History of the ALA Conventions (1974 - 2016)

History of the ALA Conventions (1974 - 2016)

The History of the ALA Conventions
2015 marked the 25th Convention that the ALA has held independently on its own. To commemorate this occasion I have volunteered to compile a list of each of the host cities and clubs, plus a list of the Speakers and their Topics for each Convention. I do not consider myself a historian by any means; however I have been fortunate enough to attend every Convention since 1984 with the exception of 2008 & 2012 where family matters prevailed. While this may appear to be an arduous task, and at some times it seemed that way, it was also a very nice trip down Memory Lane bringing back many personal memories. Some of these are included as anecdotes of additional information.

The Early Years: 1974-1978

The ALA was formed in 1971 by Dr. Joanne Norton. I was not a member of the ALA back in the 70’s. Fellow Jim Langhammer provides this information:

1974 – There was a “Pre-Convention” in Birmingham, MI hosted by the Greater Detroit Aquarium Society (GDAS). Dr. Joanne Norton spoke on Fancy Livebearers and her plans for ALA’s future.
1976 – The First Annual Convention again hosted by GDAS was held in Romulus, MI. Dr. Joanne Norton was the Banquet Speaker. At that time the GDAS events included a “Natural History Workshop & Symposium” and the topics included: “Goodeids”, “Fancy Livebearers”, “Artificial Insemination”, “B.A.P.”, along with Reptiles & Amphibians”, “Caves & Cave Life”, “Orchids”, “Volcanoes”, and “Small Parrot Like Birds”.

1977 – Second Annual - Des Moines, IA – Greater Iowa Aq. Soc. ALA and IBC hosted. Livebearer Speakers: Ross Socolof - “Hybridization of Livebearers”, Dr. Joanne Norton - “Breeding Livebearers and Improving Strains” (Banquet).

1978 – Third Annual - Oak Brook, IL – Edgewood Valley Aq. Soc, hosted ALA. Livebearer Speakers: Dr. Joanne Norton - “Judging Livebearers”, James K Langhammer – “An Introduction to the Family Goodeidae”, Dr. James W Atz – “Viviparity”, Dr. James W Atz – “Cancer Studies in Platies and Swordtails”, Tom Allen – “Guppies”, Dr. Joanne Norton – “The Unbalanced Aquarist” (Banquet).

1979-1983 – No Records of any ALA Conventions
Revival & Annual Tradition Established: 1984-2005

In 1984, I suggested that the ALA revive its annual Convention, by starting small and having it in conjunction with a local aquarium society's all species Show, and we did just that. The first on in this format was with the Southwestern Michigan Aquarium Society (SWMAS), held at the West Main Mall in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Yes I was convention liaison between SWMAS & ALA. Livebearer Speakers: Stan Shubel – “Fancy Guppies”, James K Langhammer – “What is a Livebearer?”.

1985 – SWMAS hosted again. Derek Lambert made his first appearance in 1985, as he was coming back from a collecting trip and just dropped in. This was a huge surprise to all of us. He ended up hitching a ride back to Detroit with Jim Langhammer. Livebearer Speaker: Vern Parish – “Livebearers I Have Known”.

1986 was a huge event, again hosted by SWMAS, which included FAAS, Aquatic Gardeners Association, North American Fish Breeder's Guild, all being in attendance; in addition we had Show Sanctioning by the International Betta Congress, American Killifish Association, American Cichlid Association, and perhaps others. Dr. Joanne Norton unveiled her new & improved humorous "The Unbalanced Aquarist" talk at the Banquet; which had everyone in stitches, rolling on the floor laughing. Dr. Norton was also installed as the First “Fellow of the ALA” in 1986. Livebearer Speakers: Derek Lambert – “A Day in the Life of a
British Hobbyist”, Dr. Joanne Norton – Domesticated Swords and Mollies”, Dr. Joanne Norton - "The Unbalanced Aquarist".

1987 was hosted by the Medina County Aquarist Society at the Fairgrounds in Medina, Ohio where Ivan Dibble attended the ALA Convention for the first time and celebrated his 50th birthday with a dinner on Friday night. Vern Parish installed as the second “Fellow of the ALA” in 1987. Livebearer Speakers: Pat Hartman – “Goodeids”, Dr. Joanne Norton – “Domestic Swords and Mollies”.

1988 was hosted by the Federation of Texas Aquarium Society (FOTAS) in College Station, Texas; where the majority of the 17-19 Midwesterners arrived by air flights, and one Canadian lady that booked her flight to the other airport in Houston. Derek Lambert also arrived on his way home from another collecting trip in Mexico. James K Langhammer was installed as the third “Fellow of the ALA” in 1988. Livebearer Speakers: James K Langhammer – “What is a Livebearer?”, Dr. Joanne Norton – “Limias and Mollies”, Jaap-Jan de Greef – “Fish Collecting in Guatemala”.

1989 was hosted by the Starke County group (SCALES) in Canton, Ohio. I believe this would be the year I fell off the stage while auctioneering! Livebearer Speakers: James K Langhammer – “What is a Livebearer?”, Rich Serva & Gina Tash – “Guppies Are More Than Feeder Fish”.
1990 was hosted by the Greater Akron Aquarists Society (GAAS) at the Fairgrounds in Tallmadge, Ohio. This was Pat Lambert’s first ALA Convention and she graciously wrote an article in LIVEBEARERS 112. Livebearer Speakers: Dr. James Johnson – “Endangered Livebearers in the United States”, Tom & Pat Bridges – “Anableps”, Charley Grimes – “Live Foods”.

1991 - To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the ALA, the ALA held its first modern day stand-alone Convention in Kent, OH with plenty of help from the Akron folks. 1991 - Kent, OH - 20th Anniversary of the ALA (GAAS. Speakers: Mike & Diane Schadle – “Livebearer Trivia”, Mike Tzonkowski – “Aquatic Plants”, Derek Lambert – “Collecting Goodeids in Mexico”, Dr. Joanne Norton – “Domestic Livebearers”, Dr. Klaus Kallman – “Wild Swords/Platies and their Habitats”, Dr. Joanne Norton – “The Unbalanced Aquarist” (Banquet).

1992 - Southfield, MI (GDAS). Speakers: Mike Schadle – “Livebearer Trivia Contest”, Tom Allen–“A Guppy Kaleidoscope”, Derek Lambert – “Recent Trip to Mexico”, “Fancy Livebearer Roundtable”, James K Langhammer – “Species Maintenance – Goodeid Roundtable”, Chuck Lydeard – “Biogeography of the Caribbean Basin, a Livebearers Perspective”, Charley Grimes - Banquet.

1993 - Pittsburgh, PA (Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society Inc.). ALA Show Sanctioning Introduced. Speakers: Alan Brelig – “Ponds”, John Mangan and Dominic Isla – “Two Amigo’s Collecting in Mexico”, Mike Tzonkowski – “Aquatic Plants”, Dr. Klaus Kallman – “The History of Xiphophorus”, Frank Ortega – “Fancy Guppies”, Dr. Arcadio Valdez Gonzalez – “Endangered Species
in Mexico - Livebearers & Killifish”.

1994 - Grand Rapids, MI (Southwestern Michigan Aquarium Society - SWMAS). Speakers: James K Langhammer – “What is a Livebearer?”, Dorothy Reimer – “Aquarium Plants”, Pat Lambert – “The Livebearer Trail”, Jim Robinson – “Judging”, Derek Lambert – “Practical Livebearer Breeding”, Mike Schadle – “Livebearer Trivia” (Banquet).

1995 – Independence, OH (I believe this is the year the concept of the Fish Ark began with a late night conversation between Ivan Dibble and Dr. Arcadio Valdez Gonzalez over a bottle of Scotch!). Speakers: Ed Taylor – “Florida Ornamental Livebearers”, Mike Brittsan “Filtration Systems and Plants”, Doug Sweet – “Species Maintenance Programs”, Dr. David Schleser - “Fish Diseases”, Dr. Arcadio Valdez Gonzalez – “Endangered Mexican Livebearers”, Dr. David Schleser – “Peruvian Amazon”.

1996 - Farmington Hills, MI (GDAS). Dedicated in Memory of Vernon L Parish (1917-1996) - Fellow of the ALA. Speakers: Stan Shubel – “Fancy Guppies”, Bob Swanson – “Fancy Swordtails/Platies”, Jeff Cardwell – “Traveling the Amazon”, Dr. James K Langhammer “Species Maintenance Program Discussion”, Dr. Clark Hubbs – “Gambusias of the American Southwest”, Charley Grimes - Banquet.

1997 - Erie, PA (Erie Aquarium Society - EAS). Speakers: Harro Hieronimus – “Goodeids”, Jim Robinson – “Halfbeaks”, Harro Hieronimus – “Collecting in Honduras”, Mike Schadle – “Poecilieds”, Dorothy Reimer – “Aquarium Plants”, Paul Speice – “The Meaning of Livebearer Names” (Banquet).

1998 – Akron, OH (GAAS). Speakers: Rich Serva & Derek Lambert – “The First Time Collector in Mexico”, Mark Denaro – Plant Program, Dr. Shane Webb – “Systematics of Fish”, Dr. Shane Webb – “Systematics of Goodeids”, Derek Lambert –  “Uncommon/Rare Livebearers”, Rusty Wessel - “Collecting in Central America” (Banquet).

1999 – Middleberg Heights, OH. (Gil Rosenthal’s talk included a segment about stitching plastic tails with swords on the males to enhance attraction; Jim Craig had the idea of the male hobbyist to have highly colorful cardboard swordtails attached to our backsides to court the ladies!). Mini Talks: Tom Neal – “Breeding Fish”, Bob Cashin – “ALA Breeder’s Award Program”, Dave
Williamson - “The Aquarium Industry”, Dwight Moody - “The Nature Fish Conservancy”. Speakers: Chuck Bialon “Fancy Guppies”, Dr. Juan Miguel Artigas Azas “Livebearers of Mexico”, James K Langhammer – “What is a Livebearer?”, Gil Rosenthal - “The Behavioral Ecology of Visual Signaling in the Rio Panuco Basin Swordtails” (Note: Gil Rosenthal was the Third Vern
Parish Award Recipient in 1999), Mike Schadle – “Livebearer Trivia” (Banquet)

2000 - Warren, MI (GDAS). Mini Talks: Chris Newell – “Live Plants", Carl Krajniak – “Anableps 1”, Bob Cashin – “Anableps 2”. Speakers: Joe Shuryan – “High Tech Fish Room”, Doug Sweet – “Fish Nutrition”, Pat Lambert – “The Hobby in the UK”, Dr. David Schleser - “Fish Diseases”, Charley Grimes - Banquet.

2001 - Kalamazoo, MI (SWMAS). Mini Talks: Mike Schadle – “Livebearer Literature”, Ken McGill - “Live Foods for Livebearers”, Dave Williamson – “Livebearers in the Commercial Trade”, Pat Hartman – “Practical Livebearer Hobbyist”. Speakers: Chuck Bialon – “Guppies”, Dan Fromm – “Brachyrhaphis”, Bud White – “Photography”, Armando Pou – “Collecting in
Florida”, Charley Grimes - Banquet.

2002 - Canton Ohio. Mini Talks: Rich Serva – “XGSC Fish & Convention Intro”, Stan Domanowski – “Experiences with  Goodeids”, Chuck Bialon – “Fancy Guppies”, Dave Williamson – “Native American Livebearers”. Speakers: James K Langhammer – “What is a Livebearer?”, Dr. Shane Webb – “The Phylogenetic Systematics of the Goodeidae”, Dr. Shane Webb – “Diario Goodeido: Field Work in Central Mexico” (Note: Shane Webb was the First Vern Parish Award Recipient in 1997), Derek Lambert – “Collecting in Belize”, Ivan Dibble – “The Fish Ark Project” (Banquet).

2003 - Canton Ohio. Speakers: Dr. John Lyons – “Natural Habitat & Conservation Status of Goodeids”, Dr. Steve Kazianis – “Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center (XGSC)”, Rit Forcier – “The Hobby in Scotland”, Rhonda Wilson – “Natural Aquarium Set-Ups”, Mark Binkley – “Collecting Trip to Haiti”.

2004 - Kalamazoo, MI (SWMAS). In Remembrance of Derek Lambert. Rich Serva installed as the fourth “Fellow of the ALA” in 2004. Speakers: Dr. Molly Morris – “Female Mating Behaviors”, David MacAllister – “Xiphophorus Species”, Ivan Dibble – “Fish Ark Update”, David MacAllister – “Collecting Swordtails”, Dr. Shane Webb – “Diversification of Goodeids” , Charley Grimes -

2005 - Indianapolis, IN (Circle City Aquarium Club – CCAC). Mike Schadle installed as the fifth “Fellow of the ALA” in 2005. Speakers: Darrell Ullisch – “The Genetics of Domestic Swordtails”, Omar Dominguez Dominguez – “Fish Ark – An Update on the Projects”, Joe Fleckenstein – “Live Foods”, Rusty Wessel – “Collecting Livebearers”, Dr. Alexander Cruz – “Limias”, James
K Langhammer – “What is a Livebearer?”, Charley Grimes - Banquet.
Editor note: This was my first ALA, with a plane trip to celebrate my 40th birthday, and where I got to meet our legendary author and lots of other nice knowledgeable folks who are friends to this day.—Ted

Modern Era: 2006-present

2006 - East Hanover, New Jersey (NorthEast Livebearer Assoc. , NELA). Dedicated in Memory of Dr. Joanne Norton (1926-2005), Founder and Fellow of the ALA. Bob Cashin and Pat Hartman installed as the 6th & 7th “Fellows of the ALA” in 2006 (see photo accompanying this article). Friday Tour of New York City. Speakers: Dr. Ted Coletti (Convention Chair) - “Planted Aquariums & Water Gardens for Livebearers”, James K Langhammer – “What is a Livebearer?”, Rich Serva - “Xiphophorus: The Sword Carrier’s Tale”, Kees de Jong - “Collecting Livebearers”, Bob Larsen - “Guppies Then & Now”, Dr. Bruce Turner - "Livebearers as Exciting Systems for Evolutionary Analysis” (Banquet).

Editor note: NELA was founded by myself and Rit Forcier with the sole purpose of hosting an ALA Convention in the Northeast. It also established Hosting Guidelines for the first time, with incentives for the host club, and established pre-Convention  tours/trips. To my and Rit’s pleasant surprise, NELA is still active, meeting annually at the NEC Convention in New England—Ted

2007 - Cleveland, OH (GAAS). Richard C Griffiths installed as the eighth “Fellow of the ALA” in 2007. Speakers: Bill Allen – “Fancy Xiphs”, Dr. Felix Breden “Endler’s Livebearer or Cumana Guppy”, Rit Forcier – “3 Weeks South of the Border”, Mike Hellweg – “Adventures in Breeding Livebearers”, Dr. Arcadio Valdez Gonzales – “Guppies; What are they Good For?”, Dr. Gil
Rosenthal – “Natural Hybridization & Mate Choice in Xiphophorus of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Oriental”.
2008 – San Antonio, Texas. Speakers, Tours, & Trips. Charles Clapsaddle – “Talk & Tour of Goliad Farms Hatchery”, Collecting Trip to Coleto Creek, Nick Bertrand – “Talk during trip to XGSC”, Tour of XCSC – Leona Hazlewood, Stock Center Manager, Collecting Trip to San Marcos River. Livebearer Researchers Panel: Dr. David Schleser - “Fish Diseases”, Ivan Dibble –
“HALCAP Fish Ark Update”, John Boylan – “Livebearers of Panama”. Leona Hazlewood– “Fancy Livebearers” & Artificial Insemination Workshop, Mike Schadle - Banquet.

2009 - Indianapolis, IN (CCAC). Speakers: Joe and Paige Fleckenstein – “Married to the Hobby”, Pat Hartman – “Wild  Livebearers I Have Known”, Rich Serva – “The CICHAZ biological field station, my working vacation”, Dr. Michael Tobler – “Field Work in Central America” (Note: Michael Tobler was the Tenth Vern Parish Award Recipient in 2006), Dr. Molly Morris – “Advances in Sexual Selection: Lessons from Swordtail Fishes”, Mike Hellweg – “Halfbeaks”. Rusty Wessel – “Livebearers of Central America from Mexico to Panama”, Phil Nixon – “Aquatic Insects and Their Relatives, Mile Hellweg – “Starting out with Seahorses and Pipefish” , Dr. Michael Tobler – “Poecilieds Living in Extreme Environments”, Phil Nixon – “Native Livebearers - Collection & Care”, Mike Schadle – “Fellows of the Hobby” (Banquet).

2010 - Southfield, MI (GDAS). In Remembrance of Ivan Dibble. Speakers: James K Langhammer – “What is a Livebearer?”, Stan Shubel – “Fancy Guppies”, John Mangan – “Collecting in Mexico”, Greg Sage – “Automatic Water Changer”, Armando Pou – “Micro-Poecilieds”, Doug Sweet – “Fish Nutrition”, Dan Lorbeske – “Freshwater Stingrays” (for Erica Clayton), Joe
Fleckenstein – “Backyard Ponds” (Banquet).

2011 - Cleveland, OH (GAAS). Speakers: Dr. Stephan Tanner – “The European Hobby”, Dr. Shala Hankison – “Evolution in the Mexican Sailfin Mollies”, Dr. Michael Tobler – “Livebearers of Mexico – Habitats and Scientific Findings”, Bill Kohler – “Limias”, Dr. John Lyons – “Will Goodeids Survive the Century?”, Dr. Juan Miguel Artigas Azas – Goodeids and Their Habitats”, Dr.
David Reznick – “Guppy Evolution“(Banquet).

2012 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL (Gold Coast Aquarium Society - GCAS). Tours of Florida Aquatic Nursery, Neighborhood Fish Farm, & Summerland Fish Farm, Collecting Field Trip to Everglades with Lead Guide Naturalist Armando Pou. Speakers: Chuck Davis – “Collecting in Florida”, Rit Forcier – “Goodeids I Have Known”, Dr. Rebeca Rueda – “Water Quality”, Dr. Rebeca Rueda – “Mexico”, Charles Clapsaddle – “Breeding Show Quality Fish”, Dr. Roy Levine – “Hybrids and Fancy Swordtails” , Dr. Roy Levine - Artificial Insemination Workshop, Dr. Edward Noga – “Fish Diseases”.

2013 - Grand Rapids, MI (Grand Valley Aquarium Club – GVAC). Inaugural Meeting of the North American Goodeid Working Group (NAGWG. Speakers: Michael Koeck – “Goodeid Working Group”, Dr. John Lyons – “Status of Mexican Goodeids in the Wild”, GVAC – “Game Show” Host Ken Zeedyk, “Judges” Pat Hartman & Scott Tetzlaff, Mike Hellweg – “Halfbeaks”, Michael Koeck – “Goodeids”, Ron Kelly – “Breeding Show Guppies”, Pablo Weaver – “West Indian Poecilieds” (Note: Pablo Weaver was the Third Vern Parish Award Recipient in 2003), Rich Eberly – “Live Foods Workshop”, Dr. Stephan Tanner “Feeding & Breeding Ancistrus” (Banquet) (for Karen Randall “Planted Aquariums” who had to cancel for a family situation).

2014 - St Louis, MO (Missouri Aquarium Society Inc. - MASI) . Dedicated in Memory of Robert P. Cashin (1942-2014) - Fellow of the ALA. Speakers: Dr. John Lyons – “North American Goodeid Working Group” (NAGWG), Dr. Bourne – “What Poecilia parae and P. picta are teaching us about color, sex and personality.", Rick Borstein – “Livebearer Reproduction Strategies”, Rick
Borstein – “Automating Water Changes in your Fish Room”, Mike Hellweg - "Livebearing in Miniature", Gary Lange - “Digital Fish Photography – How to Photograph Your Fish For Fun and Profit”, Jennifer Reynolds – “Freshwater Stingrays in the Wild and in the Aquarium”, Dr. Juan Miguel Artigas Azas – “Characodons”, Charles Clapsaddle – “Hatchery Operations/ Breeding
Techniques” (Banquet).

2015—Lancaster, PA (Aquarium Club of Lancaster County). Speakers: Dr. Kyle Piller – “Opportunities for Goodied Hobbyists to Collaborate in Scientific and Conservation Research”, Dr. John Lyons – “ESU’s: Unique Goodeid Populations Worthy of Protection”, Dr. Fred Poeser – “Amsterdam International Community School Project: to Breed and Study some Endangered Species” , Richard “Rit” Forcier – "Collecting Livebearers in Florida”, Joel Antkowiak – "Maintaining Endangered Livebearers in the Aquarium”, Dr. Ted Coletti – "Xiphophorus montezumae – 3 Centuries of Strains & Screw-ups”, Dr. Kyle Piller – “Reviving Viviparous Fish Diversity in the 21st Century”, Dr. John Lyons – “30 Years of Adventure Collecting Wild Livebearers in Mexico”, Bill Gill – “Designer Nano Guppies – Renaissance or Revolution?”, Dr. Fred Poeser – “The Genus Poecilia, who they are and where they come from”, Karl Trochu – “Year Long Outdoor Fishroom & Cultivated Strains of Xiphophorus”, Dr. Ted Coletti –
“A New Look at ‘Livebearers’” (banquet).

2016—South Bend, IN (Michiana Aquarium Society). Speakers: Dr. John Lyons - “North American Goodeid Working Group” (NAGWG) Update, Dr. John Lyons – “The Livebearers of Teuchitlan Springs", Chris Neal – “Conservation and Preservation Efforts”, Matt Bielski – “LED Lighting in the Fish Room”, Ben Slocum – “The ALA BAP Experience”, Rick Borstein – “Goodeids in Mexico and The Goodeid Working Group Conferences”, Rick Borstein – “Sixty Tips in Sixty Minutes”, Jeremy Phillips – “Guppy Genetics”, Mike Hellweg – “Oddball Livebearers”, Les Wilson – “Fish Food Nutrition”, Pat Hartman – “A Rookie Goes to Mexico” (Banquet).

Our 2017 Convention will be hosted by the Missouri Aquarium Society and the Gateway Guppy Asociation. See back cover for details.

Well there it is. As with any historical summary, the information therein is as accurate and complete as the historical information available to me. In conclusion, I encourage everyone to attend the 2017 ALA Convention May 5-7 in St Louis, MO hosted by the Missouri Area Aquarium Society, Inc.

Research Assistants:

Jim Langhammer (Historian and Editor), Mike Schadle (ALA Archives), Mike Mathews (Indianapolis), Charles Clapsaddle (Texas), Ron Davis (Florida), Scott Tetzlaff, and John Mangan.