After an uneventful 21 hour straight drive from Florida to Michigan, it was 7am, I found myself standing at the doors to the hotel. The glass parted, I entered, my eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the light, no doubt I was road weary. I scanned the room, a familiar figure came into view, sitting in one of the oversized lobby chairs. White Semper fi hair cut, a chisled face, and a cup of coffee confirmed a friend I made at the 2012 convention was already here. Gerard, greeted me with an early morning energy that escapes most people, the next thing I knew I had been standing there for 15 minutes, somehow the road trip no longer had it’s full weight on my back.
My initial thought was to sleep through Thursday and get a great early morning start on Friday. By 11am I had tossed and turned for 4 hours and I knew sleep would evade me like it does a child the night before going to Disneyland. I also made sure to wake my roommate because there is no sense in letting someone else sleep, oh… um…, I mean miss out on the fun. So Tom and I made our way back to the lobby only to find a hoard of seasoned fish keeps had taken over the place. It seems we showed up just in time to join in on the fish shop tour.
On the tour I got to see what “a real pet shop” looks like, I say this because what they call mom and pop in Michigan is two to three times the size of a mom and pop store in Florida. While on the tour some interesting things happened, like the behind the scenes tour of one store that has a QT facility and it’s own breeding program. Apparently Tom thought there was a tropical fish shortage on the way because he was buying up everything in sight. I even heard one of the Michigan guys say “keep Tom busy so I can buy these fish before he sees them”. Those are my kind of people, friendship is one thing, but when it comes to fish all bets are off. The tour ended with “a tour of Scott’s fish room”, and the term room is an understatement. Scott’s fish live in a nicer house than many people would have. Oh, and he also just happens to breed just about everything that has fins. I know the next time I need to find a species the first person I plan to call is Scott.
So lets move on to Friday, with a good nights sleep and the whole day in front of me, I decided to get my fish in the show early. Then I spent a good portion of the morning taking pictures of the other show entries. One thing I didn’t plan on was a show with about 175 entries, my camera called it quits after category #11 out of 19 so I only got pictures of maybe half of the fish. This show was outstanding by any standard in that it had size, variety, and quality. I saw some wild fish that were by far the best examples you could ever see, domestics with amazing size and perfectly proportioned, even the up and coming entries looked to be contenders for next years show.
With the fish show in the rear view mirror Saturday was a mix and mingle marathon. I heard some great presentations from the line-up of speakers. I had the chance to speak with Mike Hellweg and get some great information in response to a few questions I asked. Later in the day I found myself in the company of the ALA president Ron Davis, past president Rit Forcier, and the legendary Rich Serva. Can you believe they let all these guys into the same room at the same time? I’m not sure how I made it past security, but I got in there and took in as much information as I could hear. Later in the evening, during the banquet, I was lucky enough to hear my name called as one of the raffle winners and Rit presented me with a very nice bottle of wine, he did seem to have a very tight grip on it though.
At this point I figured there was no way the convention could get any better. Little did I know there would be a couple of surprises just a few minutes later. They were calling out the winners of the fish show and that’s when they called my name. I was clapping and looking around the room to see who stood up when someone at my table said “Joe, that’s you”, shocked I stood up and made my way to the front of the room to receive my honors. Shortly after sitting down, I heard my name called again, this time I recognized it, and I was lucky enough to claim another accolade. What an amazing honor, my second convention, and my first time ever showing some of my fish, other people noticed them and thought they were special.
Now we move to Sunday, the big auction day, now the gloves come off and friendships get put aside. I had my list of “must have” species and I wasn’t about to let anyone take them away. They would be mine, all mine, you can’t have them because they are mine. Well, I guess someone had got a copy of my list because all those fish that were “mine, all mine” were being bought by not me. So I decided if I was going to hang with the big dogs, I better buck up and learn how to bark. Soon I was checking off the list and claiming fish that I thought I might never get a chance to even see, never mind own. So the top 3 on my list were all on the ALA priority list and now I’ll be working tirelessly to get these fish acclimated, feeding, and hopefully reproducing, so that next year I can do my part and have them available for the next wide eyed newbie that shows up in a world of wonder.
Posted on: 4/30 12:09