The Cichlid Classic
Greater Chicago Cichlid Association
May 28, 29, & 30, 1999.
In 1990 the ACA convention was so successful in Chicago, that they decided to have a Cichlid weekend event the following year over Memorial Day Weekend and The Cichlid Classic was born. Each year Cichlidiots from up and down the Cichlid belt, gather on this three day weekend, to celebrate the love of Cichlids. I had heard that it was a great event, and had wanted to attend, but flying east once a year to the ACA was about all I could rationally afford. However, in St. Louis last year, Caroline Estes, Pam Marsh and myself had suggested that we meet there in 1999, to check it out.
Then earlier this year Gary Wagner asked if I would speak at the Classic!! This is just what I needed to get me off by butt and finish the program that I had started years ago. It would only be natural that I speak about my column "ASK PAM." Wagner asked for a Tanganyikan slant, so using the most frequently asked questions, it didn't take long to come up with - Tanganyikan Cichlids - Tips and Theories.
The activities at the Classic, mirror the ACA convention. There are speakers, a show, banquet and most importantly a Hospitality Room!! They also have mini workshops, usually given by a local member and these covered a variety of subjects from Photography, to keeping Cichlids in your summer pond.
My flight left at 10:00 AM on May, 28th. Gary sent me with two large boxes of fish, mostly Julidochromis, Neolamprologus and Aulonocara. I arrived at the airport in plenty of time, with one suitcase and my fish in tow. I surveyed the ticket counter and wondered which clerk I would end up with, and what were their questions going to be. When my turn came, I headed to the counter and placed my fish on the scale. Got out the ticket, got out the ID, and pretended that everyone else in line probably had fish too!
He asked, "What is in these boxes?" "Tropical Fish, I am going to be speaking at a Fish Seminar this weekend," I said, as I held my head up high. "Tropical Fruit" he asked? "No, Tropical Fish, I am going to a Tropical Fish Show in Chicago this weekend, I have done this many times before," still showing my confidence. "Tropical Plants" "No Tropical Fish, I am going to a drunken brawl with all my fish buddies in Chicago," I was wondering if he was ever going to get it. "Tropical Fish?, how are they packed??".
I was certainly glad I took the time to go a little bit early. Finally after all my assurances that this was common place, at least for me, he printed the luggage tags and I was on my way! I arrived in Chicago, around 4:00 PM, Lee Ann Clary picked me up at the airport with her friend Kim from Canada. We took the scenic route to the hotel, and before long I was in my room and unpacking. I headed to the show room to pick up my seminar package. It was here where I ran into Caroline, I was so excited, since I had no idea that she was going to be there. A few minutes later, Pam Marsh showed up and it was time to head to the bar to celebrate. Babes In The Cichlid Hobby (B.I.T.C.H.) was here and in full force.
In the bar, we found Wayne S. Leibel and Lee Finley with a few other Cichlidiots and the weekend was off to a great start. After a fish dinner, we headed down to the first scheduled event, The Cichlid Quiz, by Mike Schadle.
Now I have heard a few things about this Cichlid Quiz, which has been given at several Fin-Digs up and down the mid west over the last few years, so I wanted to see it for myself. Caroline insisted that we sit in the front row, and sign our test sheets; Amazon Goddess #1, #2 & #3. I thought remaining anonymous was a good idea, so I went along with that. Schadle was beside himself, nervous but grinning, sitting up front, with all of his index cards held tightly in his hand. First question was your name, for the 2nd question he showed a fuzzy picture of some livebearer and asked what Cichlid was found co-habitating with it. Then I was on a roll, I am sure I had the next 5 or 6 questions correct. Then I had to leave, because someone wanted to see my fish. By the time I got back, it was half over, I continued to play, but did poorly, it was full of trick questions. That's my story and I am sticking with it!
It was soon 10:00 PM, the magical hour that the hospitality room opens. It was at least 11:00 PM before we found it, hidden up on the penthouse. There were quite a few people that I knew, and I started around the room, visiting with everyone. Next time I looked at the clock it was 2:00 AM, I was speaking at 10:00 AM, so I thought I better hit the sack.
Nervous but ready, I began my talk. There was not a large crowd, but they were friendly! I explained the concept of ASK PAM, which is; 1. That I don't know all the answers but I would be willing to research it. 2. There is more than one way to keep or kill a fish. 3. You can always learn something new, no matter how long you have been in the hobby. The Tanganyikan subjects I had chosen were: Julidochromis, Cyphotilapia, Tropheus and Neolamprologus. I think it went over really well, and everyone thought that they had picked up a tip or two, so I felt it was a success. I was glad when it was finished, that meant that I could play the rest of the weekend.
Just when I thought all by obligations were complete, I was asked to judge the fish show. I enjoy that, even though I was a bit disappointed in the show, I was expecting more fish. It was about one quarter the size of the ACA show held there two years ago. But, there were still some nice fish. It is fun to hang out with other judges too, especially when you get down to the Section Winners and Best of Show. Everyone has their favorite and usually being the only woman, it is riot to see these guys argue their merits. This took the better part of the afternoon.
Saturday evening the Awards Banquet was schedule to start around 7:00 PM. This is always fun to see who wins what at the show. This evening would also include "Roasting" Mike Schadle. The no-host bar was being hosted by non other than Ray "KingFish" Lucas, it was a very nice gesture on his part. We immediately took advantage of his offer buy!
About a month ago, Gary Wagner had sent me an e-mail saying that the banquet entertainment would be picking on Schadle. I read it and didn't think too much about it. After a couple of drinks, Wagner tells me I will be second in line to roast Mike Schadle. I was shocked, but then I thought about Mike for a few minutes, and said piece of cake. On a scrap of paper I scribbled a few notes. Caroline helped me embellish them a bit. I asked Wagner if there were any limits or places I couldn't go? He said "Don't get too personal." I thought geez, if you can't get personal, then it isn't a roast is it??
After dinner and more drinks, and a few awards (Ron Georgeone did well, but he didn't win it all) the roasting began. Gary explained the purpose, and introduced the first roaster: Ray Lucas. Ray went on and on about what a great guy Mike was, in fact it was so sweet, it was disgusting. I finally decided that Mike must really have the goods on Ray, since he couldn't say enough nice things about Mike.
Then my turn..... First I let Ray have it, he said his eye were brown, I declared it was actually his nose. I wondered out loud about how much Mike had to pay for such stellar praise. I started with how long I had known Mike. How we were on the ACA Board together. How I hated his board letters that were usually 8 pages long. How Mike knew about the Chicago Cichlid Purists, how the mutiny was brewing and unknown to me, would come to a full boil at ACA 1990 in Chicago. Where I just happen to be the ACA Chairman. Everyone knows the ACA Chairman didn't do anything or have any say. How could he let this happen to me, on my watch? How after untold of years of therapy, that I was just now able to look back on this fiasco and chuckle!
Then I got a little personal, as Pam Chin BITCH Reporter. I told the crowd that a few months before each convention, the BITCH'es would start betting on who would be with Mike at the next convention, and on and on.... I guess it is a little too personal to put in writing ** GRIN ** !! You had to be there, it was lots of fun. Wagner rounded out the evening, with a few digs. Fun was had by all, including Mike, who took it well. Then it was off to the hospitality room where we continued having a great time.
I had sold nearly half of the fish I had brought, so I decided I could stay up until 2:00 PM, because I would have to be up by 8:00 AM to bag fish in time for the auction. It went by fast, Caroline and Pam continued on, while I bowed out and went to bed.
I live for the auction, I couldn't wait. I knew it would be a good size one, and would probably go on into the evening. I made it down to the Auction area by 10:00 AM. It was already crowded. They were putting all the fish in a back room, so you couldn't view them. I was a bit disappointed about that. The Auction was divided in to 4 sections, they started with the first color about 11:00 AM. I already had my area staked out at the back of the room. Schadle, auctioneer extraordinare, took charge, and we were off. Prices were a little shaky in the beginning, but then leveled off. Prices were a bit high at this point. At 1:00 they stop auction fish and start with the dry goods. Ray Lucas played auctioneer for this phase. In about an hour and half we were back to fish.
Caroline was leaving around 4:00, Pam had her T-shirts all out to sell, and we couldn't quit talking, laughing and planning.. It was so great that we would be able to see each other again in only 6 weeks at ACA. Usually we were all depressed by this time in the auction, knowing the weekend was over.
Gary had even given me a few fish to look for, so I had a good reason to bid. He wanted some black calvus, or some compressiceps. I was able to get both. I also got a bag of Protomelas similis that are F-1, I have always like this fish a lot. There were also some Sciaenochromis fryeri, that were going for a fair price. After Caroline left, I decided to be an auction runner for a while. It was the only way you could view the fish, and it is fun to visit with the buyers. The auction was over around 8:00 PM.
Robin Jendrian from Ohio, asked me to go do dinner with her and David Ayres and I jumped at the chance. I don't get to visit with them enough at these events, Mike Schadle and Nancy Willis also joined us. They wanted to go to the Outback Steak House, and so off we went in two cars. About an hour and half later we finally found it!! It was a great dinner and we had plenty of time to gossip about everyone.
Pam Marsh met me back at the hotel and we gabbed and gabbed until the wee hours of the morning, as I bagged all my fish and packed. We met in the morning with Wayne S. Leibel and Lee Ann for breakfast, and then it was off to the airport. I had such a great weekend, and now the anticipation of the ACA convention in just 6 weeks, I could hardly contain myself. Gary picked me up at the airport, and I couldn't stop talking about all the fun I had had. One event a year is not enough, and would highly recommend the Cichlid Classic as a second event that is a must.
Thanks Chicago!! I had a blast!!