I don't know why, but I have been excited about ACA-97 in Chicago since it was announced. It had been seven years since the last ACA Convention in Chicago. That was not my favorite ACA convention, since I was Chairman of the ACA BOT ..... but, either time heals or I am in total denial!! At any rate, I knew that this was going to be special. The surrounding area is densely populated with cichlidiots, they would be coming in masses and bringing all sorts of fun fish with them. Two weeks before it was to begin, I was beside myself, I couldn't wait.
I don't know what I was thinking when I made my plane reservations, I dreaded the thought of having to be at the Sacramento International Airport by 5:00 AM on Thursday, July 9th. There was no way I was going to get up any earlier than I had to, so that meant packing the fish Wednesday evening. My favorite fish box had certainly seen it's better days. I wasn't sure if it could make one more trip, but Gary got out the tape and reinforced it. Then came the usual fight about what I wanted to take and what Gary would allow me to take. It is so hard to decide, you just don't know what people are looking for, and what is hot back there may be common to us here.
After last years ordeal at the airport, I had already decided to get a cart, for the boxes and go inside to start off with. Everything went smoothly, and before I knew it I was in Chicagoland!! The convention brochure suggested a limo company for transportation from the airport to the hotel. I called them when I arrived and went to wait where I was instructed. The limo guy nearly had a heart attack when he saw my boxes of fish and began shaking his head about how I was hogging all the luggage space. No one ever asked how much luggage I was going to have! Not a big deal, since all the other passengers turned out to be cichlidiots too. One gal even had her fish in a bucket!! As soon as we pulled up to the hotel I was greeted by all sorts of cichlid people. The fun was just beginning to start.
I dropped off my stuff at my room and headed down to registration, where I ran into my good friend John Benn. We laughed when we realized how long I had been working for him on FISHNET. It is always good to see him. It wasn't long before I found my beloved Kurt Zadnik!! I haven't seen him for 10 months, and he looked great. Went to dinner with him, Chuck and Carol Rambo, and Steve Lundblad. We had some serious catching up to do. Plus make plans for tomorrow, our attack on the Shedd Aquarium.
The fish had been on oxygen for over 24 hours now, and since tomorrow was beginning to fill up fast, I decided I should re-bag everything I had brought. This took about 3 hours, but I had several interested hobbyists come by to see what I had. Craig, from Bermuda, had his eye on the Tropheus moorii "Red Saddles", and I was thrilled to sell them early.
The Hospitality room was up at the top of the hotel, for the life of me I can't remember what floor it was. The large corner suite was filled with familiar faces. My favorite bartender, Gary Wagner was on duty, this is what I had been waiting for, a chance to see all the friends that I have made over the years. More catch up time.
Caroline Estes, my good friend from Texas, informed me that several women had already approached her about how to join "Babes In The Cichlid Hobby". This is a covert clique of women who are personally involved in keeping Cichlids and who enjoy antagonizing the 99% male membership. It was planned that the original "Babes" (F0) should meet, and decide on recruiting methods for this year. A quick glance at my watch, 3:30 AM, and I realize I better get some sleep.
The Bus for the Shedd was scheduled to leave at 8:30 AM. Kurt had brought his van and I along with the Rambo's and Lundblad had decided to ride with Kurt. It was great fun, watching Kurt follow the buses. We found a parking place fairly close and went for it, a meter that was $1.00 hour, up to 12 Hours, we started forking over all our quarters.
The Shedd was nice, and I suggest that if you are in the area to be sure and check it out. However, I still think that Steinhart is the best public aquarium that I have seen to date. We were on the "Rambo Tours" hosted by Chuck Rambo, whose legs are so long that I didn't think I would be able to keep up. "No Pam, don't go down there it is only Salt Water..... No, Pam you have already seen that tank". Carol and I dashed into the Gift Shop and picked up some great fish stuff. We would have bought more but Chuck was moving on. We crossed the street to the Field Museum, which I would say is like our Academy of Arts and Science, across the walkway from Steinhart.
"What do you want to see" Chuck asked? "Mummies" "Gems" "Fossils" "Tsavo Lions" "lunch" we yelled. Somewhere along the way we picked up Pam Marsh into our group, she had no problem fitting in. We found the snack bar and the guys sucked down a polish hot dog, before us gals could find a place to sit down. Chuck made sure we saw it all, including the fossils and dinosaurs.
It was now 2:00 PM, and we started off on a Trolley Tour around the city. The driver gave us all the historic tid bits of information about each building and corner. This was an open air Trolley, and it wasn't long before my hair was everywhere, they were calling me "Fluffy". We stopped at the John Hancock building, which is 96 stories, I couldn't wait to get to the top. The view was spectacular. Aboard the Trolley again, Kurt made us guess each plant and tree, as we passed the likes of: Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Michael Jordan's and Walter Payton's. It was really a fun day, we got back to the hotel starving around 6:00 PM.
After dinner it was time to check on the fish and do any water changes that might be required. It was also a good time to hang out in my room in case anyone was interested in looking at what I had brought. There were speakers this evening too, so there was lots going on. I sold a few more bags of fish, and had a chance to visit with other hobbyists that were just looking. Soon the main talks were finished, Heiko and some of the Study Groups were beginning to meet. The hospitality room opened as promised at 10:30 PM.
You could brush shoulders with Wayne S. Leibel, Lee Finley, Juan Miguel Artigas, Rene Kruter, Paul Loiselle or just Dale from Colorado. They all like to drink beer and talk about cichlids as much as I do. In the middle of all this were my PCCA buddies; Sonny, Troy, Kevin, Jim, Gregg and Lisa. We were all having too much fun. It wasn't long before the "Babes" had cleared out the conference table of men, and began to interview the recruits. Caroline, asked the questions, while the rest of us graded the participants. Questions were varied from tips on siphoning tanks to recognizing a spawning ritual. The men, as predicted were beside themselves, and they were screaming out the answers.
It is a well known fact that men measure their manhood by the type of fish they keep, or what their favorite fish might happen to be. Caroline sent the recruits out to take a poll, on what everyone's favorite fish is. We hoped that this would provide us with ammunition to top off the convention tomorrow night. Again before I knew it, it was already 3:30 AM. Although I didn't have to get up early tomorrow, I was beat, so off to bed I went.
The next morning, I had people calling around 10:00 AM to look at fish, so it was time to get up and get going. Around Noon, the Dunk Tank started. This was a big hit, you could dunk your favorite ACA member. All the proceeds went to the Guy D. Jordan Fund, each year the ACA gives the interest made from the fund to applicants requesting grants for Cichlid Research.
Many people were good sports, and took their turn in the tank. I was asked if I wanted to participate, and I said no way. I would do anything, but not the dunk tank. That is how I got cornered into judging the fish show. Boy, did I make a mistake, I could have been in the dunk tank for a mere 30 minutes, instead, my entire afternoon, and evening were shot. Five minutes before the banquet started, we were still judging fish. The classes were enormous, and the fish were exceptional, it was clearly the hardest thing I have ever done.
The Banquet was like all the rest, although this one seemed a bit longer than normal. It was announced that next years convention would be in St. Louis. Start saving your money, it will be a big convention also. Charley Grimes, was the entertainment, he picked on everyone, and had us all in stitches as usual. The coveted "Best of Show" was an exceptional Neolamprologus leleupi owned by none other than Ron Georgeone. This was not a typical walk in the park for Ron, there was some good competition, and many people were taking home those great wood carved trophies. Finally at 11:00 PM we were let loose, with the announcement that the Hospitality room would be downstairs where the Trade Show was held. This was good news, because there is nothing worse than trying to close down the ACA Hospitality room early due to noise. Down there we would be able to party as loud as we wanted.
The room was loud and packed with people, it was obvious that everyone was having a great time. Caroline pulled me aside to fill me in on the plan for tonight involving the "Babes", I couldn't believe it, where does she come up with these ideas? Two male friends (Joe and Eric) from Oregon were dressed "Toga" style, she was going to auction them off as slaves and give the money to the Guy Jordan Fund. As this buzzed around the room, it was realized that we could auction off as many guys as we could get in Toga's. About an hour later, we had 10 or more slaves dressed in Toga's, complete with plants in their hair and bearing palms to fan us. Some of the slaves that would be auctioned off were: Wayne S. Leibel, Lee Finley, Joakim Coveney, Eric Hanneman, Joe Middleton, Pat Tosie and several others.
Caroline proceeded to auction them off one by one. This was too much fun and everyone was bidding on their favorites. I still want to know who Lee Finley's Toga designer was, he looked like Caesar in his maroon linens. For those who are interested Pat Tosie went for under a dollar. It was so successful that the audience pleaded her to auction off the "Babes" and raise even more money for the Guy Jordan Fund. Everyone laughed and shook their heads, they wondered what Guy himself would think. I am sure he would have approved, after all, you must have a good sense of humor if you are going to keep cichlids. We raised around $800.00 for the fund, and we had a great time. It was 4:30 AM before I knew it, I had to go to bed, I was going to have to get up by 8:00 to be able to bag my fish in time for the auction.
I managed to get all my auction fish ready in record time. I took them down to the check in table, when I heard that the auction was going to be outside in a tent. I didn't think too much about it, until I walked inside, it had to be 120 degrees, the generator that ran the temporary air conditioners was broken. I live for the auction and I wasn't going to let the heat ruin it for me. I found my spot, near the back of the room and staked out my territory with my fish box. It was like a group sauna, it definitely eliminated anyone who was not a serious buyer. There were still over 150 + people in the tent when the fish auction started. Word was that a new generator was on the way.
They started with 1/4 of the Guy Jordan fish, this included fish donated from the Florida Fish Farms, Shedd Aquarium and hobbyists. The Shedd announced that the endangered list of Victorian Cichlids has been decreased to only 9 species. Previously the list was 25+, they would be donating some of the Victorians they have been working with that have been dropped from the endangered list. These fish went for a lot of money. Mike Schadle was auctioneer, he is fast, and the prices were all over the place. It took a couple of hours before it settled in to a good rhythm.
The generator arrived, and the air conditioners were started, but it was clear that it was going to take quite a while to cool down the tent. Finally around 3 or 4 PM it became more bearable, and began to keep getting cooler. The humidity was particularly tough on people like us that are not use to it. It was getting cooler out side too, and lots of people were hanging out on the lawn outside the tent.
I didn't know what I wanted to bid on. There were only a few things that I was interested in: Neolamprologus pectoralis, Pseudotropheus demasoni, Dimidochromis strigatus, Pseudotropheus zebra "Red OB". There were lots of Labidochromis caeruleus "Lions Cove Yellow", tons of Apisto's, very few West Africans, and hardly any of the "Feather Fins" from Lake Tanganyika. Malawi fish were definitely dominating the auction.
Who you sit with at the auction is very important. They must be able to multiply so you know how high to bid, they must know what is being auctioned off and how many are in the bag, because I am usually gabbing. They must be able to get your attention across the room, because I can't sit still, I like to go around and visit with everyone as they are leaving. The best guy is Jim Herman, he has helped me out for years, we have sit through many auctions together. I was hoping Jim Ellenberger, who I have been training the last couple of years, would endure this marathon with me, but he was mumbling about how the hotel screwed him and termites at home as he left me!
Roland from Portland helped me too, he was looking for some Angels, and everyone was shocked at the prices they were bringing. A pair of Black Angels, went for $95.00, a bag of 6 black angels, 50 cent size, went for $65.00. Needless to say, we were all wondering where we went wrong. Finally around midnight, he managed to get a pair for $27.00, which I thought was still a good price. Norm was in and out all day, he had no idea what he wanted to buy, but had a great time trying. Finally Eric Hanneman showed up, he had been visiting Chicago friends all day, which didn't add up, since we all know Eric has no friends, except for us! And of course, Lundblad I can always count on him to be close by with his spiral notebook, and Club Snail in tow.
Mike Schadle kept on going, no one really to back up the guy, a few tried, but no one alive can auction as many bags per hour as Mike. Caroline did give him a couple of breaks, but her voice was shot from last night and the Dunk Tank. I had a sandwich about 5:00, which gave me the energy to continue into the night. Prices were a bit lower by 8:00 PM but they were still good in my opinion. About 1:30 AM there were a few deals to be found, there were still 50+ people bidding away. At 2:20 AM it was over, 10 minutes shorter than the 1990 auction.
I waited until everyone else had checked out, before I did. I just didn't want it to end. Caroline and I got all melancholy, the weekend went too fast. When Steve and Roland hauled my fish up to the room it was 3:30 AM. Many of the fish that I had bought were in huge bags, and so I had to re-bag most of it to get it all into my boxes. This took longer than I thought, and by the time I was all packed it was 6:00 AM, I had the Limo scheduled for 8:00 AM. So much for getting any sleep. Jim, you should of stayed, you didn't need a room!
I was beat, and passed out on the plane. Gary picked me up and I couldn't stop talking about what a great time I had. He was happy with the fish I picked, and we had a good time finding tanks for all the new stuff. I had too much fun, and I can't wait until next year. Start saving your money for St. Louis now!
© Copyright 1997 Pam Chin, all rights reserved
Chin, Pam. (November 28, 1997). "ACA 1997 A Recap". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on December 16, 2018, from: https://www.cichlidae.com/article.php?id=70.