The annual Cubs Convention begins today, and once again, I won’t be there. But I attended the Peoria stop of the Cubs Caravan yesterday, and it was a fun event, as usual.

The Cubs Caravan gives fans of the team the chance to experience the Cubs Convention on a smaller scale in communities outside Chicago. In addition to a Q&A session with Cubs personnel, there is an autograph session during which fans can collect the signatures of players and coaches in attendance.

During the past decade, I’ve attended four Cubs Caravan events (twice as a credentialed member of the press and twice just as a fan) and this one may have been the most fun. My wife and I got autographs from former outfielder and current first-base coach Bob Dernier, infielder Blake DeWitt, pitchers Randy Wells, Justin Berg and Jay Jackson, assistant hitting coach Dave Keller, bullpen coach Lester Strode and legendary Peoria Chiefs owner Pete Vonachen. All the guys I spoke with briefly (Dernier, Berg, Jackson and Vonachen) were very nice and personable. Dernier signed three items for me — a baseball, a baseball card and a photo — and Wells signed two items for my wife — a baseball and a photo I took of Wells pitching against the White Sox during spring training last year.

Backup catcher Koyie Hill also was at the event, but neither of us was able to get his autograph.

Some of the fan questions during the Q&A session were lame, but overall, the event was a great way to get in the mood for baseball in the middle of winter.