Last year was my very first Reef-A-Palooza (RAP) and I was so excited to be part of such a historic event, as they broke their attendance record. Well, this year I could not have asked for more excitement – they surpassed their attendance record again. Last year RAP had an attendance of over 4,300 walking through their doors, very impressive numbers.
The enthusiastic crowd that congregated patiently before the doors opened was just as over whelming this year as it was last year. This time around I had a chance to meet people from many different parts of the country. This may have been the case last year as well, but this year it was in greater numbers and much more apparent.
What made this RAP event much more successful than others? Could it have been the billboards, airtime on the radio, word of mouth, 36,000 square foot venue or is simply the clubs reputation for putting on a kick a** show. Not sure what the answer would be or is it a sum total of all the mentioned variables. I do know for a fact that Marc Trimble, Greg Carroll and many of the other behind the scenes volunteers put a lot of sweat, blood and tears into this event.
RAP is hosted by the Southern California Marine Aquarium Society. The event was held at the Orange County Fair Grounds, Costa Mesa, California on October 12th through the 13th. At 36,000 square feet this venue was large enough to house over 80 exhibitors and some very large exhibitors at that. There were five speakers on the RAP schedule, three on Saturday and two on Sunday. On Saturday the speakers and their topics were Bob Fenner (Algae – The Good the Bad…), Richard Ross (Kwajalein Atoll/Marshall Islands), and Terrence Fugazzi (Controllers 101). And on Sunday the speakers and their topics were Scott Fellman (Into the Coral Jungle), and Tony Vargas (Reef Safe Wrasses).
This year just like last year Marine Depot had a line at their booth with “Spin the Wheel”, when you spun the wheel you were awarded the designated free prize.
Marineland graciously donated a 150-gallon deep dimension reef ready tank just like they did last year, which was the main raffle prize. The winner of this lovely tank comes with an incredible story and I will share it here with everyone because it is so heartwarming.
Like so many people across the country this woman and her family lost their home in 2008 with the crash of the economy. She explained that this forced her and her family to get rid of their aquarium. The RAP advertisement made them think about aquariums again so they decided to visit the show. Feeling comfortable with their current situation and knowing that they have recovered from their ordeal, they considered joining the hobby once again. During the event they made a few unsuccessful offers to some of the exhibitors to purchase their display tanks. Now that this was no longer an option, they purchase $20.00 in raffle tickets, which proved to be the winning recipe! The scream of excitement when her number was called out was heard clearly across the whole venue. This is not only heartwarming, but inspiring!
This year the manufactures showed up in numbers. This was not a frag swap by any means, all the major marine and reef related manufactures were there making their presences known, assisting customers with technical questions and demonstrating their latest products.
If you were looking for that special coral and you didn’t find it you weren’t looking hard enough. I personally walked away with a few amazing sps corals that I had never seen before and what surprised me most was the price. Nice corals, beautiful fish and amazing clams where all available, if you left empty handed shame on you.
Another quick story and I’m doing this so he knows that his story is not forgotten. Scott Fellman from Unique Corals calls me on my cell phone to inform me that he had a customer at his booth that would like to meet me and to please come over. As I head in that direction I was stopped several times for conversation and questions, but continue to make my way toward Unique.
By the time I arrive I ask Scott where is your customer, he informed me, that is the gentleman sitting on a chair and that he just had a heart attack. I quickly went to is aid and introduce myself and asked how I could help. He introduces himself to me, and shakes my hand. Despite his heart attack he wanted to continue to talk about reef stuff and see the rest of the venue. Brent Pilon, I want to say it was a pleasure meeting you and I hope you have a full recovery.
The show was not only a complete success, but now they have a new attendance record to break next year. The new magic number is 5183. So, mark your calendar October the 25th and the 26th of next year for Reef-A-Palooza 2014. But, if you can’t wait that long come to Reef-A-Palooza Orlando, April 26th and 27th 2014.
Greg Carroll said it best, “The events at this show were an instant reminder for me as to what motivates me to pour so much of my heart and soul into this hobby”.