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The Bled ice-rink was the setting for the opening ceremony of the 17th AEHT Annual Conference in Slovenia on October 13th 2004. Even if some people found the venue somewhat chilly, this impression soon evaporated thanks to the extremely pleasant and relaxed atmosphere, and thanks to a dignified and well-ordered programme.

Bled’s ‘Godba Gorge’ brass band, in local costume, was lined up to accompany the entrance of the lord and his suite, noble ladies and damsels accompanied by men of arms and a fire-eater. The heralds for the event were Katja Pretnar and Gregor Silc, an amazing pair of performers who warmly welcomed the assembled delegates – more than 600 people including many dignitaries – seated on the spectators’ benches.

Bled Brass Band
Bled Brass Band

There followed the traditional presentation of the delegations, with each national flag taking its position before the podium. This year in Bled 34 countries were present and correct: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Serbia-Montenegro, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and, last but not least, Slovenia. Participants applauded enthusiastically as each country was called, especially for our Italian friends who each year make up about one third of the total participants.

The delegations’ flags
The delegations’ flags

As befits such circumstances, the Bled ‘court’ now presented a dance with a local flavour, together with a performance by the fire-eater and a joust between two men of arms belonging to the royal entourage. This was a mere warm up before the breath-taking demonstration by the students of the Bled Dance Studio, and before the welcoming speeches, short but straight from the heart, from Janez Solar, Director of the Bled School, and his deputy Jana Spec, who between them had put together this Slovenian Annual Conference

They put their message across in a few sentences: ‘We are delighted to welcome you to Bled, which is celebrating the 1000th anniversary of its foundation. The School was founded in 1996 and joined the AEHT in 1998, and ever since then has taken part in each Annual Conference. We hope that you enjoy your stay with us, we wish you every success in the competitions, and hope that you all enjoy discovering our country and new friendships…

The Court and the Fire Eater
The Court and the Fire Eater

Jozé Antonic, the jovial and totally relaxed Mayor of Bled, also extended his warm welcome to all those present; he thanked the entire organising team and all the students for rising to this magnificent challenge, and expressed the wish that all the participants would return to Bled as soon as possible.

The Dignitaries' Speeches

Finally Alfonso Benvenuto, AEHT President, warmly thanked the municipal authorities, the School Director and his team, as well as the students, for taking on the organisation of this 17th Annual Conference. ‘I thank Bled and Slovenia for being our hosts: this is an important landmark since Slovenia is the first of the ten countries which joined the European Union this spring to organise the AEHT Annual Conference. I hope that this Conference will enable us all to share our experience, and that our students will all take part in the competitions in the true Olympic spirit. May the best ones win!’ He then ‘declared open this 17th AEHT Annual Conference’ – just like the Olympic Games. The speeches were over. The Court withdrew to the sound of trumpets, and despite the cold that was seeping through from the ice-rink, it was clear that this Conference had got off to a good start!
12th - 17th November 2018 in Leeuwarden
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23rd to 28th October 2016 in London
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