A couple of weeks ago I had the great opportunity to lecture for the 17th Ohio Cichlid Association 2011 cichlid extravaganza, this significant yearly event is put together by the Ohio Cichlid Association the weekend before thanksgiving. As in other occasions that I had lectured for the OCA Extravaganza in the past, weather was cold, but the warmth of the event quickly made me forget about the weather. The event is dated in November unlike many other cichlid conventions, as this way the best hotel rates are obtained for the attendees, as it is usually a dead weekend for them.
The Ohio Cichlid Association started activities as a specialized cichlid group back in 1983, when they put together a publication called the Buckeye Cichlid Lovers Bulletin (Buckeye is the Ohio state tree), although the OCA got its name until 1984. In recent years catfish have been also been part of the OCA focus.
Nowadays, the OCA counts with just over 200 members of all ages, with an encouraging increasing influx of young people in the past few years. Not a very large membership you may think, but their active nature and the organization and attendance of their annual convention can quickly fool you into believing that the OCA is a much larger association. The quality of their convention falls into what we can rate as world class. Surely it is one of the best conventions held in the United States.
The 2011 extravaganza may not have been the largest OCA event ever, but it had 272 registrations, almost forty percent more people than the membership itself, which is an indication of the quality of the convention. Registrations for the event are now handled electronically.
One of the things I love about the OCA extravaganza is the catfish & cichlid show, this year having 140 entries. You really get to see there some of the finest cichlids! I was fortunate enough this year to act as judge. I was particularly impressed by the best in show; a wonderful Amphilophus hogaboomorum by Scott Myers. This proves that a cichlid does not have colorful to be magnificent! And magnificent this fish is!
The OCA works so well that it even has its own fund to support cichlid related causes; the Jim Smith fund, named after one of their dearest members and past membership chair, who passed away but whose spirit remains in the OCA. The Jim Smith fund donated this year $2,500 dollars to Penn State University for a project to cataloguing their preserved cichlid collection, under the direction of Dr. Jay Stauffer. In the past the OCA has made donations to the Anti Netting Device project for Lake Malawi, through Ad Konings, and also to a local high school.
I have to say that I normally get bored at auctions, as I rarely if ever buy any fish, although I have found out they are also a great place to talk to friends. The OCA auction is huge and lasts for the whole Sunday. This year their auction sold 918 fish bags at an average price of $13.31, so $12,200 dollars changed hands solely in the fish auction, not counting the probably larger interchange that takes place in the rooms of convention attendees, some of whom furnish them like truly aquarium stores, under the tolerance of the hotel administration. I remember other times the auction has been even bigger, with over 1,200 bags sold!
All speakers for the extravaganza are world class, and the OCA is not afraid of bringing the best speakers from all around the globe to enlighten their truly international event. One nice thing is that like European conventions I have attended, in the OCA everybody is for the talks, and the conference room is always packed with close to full attendance to listen attentively to speakers. This gives a great feeling to the speakers. I truly enjoyed all of the talks this year!
The OCA Extravaganza is a clear example of the result of team hard work and excellent coordination. The result of a group of people that comply with their individual assignations with no complains and with excellence. Members have nothing in mind than to make their club excel, which is certainly what they do. There is nothing due to chance in the success of the OCA. Members of are good friends and although certainly there have been problems and desertions in the past. The fact is that most members get there and stay for life.
So, if you haven’t attended yet an OCA Extravaganza and are located in the Midwest USA, plan for next year event! They have promised to bring a lineup of new great speakers. Thanks to my many friends of the Ohio Cichlid Association for bringing me in once again this year, it was an honor to lecture for you!
Best of Show, Amphilophus hogaboomorum by Scott Myers. Photo by Frank Mueller.