|ACA 2205 convention banner. Photo by Pam Chin.|
If you live and breath cichlids, dabble in cichlids or even have inkling to keep cichlids there is one yearly event that is a must to attend. Each year you will find the largest gathering of cichlid enthusiasts in the USA at the American Cichlid Association annual convention. This year's event was held in Fort Worth, Texas where the Texas Cichlid Association hosted ACA 2005 - Cichlid Roundup. Kathy Stearns herded up her dedicated and hardworking members of the TCA and put on quite a memorable convention. It started on July 21st at the Raddison Plaza Hotel downtown Fort Worth, Texas about a 45-minute shuttle ride from the airport. Cichlid people from all over the US, Canada, México, South America and a few from Europe began arriving early in the week.
I arrived on Wednesday mid afternoon, and was getting settled in when my best friends Caroline and Pam called to say they had gotten in also. To our amazement, we ended up in rooms 756, 757 and 758, which we aptly named BITCH central, we couldn't have planned it any better.
|Babes in the Cichlid Hobby. Left to Right: Pam Marsh, Caroline Estes and Pam Chin. Photo by Eric Hanneman.|
The hotel was located on the Sundance Plaza with many restaurants and bars in walking distance. This was a good central location for exploring downtown Fort Worth and the surrounding historic area. Inside the hotel was a split-level lobby; the convention registration desk, speaker room, vendor room and show room were located on the upper level in a central area. There were many seating areas throughout this 2nd floor too, and these were perfect for small group discussions or just fish friends taking a break and catching up.
On the 3rd floor accessible by stairs or the elevator, you could find the rental tanks, and the Guy D. Jordan Endowment Fund fish donations. You can rent a tank(s) to hold your purchases over the weekend, or you can use the tank(s) for fish you brought to sell. This is always a busy area people are buying, selling, and talking cichlids. There are lots of lookers trying to figure out what they are going to buy over the weekend. It is also the place to view the Guy Jordan fish that are auctioned live on Friday night.
It was great, people like Jeff Rapps took up a whole row with lots of neat interesting cichlids. There were also hobbyist's who had just one or two tanks with cichlid fry available. Lots of others kept their fish in their rooms and lists were posted on their doors as well as on the Guy Jordan Bulletin board. I took several bags of cichlids that I thought might go over well and I was able to sell all my fish by Saturday night.
|They printed the weekend schedule on the back of your nametag|
This 4-day event officially began Thursday evening with a welcome reception sponsored by Aquarium Fish Magazine. This opening party gives everyone a chance to see who is here, catch up with old friends and meet new cichlid people. AFM is one of the top 3 aquarium magazines in the US; they provided a bar and a spread with finger foods and veggies to munch on. It is always fun to see who has showed up and it is a good place to meet the speakers brought in for the convention.
The speaker line up for Thursday evening included: Ad Konings: Collecting in Malawi, and Spencer Jack: Confessions of a Cichlaholic. Then Dan Woodland: Collecting in Central America, sponsored by the Cichlasoma Study Group and Dick Au: Discus, sponsored by the Discus Study Group. All the speakers received rave reviews. The evening was capped off with the hospitality room opening at 10:00 pm, sponsored by www.aquabid.com.
B. I. T. C. H.
A big THANKS YOU to all who supported the Babes In The Cichlid Hobby Silent Auction at this years ACA convention in Fort Worth Texas. We had a wide array of aquarium related items, and your continued support has made this auction a very special event. We had several tables covered with great fish stuff and over the course of two days, sold over 300 items! There were many books, new and used, and also many collectible aquarium related items; magazines, food tins, T-shirts, etc. This year we had some fantastic fish glass artwork that drew a lot attention and interest. There was new and used equipment available, also foods, water conditioners, and nets; just about anything you need to keep fish. All types of fish clothing, fish jewelry, fish ties, fish purses, fish caves, and stuffed fish. President Pam Marsh said, "I was amazed with all the great items at this years Silent Auction, all donated and bought by cichlid hobbyists who really do care about Cichlid Research and Cichlid Conservation. It is so rewarding!"
The Babes In The Cichlid Hobby Oral Auction was also a big success. We think you enjoyed this lively event, as it did receive rave reviews. All of the fish were donated from the Florida Fish Farms and also by hobbyists like you, who donated a bag of rare fish. Vice President Caroline Estes summed it up by saying, "This is an exciting auction, these cichlid people are always stepping up to the plate, it's all for a good cause, and they know it! I hope they had as much fun as I did!"
Whether you donated items, bought items or both, you enabled us to raise over $7,200.00 in the Silent and Oral Auctions. 100% of the money raised goes directly to the Guy D. Jordan Endowment Fund and the Paul V. Loiselle Conservation Fund. Special thanks to the Texas Cichlid Association, who were so accommodating; we really appreciate it.
Thanks again for all your support! It is not too early to start thinking about next year. It is easy, just get a sack or box and place it in your fish room, and then all year long if you run across an item that might raise some money place it in the box. Before you know it, you will have a box of fish treasures to donate.
Hats off to the TCA member who came up with an innovating idea, they printed the weekend schedule on the back of your nametag. There was no excuse for missing your favorite speaker even if you forgot your nametag, anyone around you could easily give you the time and place. Who would have thought you could expand the purpose of a nametag, I loved it! Tropical Fish Hobbyist incorporated the convention program in their July "All Cichlid Issue." Not only did this give cichlid people who are unable to attend a taste of what this event is all about, but they also put a copy in each convention packet, an outstanding idea. The ACA is lucky to have great sponsors like TFH, Marineland, Zoomed, etc., this is a first class event.
Friday morning at 8:30, which seemed incredibly early, the speaker line up started with: Ric Perez and Howard Schmidt, a fun debate on New World vs. Old World. Wayne Leibel: Waters of South America, Spencer Jack: Completely Cyphotilapia, and Laif Demason: What's New! The talks ended around 3:00 pm, with all of the speakers getting "two thumbs up!" Next on the schedule was an optional tour of the stockyards and Billy Bob's, with an opportunity to get a real taste of Texas.
Meanwhile back at the hotel, the Babes In The Cichlid Hobby have their Silent Auction up and running, with a wide assortment of fish hobby related items. Convention attendees are encouraged to bring new and used items for this fish rummage sale and they do. Scouring the auction table for fish books, collectibles, equipment, accessories, etc., has become a ritual at the convention. All of the money raised goes to Guy D. Jordan Endowment Fund and the Paul V. Loiselle Conservation Fund for cichlid research and cichlid conservation. We can't thank you enough for all the wonderful donations!
The Babes are also preparing for the live Guy D. Jordan Cichlid Auction. Florida Fish Farmers and hobbyists donate the cichlids. Bagging the fish was a lot more work than we had thought and we need to find more people to help with this. It gives you a chance to look at the fish up close and personal, please consider helping next year. Later that evening, 10:00 pm to be exact, the Babes started this lively auction, with lots of rare cichlids and free shots of Tequila for the brave at heart. I think everyone likes this event; it is a lot of fun. People don't mind paying a little more since they know the money is going for such a good cause. Thank you to everyone who participated, whether you helped, donated fish or bought fish.
The evening is capped off with plenty of options, starting with: The hospitality room opening at 10:00 pm. Also, Hernán López Fernandez was speaking, sponsored by the South American Study Group. In the Presidential suite you could find the cichlid nuts from Bermuda serving their famous "Dark & Stormies". And last but not least, Joe Middleton, sponsored by no one, presented his take on cichlids and cichlid people. It was a full night to say the least, but I managed to fit it all in!
Saturday morning the speakers started at 9:00 am with: Jack Watley: Discus, Laif Demason: Madagascar Cichlids, Ad Konings: Collecting in Lake Tanganyika, and Willem Heijns: Cichlids of the Nicaraguan Crater lakes. This convention had an excellent line up of speakers; it was a well-rounded group covering all the hot cichlid topics. Each expert was well prepared and dazzled their audience with wonderful pictures of cichlids and their habitats. Saturday late afternoon there was a dry goods auction with so many items that after 3 hours it had to be stopped so members could attend the banquet.
This special dinner starts with a social hour starting at 6:30 pm with the dinner beginning around 7:30 pm. The Master of Ceremonies for this last dinner together is Phil Benes, Chairman of the ACA Board of Trustees. Yearly awards for contributing articles to the Buntbarsche Bulletin are given out. Thanks are given to people and groups with outstanding donations to the research and conservation funds. This years banquet speaker was Al Klee who gave a reflective program on the history of the aquarium hobby, which is always an interesting topic. To many of the attendees the real reason for this dinner is the results of the Cichlid Show. This year the winner for BEST IN SHOW was Ron Georgeone for his outstanding specimen of Protomelas sp. "Spilonotus Tanzania."
|ACA 2005 Best in Show: Protomelas sp. 'Spilonotus Tanzania'. Photo by Pam Chin.|
After the banquet the hospitality room was open, and the Babes in the Cichlid Hobby presented their mystery speaker, Mike Schadle. Rick Borstein also gave a short video on why you should attend ACA 2006 in Chicago. Sadly, it is the last night to visit with friends and experts met throughout the weekend.
Sunday morning, the final event is the giant auction. It is slated to begin at 10:00 am, and it did shortly thereafter. The room is packed with convention goers as well as many who have made the trip just for the auction. People continued to check in bags of fish well past 12 noon. Many people are leaving throughout the day and as they crowd thins, the prices become more reasonable and in line with typical hobbyist prices. They did offer the option of "express" on a bag of fish. If you had to leave and catch a plane, but saw a bag of fish that caught your interest for a fee of $2.00, you could have this bag move to the front of the line to be auctioned off next. Many took advantage of this option. I had a good time being a runner, it allows me to look closer at the fish in the bag, and I managed to finish filling up my fish box with all sorts of goodies for Gary. The auction ended around 8:30 pm and thus the end of a 4-day cichlid event.
The final count of registration has yet to be announced, but it appears to be around 400 cichlid enthusiasts who traveled to Texas to share their experiences and to learn more about this cichlid fish that is such a joy to keep in home aquaria. Not only is this the opportunity to learn more about your favorite group of cichlids, but also to learn about other cichlids you have yet to keep. It is more than likely you found cichlids that you have only seen in books, and the chance to meet the hobbyist who bred them. There is a special comradery among cichlid keepers and it was evident this weekend in Fort Worth, Texas. I had a great time it was so good to see my friends and to make new ones.
|Robin Schadle conducting the live auction. Photo by Pam Chin.|
Congratulations to the Texas Cichlid Association for a first class event! Get ready Chicago; we will be there for ACA 2006!