Dateline - July 21st, 2004, Denver Colorado. Tomorrow the American Cichlid Association's annual convention will officially begin. However, the Marriott Southeast, is already teeming with die-hard cichlidiots who consistently arrive a day early and typically stay a day longer in an effort to add precious time to this most celebrated of all Cichlid events. This year our hosts are the Rocky Mountain Cichlid Association, based in Denver, Co, and led by Mark Whitney. By the time the sun dipped behind the Rocky Mountain skyline, the cichlid marathon of festivities had already started.
The hotel was huge, and it was rumored that a UFO convention was also taking place at this venue. Personally, I didn't see anyone claiming to be a UFO buff, but I did see plenty of people wearing fish T-shirts, carrying fish boxes and fish paraphernalia around. Caroline Estes, Pam Marsh and I spent most of the afternoon and evening in the sports bar or down by the show room catching up with old friends, and making new ones. We were planning the Babes In The Cichlid Hobby Silent Auction and several social events that we would be hosting throughout the weekend. It has been a year since the three of us have been together and to say the talk was non-stop is an understatement. No one could get a word in edge wise as we were planning our course of action. This tends to scare the cichlid men in our lives, as they are obsessed in what we might be up to. We plotted, planned and partied into the wee hours of the morning.
Thursday's schedule included a tour to the Denver Zoo and Ocean Journey Aquarium, but it left the hotel at 8:00 am. This is also my vacation, and I knew that the next few days were going to be fast and furious, and any sleep would be important. I elected to stay in bed until noon and then hang out at the hotel and meet up with friends that were arriving today. Around 4:00 pm the tour buses returned with rave reviews of a great time. More and more people were arriving and the show room and registration areas were packed with cichlid loving people. The manufacturer and vendor rooms were crowded, as well as the rental tank room. This has become a hot spot of the convention where hobbyists rent tanks, and bring anything and everything they have up to size to sell to other hobbyists. You can see the fish well in this type of set up, and you can also rent a tank(s) to put your purchases in.
At 7:00 pm Chuck Rambo was the first speaker of the evening. His topic was traveling to Africa and visiting the rift lakes. He is a dear friend and I never tire of his no-nonsense approach to keeping and enjoying cichlids. At 8:30 pm local cichlidiot Mike Wise had the stage with his talk on Apistogramma, as luck would have it, I got stuck in the bar, and didn't make it back, but I heard that it was great.
Unfortunately the Cichlasoma Study Group and the Apistogramma Study Group were both scheduled at 10:00 pm. There was a frenzy of excitement to see Anton Lamboj speak for the first time on West Africans, even though this was the Apistogramma Study Group. Yeah that's, right the Apisto freaks had a West African cichlid speaker. What is up with that??? I think they should change their name to the Dwarf Cichlid Study Group, at least it would truly reflect what they seem to be interested in.
Although the schedule showed two different rooms, I don't exactly remember why the Cichlasoma Study Group decided to wait until the main speaker room was available. Meanwhile there were over 100 cichlid people out in the hallway waiting, and many who cut the sleeves and necks out of their fish T-shirts, in an effort to look like cichlid collector and fish fashion setter Rusty Wessel. It was pretty funny site to say the least, and Rusty nearly split a gut when he rounded the corner and saw all of them. Finally around 11:30 pm Eric Hanneman of Eugene OR, and Joe Middleton of Portland, OR took the stage and presented a talk about their recent collecting trip in Guatemala, it was very good, and well worth the wait. By now the hospitality room has already closed and everyone broke into groups and continued to discuss fish and party late into the night.
Friday morning there was a tour to the Colorado Mountains, if you could manage to get up and catch the bus by 8:00 am. The Babes In The Cichlid Hobby Silent Auction was my main focus for the next two days; we wanted to be set up by early afternoon. The donations were wonderful, and we were in the main hallway where the speaker, show, vendor and tank rental rooms were located. More cichlid people were arriving, and there was a crowd around the registration desk nearly all afternoon while people were picking up their convention packets and renewing friendships.
Claudia Dickinson manned the ACA table, where members could be entered into a raffle where several exciting fish books would be offered to the winners, including the new Lamboj book on West African Cichlids. Everyone was looking for a copy of this book, as there were only a few available. I was lucky enough to find one the night before and cornered Anton to autograph it for me, it was a major score! West African cichlids were the big buzz at this convention, and after glancing at my new book, I could totally understand why. Finally a book dedicated to just this group of cichlids, full of wonderful pictures and valuable information on collections sites, breeding and maintenance. Anton Lamboj is from Austria, many wondered what kind of a speaker he would be, and whether he would be able to speak English that we could understand. No problem, he is very knowledgeable and a delightful speaker.
At 5:00 pm Fancy Publications who publishes Aquarium Fish Magazine hosted a reception to start off the evenings events. First up was Alex Saunders speaking on Madagascar, and then Anton (We are now on a first name basis!) again talked on West African Cichlids. Meanwhile, the deadline for having your show fish in their tanks was nearing, and the Babes In The Cichlid Hobby had their first closing in the silent auction. At 9:30 pm Don Conkel was talking on Central American Cichlids. I really enjoyed it, he showed pictures of his collecting stations in México and Costa Rica, and had some wonderful photos of adult specimens. It really made me want to go collecting again, and I started dropping big hints to all my cichlid friends throughout the weekend. It started out with… When are we going again? Where are you going? Can I please go? By the end of the convention it sounded more like begging! Please, somebody, take me… anywhere!
Next on the agenda was the Babes In The Cichlid Hobby Oral Auction. Believe me I was as surprised as you were the first time I read it on the schedule! I mean I knew we had been asked to auction off donated fish for the Guy D. Jordan Endowment Fund live, rather than in a silent auction as it has been in the past. However, in recent months the ACA has wanted to tone us down, but this only added fuel to the fire! Armed with around 60 bags of fish, we turned on our charm and raked in the bucks. People were willing to pay more, because they knew the money was going for a good cause. Caroline Estes showed the cichlid world that she is the most entertaining auctioneer around. Backed up by Robin Schadle an excellent auctioneer in her own right, and a never-ending line of all girl runners. It was a big hit!
Club Snail, the alternative aquarium society, then presented a late night slide show. Basically it is a bunch of beer drinking fish heads that have a very warped sense of humor. Their short but sweet program, entitled: "The Worst of the Worst, included all those compromising photo's that you hoped no one would ever show in a public". It was excellent!
We then all headed to the hospitality room, where they would not even let us off the elevator, the hotel had already shut it down due to noise and so they turned us around and back down stairs. We heard that the Bermuda contingency was serving "Dark & Stormy's" near the show room, so the majority of crowd headed there. What happens now is there are parties going on all over the hotel, where they could have contained us had the hospitality room been in a better place. It was the Roaming Cichlid Party, as we drifted room-to-room, just long enough to refresh our adult beverages, and share a fish story or two. Then it was time to move on to someone else's room, because hotel security was surely not far behind. I called it quits around 3:00 am and as my head it the pillow, I thought…. Wow, another great day at ACA!!
Saturday morning came fast and speakers were starting at 8:30 am. First was Bob Allen, from Utah on Brine Shrimp, and he was followed by, Alf Stalsberg on South American Cichlids. Then it was my turn, to introduce my Cichlid-God, Ad Konings who was speaking on Lake Malawi, it was a wonderful talk. He is the best photographer, and I so enjoy his dry sense of humor.
Meanwhile the crowd took a break for lunch, they shopped the silent auction, and looked for fish on the Guy Jordan Bulletin Board and in the Tank Rental room. The quantity of fish and the selection of fish available to convention goers were substantially less then in past years. The logistics of hobbyists bringing fish to sell and trade when they are flying instead of driving was obvious. This is usually the case whenever an ACA is held out of the cichlid hot bed that is located in the mid west. It was a sellers market, and those who did bring fish didn't have any problem selling them.
The time is going by too fast, all of a sudden I realize this it, tonight is the banquet, and then tomorrow everyone will be leaving. There are only two speakers left this afternoon, Oliver Lucanus, on Discus, and then followed once again by Anton Lamboj on West African Cichlids. Both talks were packed, and received rave reviews. It was then time to get ready for the banquet, and find out who is going win the best of show.
The banquet is always fun, but can be a bit boring and long. It is fun to set at a table with your best cichlid amigos. There is a comradery in the room, it is full of close friends celebrating their hobby. This year I sat with my inseparable cichlid buddies; Caroline and Pam, and a few of my most favorite cichlid men; Juan Miguel Artigas Azas, Ad Konings, Oliver Lucanus, and Steve Lundblad. It is times like this that I often wonder, is it the cichlids? Or is it the people? Surely these fish would not be as fun without these friendships.
We heard the State of the ACA by Ken Davis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and the club appears to be quite stable. Next there is a lot of thanking going on. Thanks to the local club for hosting, thanks to the BOT for serving, thanks for donating money to research and conservation, etc. Awards are given out for the best articles published in the Buntbarsche Bulletin. And of course the awards for the fish show. Finally it is over, and the party is in full swing.
It has nearly become a tradition that the Babes In The Cichlid Hobby will provide some sort of entertainment around midnight after the banquet. The hospitality room was literally non-existent, this year and they must have saved a bundle on beer. The hotel allowed us to present our Mystery Speaker, Chuck Rambo in the View Room, down by the hotel registration. It is hard to believe that the Babes In The Cichlid Hobby have been around for 10 years, and it was time to thank some of our most influential supporters. So, before the show started we handed out several certificates of appreciation, for providing outstanding support in our endeavors. It was a big hit, as well as Chuck's humorous talk, on his aquarium experiences with cichlids and cichlid people. It was a riot, and people were laughing so hard they were rolling on the floor. It was great ending to a wonderful day. People then either moved on to bed or back in to the Roaming Cichlid Party.
Sunday morning the Auction was scheduled to start around 10:00 am, they had one hour of fish and then sold some dry goods. The auction was on the small side compared to ACA auctions in the past. I am guessing there were around 500 bags. There was a good variety of stock available, everything from Discus to Tropheus, Central Americans to West Africans and lots of Apisto's. The prices were not outrageous, as they typically are the first few hours, but they were not cheap either. I sat through the majority of the auction with friends and picked up a few good deals. Prices held throughout the day, until maybe the last hour or so. The auction was over and in the history books by 5:00 pm.
Like all ACA's, on Sunday evening any cichlid people that are still around sign up for Babes In The Cichlid Hobby Banquet. All are welcome, to come to this no-host dinner, where we can have that one last meal together and review the weekend. This year there were about 35 - 40 people, at the Italian/Mexican Restaurant that we found across from the hotel. The food may not have been that great, but the company sure was! It is hard to go to bed on this night, Caroline, Pam and I usually end up talking and packing until it is very late, just to avoid having to say good-bye for another year.
Although this was not the largest ACA convention by any means, there was something to be said about the cichlid crowd that showed up. There were some memorable moments, pick your favorite…. Babes In The Cichlid Hobby Oral Auction, with Caroline Estes, Anton Lamboj catapulting himself into cichlid-god status, a Victorian Cichlid winning Best Of Show, or Chuck Rambo's dead fish pile. We came for our love of Cichlids, to see great speakers, but most of all to have fun. I think we succeeded, it was a great ACA and I had a blast!
Congratulations to the Rocky Mountain Cichlid Association, it was a wonderful weekend, you worked your butts off, and we had a great time! THANKS!
See ya'll in Texas!
© Copyright 2004 Pam Chin, all rights reserved
Chin, Pam. (November 08, 2004). "Cichlids On The Road - ACA 2004". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from: https://www.cichlidae.com/article.php?id=346.