Thursday, August 9, 2012

So you're attending the Nats!

When you became an adult and entered the workforce you left behind the wonder and joy of summer vacation. What do we have to look forward to now? Nothing. Okay, maybe you're one of those adventure-seeking types who zip-lines over the Amazon or climbs a snowy mountain in Asia. Odds are your week-long vacation is spent sitting on a hot beach with the family (not that there's anything wrong with that).

But wait! We're modelers. We look forward to the childlike joy that comes from attending the IPMS National Convention! Four days surrounded by plastic, resin, photoetch, decals, and books of every variety. I'm convinced that most children don't feel as much joy on Christmas morning as we do walking into the convention space on that first day.

I've been fortunate to have attended nearly a dozen Nats over my 30 years in the hobby, so if this is your first convention I'd like to pass along some advice.

The Vendors

When you arrive at the convention (whether you arrived early on Wednesday or later Saturday morning) the first thing you should do is walk through the vendor rooms. Don't buy anything. Your goal is to get a sense of the items available and the vendors' prices. Most of us have a budget, so you don't want to blow it all in one room only to find two more rooms at the end of that long hallway.

I know I just said not to buy anything, but if you come across that kit, book, or accessory that you've been looking for for the last seven years, you should probably buy it when you first see it. There's a good chance it may not be there when you come back. That said, if you do buy something be prepared to kick yourself in the arse when you find another one an hour later at a better price. That's not uncommon at the Nats.

Finally, forget about the wish list you compiled the week before. When you're walking among thousands of kits, decals, photoetch, and books it's all about bargains and impulse purchases. You're much better off compiling a list of the items you *do* have (such as decals, aftermarket, etc.) so you don't accidentally buy duplicates. Yes, I've done that.

The Contest

For goodness sake people, please enter the contest! I can already hear the whining and excuses:

"I don't like contests."

"The judging isn't fair."

"I'm not good enough to win."

I call shenanigans on all of you! Yes, it is a contest and the primary purpose is to judge models and reward the best, but there is a secondary purpose that we frequently overlook. If you're anything like me you enjoy looking at models! Crazy, I know, but it's true! Look at it this way, if only the truly competitive guys entered the contest, you'd see maybe 200 models on the tables rather than 1,000.

So I beg you, enter the contest so that we can enjoy the fruits of your labor and vice versa. One of the best modelers I've known over the years refuses to enter contests. He's a great guy. Very friendly, very helpful. But I've always thought it a shame that the only people who get to enjoy his models are the select few invited into his home.

Finally, you should enter the contest because it's important to support the convention itself. It's expensive and labor-intensive to host a convention, so it's good when you register and participate. The sponsoring club wins, we win, and the hobby is better for it.

The People

You are probably an introvert like me. You might enjoy spending time in your man cave, hunkered down over a model. The bright light of the sun might hurt your eyes and burn your fair skin. But hey, it's great to see so many of us trolls venturing to the Nats and spending time together.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of talking to the other convention attendees. The real value of the convention is the information that we have and share. If we don't talk among ourselves we've lost the opportunity to learn. And to make new friends. I met most of my best friends in IPMS clubs and contests. Don't be afraid to ask someone a question, and if you're in the position where someone is asking you a question, engage in a conversation. And remember, if someone doesn't respond when you reach out, it's a reflection on his character not yours. There are a few hardcore introverts among us.

Enjoy the convention and the remaining contests of 2012!

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