IPMS/USA Nationals, Kansas City 2006
by Scott Van Aken
This year's IPMS/USA Nationals event was held in downtown Kansas City, Missouri at the Crown Center. The facility is quite large and nearby parking (as in just a hundred feet or so) made it very convenient. I had pre-registered so all of my 'stuff' was ready when I arrived mid-day on Thursday. The packet consisted of a name tag on a lanyard, a slew of advertisement sheets, and a decal sheet with a pair of B-2s and an A-10 from the nearby Whiteman AFB. No booklet as at most previous events. I guess Oklahoma City started the 'lets be cheap and not do a booklet' deal as I don't think any event since has done a booklet. While not a big loss to me, I do know others miss it. What was missing from my packet was a schedule of events. Most odd, though there were several posted around the site.
I did not stay in the hotel as I couldn't afford the over $100 a night to stay there. Yes, the club got a special deal for $89 a night, but you need to add $15 - 20 a night in taxes and other fees. I stayed at a much less expensive motel several miles outside the city and got all my nights for less than the cost of one night in the main hotel. The drive into KC wasn't much of a problem. The downtown area is really torn up due to construction and roads were seemingly closed at random, but when I found the place the first time, getting there other times was a snap. Though this was the closest Nationals I've yet attended, I spent about $75 on gasoline for the short run from St. Louis to KC and back. I can see where the cost of petrol will cut back on show attendees in the future if they are as poor as I!
Once registered (and the club was most insistent on having the waiver signed), I moseyed into the contest/vendors room. This was one huge room divided off with the contest models nearest the entrance and vendors in the other sections of a large room. The usual concrete floor with tables at normal height. Only the figure table was raised up higher. Having lower tables was a real boon to those in wheel chairs and I saw several modelers using these. The categories were somewhat scattered about. Though they tried to keep the same basic section on the same tables, the categories were not all in logical numerical sequence. I found my category, plunked down my model and started taking pictures!
When I had to chance to mosey over to the vendor's area, I saw many old friends and spent just about the entire time I was there on my feet, alternating between vendors and the show tables. Many great deals were to be had and I heard that the opening day on Wednesday was the day to be there as all vendors said that was their best sales day. Apparently all the really rare/neat items were scarfed up then. I've been around long enough not to get too excited about 'deals' and though I had much less to spend this year, I did manage to get a few things I was looking for at a most reasonable price. Saturday was the best day for bargain hunters, with many vendors cutting prices by half in order to get rid of inventory. Managed to find a few kits that will come in handy in the future during this time.
The center also has several restaurants in nearby hotels that were much more reasonable than the one in which the Convention was held. Though the walk was long, it was very much worth it. There were also plenty of places to relax in the hotel proper if one needed to. Rest room facilities were also very nice, though a bit toxic as the day progressed!
A very nice raffle was held with tickets at about a buck each. Drawings were held 3-4 times a day and it seems everyone managed to get something of interest. The numbers were matched to an item so there was no mad rush to grab something and numbers were valid until a last-chance drawing was held late Saturday afternoon with those items not claimed.
I guess the judging was not fraught with the database problems of Atlanta and seemed to go quickly, according to those to whom I talked later on. The staff was actually moving models around as early as Thursday, when it became apparent that categories were destined to be split. I'm sure this was one reason why judging went smoothly. I did see a few models on Saturday AM that had come to grief due to handling, and I guess this happens. There were no awards presented until later on Saturday night after the banquet.
During the day on Saturday, judges were available to answer questions on one's model, a really great idea. I took mine up and after the first six glitches I figured there was no way I'd have placed in my category of 16 entries! I boxed my model away and left around noon. Later I found out that at least 20 awards were not presented to other modelers who had also removed their models from the display room before the awards ceremony. I can understand the wish to have full tables all through Saturday, but frankly, some people can't stay until late on Saturday just to take home a trophy. I was told that none would be mailed and thought that was a shame as if someone had spent $35 to enter the contest, the option to at least reimburse the club for s&h should be made available if they couldn't stay. I'm sure I'll hear more about this via e-mails!
Since I wasn't staying in the hotel, I had to pay for parking. This was about $10 a day. On the last day, I found out that the club was offering parking passes. I don't recall anything about this on the club's web site that I can recall, nor was it mentioned to me by any of the organizers when I registered. I found out from another entrant on the last day. It was not announced over the PA system at all while I was in attendance, though there were interminable calls for basically the same people all the time. I think the organizers stepped on it for this one.
Overall, I have to give the organizing clubs high marks for the overall event. Things went very smoothly, it was a superb venue and seeing around 2400 models on the table was really neat. Nice thing about Nationals is that the level is quite high and one gets to see some very interesting stuff. I was amazed at the huge number of Tamiya 1/48 P-47s, well surpassing any other kit there, even the often ubiquitous Bf-109s (though there were quite a few 1/32 versions).
Though I won't be able to make the next two as they are just too far away, I hope the one in 2009 is close enough to make the trip.