo shows the lineup starting for this years meeting, and the time was 6:00AM!!!
When the doors open at 7:00 am, the attendees first must show proof of stock ownership (which they should have received in the mail), and go through a security check point. Once inside, they will see that this basketball arena has been changed into a gigantic entertainment venue, complete with massive LED screens, revolving stages, and laser light show applications! As the big screen shows, this was an especially meaningful meeting, because it marked 50 years that Walmart ( http://www.walmartstores.com/ ) has been in business.
The floor of the arena is reserved for Wall Street analysts, Walmart board members and officers, large suppliers, and the Walton family. Other attendees sit wherever they can find a seat. Usually, all the SAMS CLUB employees and foreign employees, sit together in groups, and they are represented in these photos with the matching colored tee shirts.
Since Walmart is a multi-national company, there were Walmart Associates there from around the globe. During one part of the meeting, one representative from each country where Walmart has a store, participated in a "Parade of Nations", reminiscent of the Olympics! The mosaic portrait of founder Sam Walton on the big screen is made of up photos of their thousands of associates (aka, "employees").
It was especially fitting that the Black Mambazo group performed songs that sounded like they were straight out of Africa, because this was the first year that countries from Africa were represented at the meeting.
It is always exciting to see who the celebrity host of the meeting will be, and this year was no exception. It was Justin Timberlake, who grew up near by in the area of Memphis, Tennessee. In the past, I have been able to enjoy the antics of Adam Sandler, Garth Brooks, and Jamie Fox, when they have hosted the event.
This photo not only shows country music award winner, Taylor Swift, but also the "Ballot Collector" with her box. Although I had mailed my ballot in advance, those who wanted to, could turn in their voting ballot at the meeting. Keep in mind, that just owning ONE SHARE of Walmart stock (or any other corporation) entitles you to go to their annual meeting!
The Walmart officers give presentations at the meeting of how the company has done financially during the past year, as well as reporting on the measures they are taking to be a good citizen in a global economy.
The "boring business" parts of the meeting are interspersed with sensational performances by big-name celebrities. The entire arena went CRAZY when Celine Dione came out to sing! You see, attendees do not know in advance who the host or entertainers will be!
The big screens in the arena enable attendees to get a closeup view of the stars. This year, I had the good fortune to be sitting just about fifty yards from the stage, which is probably alot closer than I would ever get, if I traveled to Las Vegas to see Celine in her regular show in that city!
For years I have been a fan of Lionel Richie, so I was DELIGHTED to get to see and hear him perform in person! He, of course, was promoting his new release "Tuskegee", named after the location in the South, where he grew up.
Members of the Walton family---Alice and her brothers---went on stage to tell stories of their childhood, growing up working in the Walton's 5-10 store. This re-creation of the store on stage was a reminder to all present that they can still visit that original location as it has been turned into the Walmart Visitors Center in Bentonville, Arkansas. You can learn more about visiting the newly renovated center and other area attractions at http://www.bentonville.org/ .
When the meeting is over, shareholders are invited to come down to the main floor of the arena, where they are allowed to ask questions directly from the Walmart officers present. I could not pass up the opportunity to sit in the, (by then) vacated seating area that the Walton Family had used during the official meeting!! After all, I did get to spend the night in the Walton home back in the sixties, when they hosted a church youth weekend retreat in their sprawling home in Bentonville. The two things I remember about that night in their home are, first, seeing Alice Walton's room when she was a youngster, and noting that it was covered in blue, red, and white ribbons that she had won in various types of equestrian events. ( Based on what I have read, she continues to share a love for horses!) The second thing I remember about the Walton home back in those days, was that it had more bathrooms than any home I had ever been in---over a half-dozen! As an adult, I have come to have great admiration for the fact that Sam and Helen Walton let a group of strangers---albeit Presbyterian teenagers from Harrison, Arkansas---invade her home for an entire night!! I do not know that I would be so hospitable!
The gentleman in this photo who is holding his nose, is the current CEO of Walmart, Michael T. Duke. His body language saying "Something stinks!" is a reminder to point out that he addressed up front, the allegations of bribery in Walmart's facilities in Mexico. He emphasized repeatedly, that Walmart wants to be a company of INTEGRITY, and all those present are counting on him to meet that commitment. That would please more than just us stockholders: 1Chronicles 29:17 says "I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity."
After the meeting, when attendees are milling around outside, I enjoy observing all the Walmart associates from other countries that are present. These guys from Japan are trading pins with another attendee. Pin trading during the meeting is as popular during the Walmart annual meeting, as it is during the Olympics.
This poster that was used to help the African Walmart associates find their reserved seats, shows the flags of the countries on that continent that now have a branch of a Walmart subsidiary, called "MassMart" in their location.
And just like at the Olympics and other big sporting events, the Good Year blimp was hovering over Bud Walton arena to add an "aire" of celebration, indicating that 2012, was in deed, a GOOD YEAR, because it marks the fiftieth anniversary of the world's largest retailer!
You may have noticed that I used the plural of the word "expedition" in my title. That is because I was able to attend a SECOND annual shareholders meeting, that was also enjoyable! In the rural area where I live, I get my electricity via the North Arkansas Electric Coop ( http://www.naeci.com/ ), and they hold their annual meeting in June, as well! It is in the small community of Salem, Arkansas. Each family attending is given a bright red lawn chair, a delicious meal from Corky's BBQ, and free entertainment (this year the headliner band was CMA award winner in 1994, called "Little Texas." ) It was a most enjoyable evening in the Ozark outdoors! One reason I am publishing this blog is to get readers to consider going to the annual meetings of the companies that they have a vested interest in----especially if they are close to where you live!! My drives to both Fayetteville, Arkansas to the west of where I live, and Salem, Arkansas to the east of where I live, were filled with such beauty! The Ozarks is a FANTASTIC place to live, and so I will close with a reminder of what the word "salem" means----peace. Hope you have miles of smiles, filled with salem! Tricia