|Pam Chin and Caroline Estes at ACA 2002, Atlanta. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.|
Last August I was already making plans for ACA 2002 in Atlanta, GA. Okay, go ahead and call me a loser, or say I don't have a life, but you are wrong! What I have is literally hundreds of cichlid friends that I only get to see once a year, and some only every few years. I always have so much fun at ACA that I usually take a few more days off after I get back home, just to recover!
To add to the anticipation and excitement, I have stayed pretty close to home for the last year, since I have a big trip planned for this fall, so to say I was a bit cabin crazy is an understatement. Even Gary was excited that I was finally going somewhere!! He insisted on picking the fish he would send with me to sell and trade, as I was busy making plans with my best cichlid buddies, Caroline Estes and Pam Marsh.
In order to get in to Atlanta Wednesday (7/25/02) afternoon, I had to take a flight that left at 6:00 am PST, which meant getting up at 3:00 am, but I was ready to go. I set out my suitcase and backpack, by the door while Gary went to the fish house to get my fish.
On the way to the airport, Gary started rattling off cichlids that he wanted me to buy for him. He started with, "I really want some lenni, if you see some." Right, haven't seen those since 1990 I thought to myself. "Pick me up some big hap types if you see any and they are cheap." Sure thing, I thought and made a mental note. Then he continued with the normal lecture. "Don't buy any adult fish, don't buy any more julies, or shell dwellers, be sure you only get fry, make sure you aren't buying all males, and don't try to buy Tropheus, you will just kill them." He went on and on all the way to the airport, until we started to exit, when he said, "Did you get your backpack?" I looked at him and said "My backpack, I thought you put it in the back with my suitcase?" He replied with, "Nope, I remember loading the suitcase, but I didn't load your backpack."
Showroom at ACA 2002. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.
I could have had a cow, but that wouldn't have been ladylike!! And I amazed myself as I calmly came up with a solution, "Just take it to work, the guys will ups red label it to me, and I'll have it in the morning." Nothing was going to put a damper on my ACA weekend, toothbrush or no toothbrush!! As he was driving away, he yelled, "How about Copadichromis jacksoni, I would love to have some of those." A few hours later, I was in Atlanta surrounded by my cichlid friends!
Caroline and I met at the airport, and Pam arrived shortly there after, driving down from North Carolina. We started celebrating and planning the next few days immediately. We checked out the fish room, and where the lectures were going to be held, had some dinner and ran into many old friends who were arriving for the big weekend also.
Thursday afternoon, Caroline and I helped Pam set up her cichlid T-shirts, and unveiled the new Babes In The Cichlid Hobby T-shirt. Pam's table and the BITCH silent auction had a prime location in the middle of the main corridor, were you could talk to all the people just arriving or cruising around. This evening speakers included Rusty Wessel, who was talking on Central American Cichlids, and Mike Wise, who was talking on Apistos. After Mike's talk we had late dinner date with George Barlow, who brought along some friends: Ad, Juan Miguel, Sonia and Dave. It was tons of fun, trying to keep up on the multiple cichlid conversations going on all at once... We talked Africans, Central Americans, Madagascar and, of course, Dr. Barlow's favorite: cichlids!!
I was very excited to see Juan Miguel, as he is one of my favorite cichlid men! On Wednesday I had heard that he was driving with Pat Tosie from St. Louis to Atlanta. Caroline and I were so worried about him, since driving anywhere with Tosie is a frightening experience, let alone being alone with him in a car for some 12 hours. Talk about risking your life! But he survived and seemed to be doing fine! After dinner it was time to check out the room parties. It was great night in Atlanta!
Friday around noon Pam began to set out all her T-shirts, while Caroline, Wanda, Lisa and I began working with all the donations for the BITCH Silent Auction. Lots of people kept coming by and donating all sorts of great items so that we could raise money for cichlid research and cichlid conservation.
BITCHES silent auction at ACA 2002. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.
We had a wonderful selection of books, many that are out of print and collector's items, every household item imaginable with a fish theme. There were wind chimes, mobiles, quilts, lamps, shower curtains, candles and jewelry to name a few. Lots of clothing items from fish T-shirts to a fish bathrobe, and there were fish boxer shorts, fish scrubs, fish slippers; if it had a fish on it, somebody donated it. It was great to see such a great response for a good cause!!!! There was a good selection of fish equipment. We had a blower, eclipse tanks, outside filters, canister filters, and wide assortment of foods. There were extra chairs around the tables and we had tons of cichlid guys who would come and sit and visit while we watched the tables. There were so many guys assisting us that at times it was hard to tell this was the "girls" idea! Everyone was great about helping out, and that's what it is all about!
My friend Steve told me that he ran across some Nimbochromis lenni for sale while he was looking for someone else's room. I nearly fell off my chair, and decided I better go take a look for myself. I was hesitant at first, since this was only Friday, and I was afraid I would kill them before I even got home. This cool hap type has a tendency to bloat very easily, or at least they did the last couple of times I had killed them. Sure enough, these were N. lenni and they looked great, and John the owner/breeder, my new best friend, (grin) told me that he hadn't ever had a problem with them bloating. Good enough for me; I took a dozen. He also had Copadichromis jacksoni that looked good, but I decided I better not go hog wild on the fish yet as it was still early.
Kathy and Marvin England had some Protomelas spilonotus for sale in the tank rental area, and I have wanted this fish for quite some time. I couldn't control myself; I knew they wouldn't last long, and Marvin said he would take care of them for me until Sunday, so I committed.
Friday evening had a killer lineup for speakers; Ad Konings, Dr. George Barlow and Juan Miguel Artigas Azas. It was a packed house. The fish show room was getting filled up with prime specimens, and each time I went in to take a look, there was something new that caught my eye. The hotel was taking on the appearance of a giant pet store. People were carrying 5 gallon buckets and tanks around. The elevators were full of people with fish T-shirts on and styro boxes in their arms. As you walked down the halls you could hear the hum of air pumps and water bubbling.
There was some concern about how many fish would be available due to the 9/11 terrorists attacks. Would cichlid people fly with their fish? And if they did, there surely wouldn't be as many fish available since you can only check two pieces of luggage or boxes of fish. Some did fly, but I was amazed by the amount of people who drove from the Midwest, with their tanks and fish in tow. Most were on the road for a minimum of 12 hours and some even 16 - 18 hours. The bulletin board was full of lists that offered a wide variety of cichlids and cichlid accessories. I really couldn't tell if there were more or less, but due to the fact the majority of the Midwest boys drove, the tradition of multiple tanks in your room, with every cichlid fry you could muster to bring, was kept alive.
BITCH happens!. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.
Friday night the hospitality room was up and running by 11:00 pm, and it was lively. I stayed up way too late.
For some reason, I had a hard time getting up in the mornings. Along with Pam and Caroline, we were doing good to make it downstairs for an appearance by noon. Thank goodness we had lots of help getting the silent auction back up and running while people were going to the Saturday talks. Chuck Rambo led off the speakers beginning at 9:00 am. He was followed by the likes of Jack Wattley, Lee Newman, and Ad Konings. The afternoon went by quickly, and before I knew it was time to get ready for the Awards Banquet slated to start at 7:00 PM.
This year's Master of Ceremonies was Ian Tapp, a young aquarist from Atlanta and he did a great job. He entertained us with a travelogue of his collecting trip to México. It was very good. The fact that I was in the same collecting group myself had nothing to do with my opinion. Ian left the BITCH entourage out of his program, which tells you just how smart he really is! The fact is that he was able to communicate to the crowd the viewpoint and perspective of his cichlid collecting amigos, with a very dry sense of humor, and he had all of us holding our sides from laughing so hard.
Pam Marsh's t-shirt table. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.
He was followed with the State of the ACA given by Phil Benes, which I always find interesting. The good news is the ACA is financially strong even though membership has dropped off over the last few years. A few special awards for writing were given out, and our own George Barlow won for his article on Soda Cichlids that was originally printed in the PCCA's Communique.
Then on to the fish show awards where Kathy and Marvin England landed the coveted Best of Show with Melanochromis labrosus. Runner-ups included a Hemichromis lifalili female, and Aequidens patricki. Not exactly what you would think would be big winners, but these were exceptional specimens. All and all it was one of the best banquets I have been to.
It was the last night; I couldn't believe how fast this weekend is going. It was time for the BITCH Bathrobe Party in the hospitality room. What a great time this was, and most everyone tried to comply to the theme, although it wasn't necessary to wear your PJ's to attend. There was quite a crowd and many attended just to see what people were going to wear. There were Cichlidiots who had obviously planned their fashion statement for months in advance, to people who pulled it together at the last minute. The highlight of the evening was singing Happy Birthday, to everyone's favorite Cichlidiot, Wayne Leibel. The Babes showered him with gifts, including a bobblehead brine shrimp, and many cards signed by nearly all the attendees. It was great night in Atlanta, where the sky was clear, and the stars were shining bright. Party, party party. It was early morning by the time I hit the hay.
I had like 3 or 4 bags of fish left, and I put them in the auction Sunday morning. I cruised the tables to see what I might be interested in. There were tons of Discus and Angels, more than half of the auction, I would say. I decided that was good; since everyone would be spending their money on them, maybe some of the African cichlids would go for more reasonable prices. The room was quite crowded, and I couldn't find a seat that I was comfortable enough to hold down all afternoon, so I kept moving around, talking to people and seeing what they were interested in buying (a polite way to check out the competition!) and what they had bought over the weekend.
Cichlids I Bought For Gary:
The prices started out really high, and I kept waiting for them to settle down, but it was late afternoon before the crowd starting heading out, and prices were where I thought they should be. Which still wasn't cheap by any means. When you see a bag of 6 quarter size black angels going for $65.00 - 75.00 dollars, at 3 pm in the afternoon, you wonder why the heck you are working with Africans. This wasn't a huge auction, more along the medium size; I figured it would be over by 7 or 8. I had my eye on some C. jacksoni, some cool Neolamprologus brichardi type species, a couple of shell dwellers and some julies, if the price was right. By late afternoon, I found myself up front next to Wanda, my long time auction partner.
This is always a hard day for me. Everyone is leaving and I get so melancholy, but yet I love the excitement of the auction, and I can't sit still. I am searching the tables for that bag I can't live without, while I am nearly in tears saying goodbye to everyone who is leaving. I still managed to fill my box up with some neat fish, and I knew Gary was going to be pleased with my picks.
Dinner after the auction has turned into a tradition, with many people staying Sunday night these days. We (over 35 people) headed down the street from the hotel on foot to a seafood restaurant for one last meal together. This was the first time I had actually left the hotel in 5 days; that just shows you how easy it is to get wrapped up with what is going on at one of these events.
Back at the hotel that night we still partied until the wee hours of the morning, hoping the weekend would never end.
The smartest thing I did was not schedule a flight out until early afternoon on Monday, and it was a good thing, as it took me all morning to pack my fish and all the stuff I had collected over the weekend. I had accumulated several books, a pile of T-shirts and lots of fish paraphernalia not to mention all the fish themselves.
It was bittersweet as Caroline and I waited for the shuttle to take us to the airport; we couldn't quit talking about all the great fun we had. From Pat Tosie running the BITCH auction table to hanging out with the likes of George, Ad and Juan Miguel. We talked about the new friends that we had made, and how wonderful it was to see our old friends.
Five days of cichlid packed action was over before I knew it and as I write this recap, I have just realized that it is less then 340 days until the next one. Okay, I guess I am one crazy cichlidiot!!
A beautiful Nandopsis haitiensis male owned by Ron Georgone, one of the best beasts in the show! Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.
Congratulations to the Atlanta group; they did a fabulous job!! See you in Cincinnati next year!!
© Copyright 2002 Pam Chin, all rights reserved
Chin, Pam. (diciembre 03, 2002). "ACA 2002, Atlanta". El Cichlid Room Companion. Consultado en diciembre 11, 2013, desde: http://www.cichlidae.com/article.php?id=172&lang=es.