The 1998 American Cichlid Association Convention was held July 23 - 26 in St. Louis, Missouri. Like most die hard Cichlidiots, I had been planning to attend since last year in Chicago. It is an excellent way to obtain and learn more about cichlids. As well as an opportunity to make friends for a lifetime. This year I was more excited about seeing the people than seeing the fish. I know you must think I am totally out of my mind, but I have truly made some great friends, that I wish I could see more than once a year.
The closer it got the more excited I was getting. Finally, it was Thursday, when I got off work I couldn't wait to start packing the fish I would take. It was then fight began, Gary started with "We don't really have anything to take." Please!!!! He followed up with, "I want to raise those up"...... "That's all we have, I killed the parents"...... "Those are to small"..... "Those are too big"...... "I was going to give those to Troy".... "Nobody is going to want that"..... "Those are too difficult to keep in your room, you will just kill them, before you sell them"..... I managed to get two boxes filled with stuff I thought would be of interest to other hobbyists. Mostly Tanganyikan because they go for more money and are easier to keep in your room than Malawians. I had all the different "Julies" and several different "Lamps", I talked him in to sending the Tropheus moorii "Chimba Red's", and the Malawians included; fuscotaeniatus, chrysonotus, some "Jalo's" and a bag of his prize Aulonocara jacobfreibergi "Otter Point", quite an accomplishment, I thought!
I didn't sleep well Thursday night, even though I knew I wouldn't get much sleep in St. Louis either. On the way to the airport, I got another lecture. "Don't buy anything ugly"..... "Don't get any fish from Rusty, we still can't get rid of those Gephyrochromis lawsi"...... "Don't buy any thing we already have"... "Don't buy any T-Shirts"...... "Don't buy any big fish, only get fry"...... and on and on. I went to get a cart and Gary helped me load the fish boxes and suitcase. As he drove off he was yelling, "Have a great time, say Hi to everyone!" I headed for the ticket counter. As I watched the clerks checking people in, I was confident that I wouldn't have a problem checking fish today. As luck would have it, when my turn came, the guy that didn't speak English, opened his station. I got the standard questions, and then he wanted to know what was in the boxes. I said, "fish," he said "Frozen or with Dry Ice?" I said, "Live, I am on my way to a fish convention, they are packed in plastic bags in a styrofoam box." Then I told him how many times I have done this, with no problems. He seemed okay, he gave me my ticket and put the luggage tag on my suitcase, then he put a tag on the first box of fish, and I watched them go around the corner on the conveyer belt. Then he had a panic attack, he frantically searched the manual for policies on shipping fish. Meanwhile, I still have a box of fish on the scale, my other box and bag are gone, will they ever meet up again?? He headed down to have a chat with his supervisor, who was helping the First Class counter. After about 10 minutes, she finally acknowledge him, and they discussed the issue. Then she tried to find it for him in the manual. 20 minutes have now passed and my second box of fish is still on the scale. Soon all the clerks are telling him it is fine, they have all checked fish before, and he finally slaps the tag on my box, and throws it to the conveyer belt.
Whew! I was glad that was over!
I had about a two hour lay over in Denver. I shopped! It wasn't long before I had arrived in St. Louis. I headed for the phone, to call for a shuttle from the hotel, she told me to call after I had my luggage. The place was packed, I got a cart and waited for the luggage carousel to start. Soon I saw my first box of fish, and then my second, I was so relieved. The carousal stopped and I realized all the people were gone, there were no more pieces of luggage going around, and my suitcase was not to be found. Go figure, my fish made it but my clothes didn't, and I felt extremely lucky!
After a quick trip to Baggage Claim, I was soon entering the hotel. There were cichlid people everywhere I looked. The first person I saw was Rusty Wessel, after a big hug, he told me "they" said I wasn't coming. Who started that rumor I wondered, how could I miss seeing all my friends. Check in was a breeze, and I headed to the fish registration desk. I ran into Ad Konings and Lee Finley, among others hanging out in front of the fish room. Pat Tosie, was showing undesirable pictures of Charley Grimes, to all who would stop. It was here where I caught up with my dearest friend, Caroline Estes. "Babes in the Cichlid Hobby" (B.I.T.C.H.) were already planning activities for tonight in the hospitality room.
As I registered, I found out the Banquet was sold out, I am such a looser for not pre-registering. I wanted space on the Bulletin Board to advertise what fish I had brought, but my neatly typed price list was lost with my luggage. I wrote out what I remembered I had brought with a small explanation about a better price list to follow and that the fish had made it, but not my luggage. It was time for me to rebag some fish, I had to bum some amquel and salt, since that was also packed in my bag. I found a bucket, so I headed to my room. I left the door open so if someone came by, they could see what I had to offer. Caroline, Sharon Grover and I worked on the B.I.T.C.H. project for the evening, while I bagged my fish.
Everyone wanted to see the Tropheus, and the "Lamps". It wasn't long before the leleupi, walteri, transcriptus "Gombi" and petricola were gone. It is so hard to figure out what you should bring, you never know what people are going to be looking for. I was pleased with my choices so far, even though I hadn't had much interest in the Malawian stuff I had brought. At 9:00 PM Don Conkel was speaking, the traffic in the halls had died down so, I went down to find something to eat. I ran into Rich and Laura Bireley at the bar, and Laura recommended the Salmon burger, it was great!
I still had to finish rebagging my fish, so back to the room I went. The Hospitality room sponsored by Club Snail was due to open soon, and I didn't want to miss anything. It is here where I would find more friends that I have not seen for a year. I headed straight for Steve Lundblad, he is one of the sweetest guys I know, I was so glad too see him. I was thrilled to see he had all his Cichlid T-Shirts out. I was in desperate need of PJ's and a clean shirt for tomorrow, no sign of my luggage yet. What a great collection he offered this year; Tropheus, demasoni, and the Benthochromis tricoti was on sale. I was set for a couple of days now!
Party, party, party, go to bed way too late........ Wake up at 11:00 AM on Saturday. I headed for the front desk to see if anyone had seen my luggage, no. The talks had started early, and there was already a crowd in the fish room. I headed down to the vendor room, which was quite away from the action. I wanted to see my friend Pam Marsh, she makes Cichlid T-Shirts. The room was typical, vendors with everything from books, foods and equipment. I just wanted to see Pam and her T-Shirts. Her new offering was really cool; Lake Malawi, I had to have a couple. Then I needed to replace a couple that Gary had trashed, and wanted to get a few for friends and family. I stopped by the registration desk and bought a couple of the convention T-Shirts too! I can't help it, I love fish T-Shirts!
Ad was speaking at 2:00 PM, it was great, he is my hero! At 3:30 I was to meet in the fish room to help with the judging, that pretty much took the rest afternoon. Finally, my luggage had arrived. I couldn't wait to get into some clean clothes. I headed for the bar, where I ran into many friends having a drink before the banquet. I ordered a Salmon Burger to go, it was time to change the water on the fish I had brought. By the time the banquet ended, I had sold nearly everything. I would only have a few bags left to put into the auction. That meant that I could stay up later! One guy saw all my newly acquired T-Shirts and asked if I was selling those, "Heck no, those are for me," I replied.
At l:30 AM, Club Snail's Mystery speaker turned out to be none other than Chuck Rambo. He had us rolling in the aisles as he showed us slides of his early fish keeping, and why he joined the ACA. It was great, and everyone was having a blast. Caroline then presented a proclamation from the "Babes In The Cichlid Hobby". It was merely an observation we had made over the years at this and other ACA conventions, and as she read on, our choices were also clear to the audience. Here are a few that I can share with you:
- Most likely to be culled - Eric Dietrich
- Best confirmation - Eric Hanneman
- Best deportment - Kelly Dawson
- Best Finnage - Steve Lundblad
- Best Teeth - Ad Konings
- Best over all health - Keith Shepard
- Most likely to be a hybrid - Joe Middleton
- Best mystery contaminant - Dave Ball
- Best Personality - Wayne S. Leibel
- Most likely to spawn - Rick Perez
- Most likely to be a B.I.T.C.H. if he was a woman - Paul Loiselle
- Guy we would most like to "jump his bones" if his wife wouldn't kick our butts - Chuck Rambo
- Most likely to have an unhealthy interest in Nanochromis transvestitus - David Herlong
- Guy we most want to go collecting in the wilds of Borneo with - Rusty Wessel
- Most likely to come from the shallow end of the gene pool - Pat Tosie
- In need of B.I.T.C.H. reeducation - Mike Schadle
- Most likely to dig annoying pits - Garland Bird
- Most likely to switch to Killies - Ron Georgeone
- Flunked B.I.T.C.H. training twice - Myles Neiman
- Most in need of extra filtration - David Soares
- Most likely to spawn and tell - Gary Wagner
- Best of show - Lee Finley
We all headed back to the Hospitality room, laughing our heads off and ready for more drinking, visiting, drinking, etc. It was packed, and everyone was having a great time. A young man came up and introduced himself as Ray Engeszer, he is from Berkeley, CA and doing work with Dr. George Barlow. They are observing the mating behaviors of Julidochromis marlieri, I found it to be so interesting, and talked the poor guys ear right off!! So you never know who you might run into at one of these events, here is a guy that was right in my back yard, yet I had not had the pleasure of meeting him prior to this. And then to find out that he was working with one of my most favorite fish.
At 3:30 AM I was saying good night to everyone, they were all calling me a wimp for leaving so early. However, I had fish in the auction.
Morning came way too soon! But I knew I had to get going, and get my fish properly bagged and labeled by the deadline. With all the paperwork filled out, I placed my fish on the tables. I could see that this was not going to be an all nighter, there were not that many bags of fish. I returned to my room to get ready for my favorite event. I headed back down to the Auction room by 10:00 am and staked out my area near the back of the room. I then went to see what everyone else was going to auction off. As I started the procession around all the tables, right behind me was Ad Konings. We looked at everything together and discussed the good and bad points of each bag that was offered.
I must say that I was disappointed, I had made a point to follow the auction rules to the tee; double bagging and proper labeling. There were few that had. There was no auction police, no one checked the bags in and no one checked for hybrids or mis-marked species. There were quite a few bags of fish that I had never heard of, and when I checked with what I feel are reliable sources, they too had not heard of these species. Some of the bagging was disgusting, for example, someone brought in a group of (5) Geophagus surinamensis, and had them in a Tupperware container, these fish were over 6 inches, and of course they were dead before the auction even started. Bags labeled only as Aulonocara Sp. and Julidochromis Sp., obviously the people who brought them were embarrassed since the required name and phone number was left off the bag. This is something you might expect to see at a local aquarium society, but not at a national convention.
Regardless of my concerns, the auction took off around 11:00 AM. I was expecting Mike Schadle to be the auctioneer, but apparently he and the convention hosts had not struck an agreement. So, a couple of local members gave it their best shot, but of course no one can auction faster than Schadle. I estimated there were around 800 bags, which is relatively low for an auction in the middle of a Cichlid hot bed. Since the auction split was 60/40, many people elected to take there fish home, rather than place them in the auction. I have mixed feelings about that. After all it is the way clubs make their money, and if we want to continue to have events like this, it is necessary for them to make some kind of a profit. On the other hand, ACA auctions typically get high dollar, and with a higher split, there would have been more fish, and probably an equal amount of money would have been made. The split was not really an issue to me, I had already decided that I wasn't going to take the fish back home, and so I would be happy with what ever I received.
I had my eye on a fairly new fish, that I had not seen before; Neolamprologus specious. Ad was drooling over them, and that was good enough for me. As I scoured the tables, I had determined that there were only two bags. They were from Ed Higgins, whom I know, so I was confident with the source. As I was visiting with others, I knew I was not the only one interested in this new shell dweller.
Wanda "I am not going to buy anything!" Jacobson was my trusty partner for the day. We had sit through many an ACA auction together, but our dearest auction partner; Jim Herman was not at this years event. We truly missed him, he had some flaky excuse about just returning from Belize and on his way to Peru the following week. Well, I am sorry Jim, but that is not a good enough excuse for me. After all the auctions we have been through together and you stand me up for some collecting trip. I say you owe me an article for the Communiqué!!
Our auction neighbors included Caroline, Danny Martin and Pat "I am really cheap!" Chefalo. I was surrounded by Cichlasomaniacs. Kevin Plazak told me he was in for the long haul, "I can't wait to spend the day with you Pam, I want to go to the auction with a pro." He lasted about one hour, all of a sudden he was gone, and it was around 5:00 PM before I saw him again. I asked him what was the deal?? He said he got the only bag of fish he was interested in, so he left. Sorry Kevin, you didn't even reach rookie status as an auction participant.
The room was packed, and since there were not that many bags, they were going for top dollar. Several people had tried to talk me down on the prices I was asking in my room, I stuck to my guns, and in most cases, even after the split, I made what I had been asking. It was definitely a sellers market. St. Louis has quite a few angel fish breeders, and they were lots available, I am always amazed at the prices they were bringing; bags of 6 fry were averaging $30.00. Adults were going for more. There was lots of Tropheus, which went for big bucks. I didn't see a whole lot that I was interested in, and was hoping that the prices would fall, and there might be some good deals, but that didn't happen.
After about an hour, the crowd was settling in and the prices were evening out. Here came the N. specious. There were eight in the bag, and I figured $5.00 each is what I would be willing to pay. We were at $40.00 pretty fast, I put down my hand and decided they were gone. Then they stopped at $43.00, and I remembered how every year I regret not bidding a bit higher. I raised my hand and was back in the hunt. I prevailed and got the bag for $46.00, I was thrilled! The second bag went Robin to from Ohio for $75.00 a few hours later.
I was also interested in getting some Otopharynx lithobates "Yellow Blaze", there were half dozen or more bags available. I have had this fish before, but killed them, and I haven't seen any around our area. These were from Bill Schwartz, and I had bought fish from him before. I got two bags for $25.00 each, and then I ended up with another a bag because Pat Chefalo was to cheap to stay in the hunt. I kept coaching him, and finally before the auction was over, he managed to get a bag for himself.
The auction was over around 7:00 PM. I had only bought 4 bags of fish, which surely was a record. Everyone kept asking if I had already taken a couple of boxes up to my room. Wanda only bought a couple of bags too. It took at least an hour for everyone to pay up. As we waited Caroline organized dinner for the night, for all those who would be staying over.
The shuttle bus from the Hotel ferried us to some Italian restaurant, there must of be twenty five or more of us. We had a blast, and planned to open the hospitality room as soon was we returned to the hotel. It was here were I had to say good bye to all my friends, the weekend was over and it would be another year before we would all gather once again. So we partied, drank, visited and cried about the end of another wonderful weekend.
The trip home was uneventful, Gary was there to pick me up. He was pleased with my fish purchases. I have not told him about the T-shirts yet!!
Next year the ACA convention will be held in Detroit, Michigan. Stay tuned for more information, and start saving your money now, you won't want to miss it.
© Copyright 1998 Pam Chin, all rights reserved
Chin, Pam. (August 29, 1998). "ACA 1998 A Recap". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on June 19, 2019, from: https://www.cichlidae.com/article.php?id=102.