IPMS Duneland, 11 October, 2003

by Drew Nix

My day began at 3:30 a.m. when my alarm rang and I rolled out of bed.  At about 3:45 my friend Kevin Krueger picked me up and we headed for Lebanon, IL to meet my other friends and fellow club members: Scott Van Aken, Kevin Powers and his wife Suzanne.  We were headed to Portage, IN, the site of the IMPS Duneland Invitational contest.  After stopping to eat breakfast along the way, we arrived at Willowcreek Elementary School, the contest site, at about 9:30.  Needless to say, parking was more than adequate.  Also, since we had been to this site last year, we had no trouble finding the location.
When we walked in the door the registration tables were right there.  Since I couldn't justify paying $12 to enter the two models I had ready for this event, I paid the "looky Lou" entry price of $3.  More about the entry fee later.  I did have a chance to look over the entry forms and they were very good.  After filling out one's  information, the bottom portion of the form was separated from the top half so that there was no mention of whose model was entered.  The only problem was that if the entrant had several models to enter, he had to write his personal information on each entry over and over again.  There were plenty of pencils available to fill out the entry forms.  This was handy for those who were unable to taken advantage of the fact that the host club had thoughtfully provided a copy of the entry form on their website.  Also on each table set aside for the entrants' use were several copies of the contest categories, which was another plus.
Next were the vendors.  There were plenty of them and they had a wide variety of kits, tools, aftermarket bits, and reference materials from which to choose.  Of the three contests that I've attended so far this Fall, I felt this was the best in terms of vendors.  There was a good mix between individual sellers and hobby stores represented.
The contest area itself was in the school cafeteria, so there was plenty of room   The tables for the contest were raised on PVC pipe risers so that the models were easy to see and were above the reach of the eager little paws of any small children in attendance.  There was plenty of room between the contest tables and that is always a plus.  I also didn't notice any B.O. from any of the attendees, another blessing.  The lighting in the contest area was adequate but could have been better.  As the day warmed up, (it seemed unseasonably warm for the Chicago area in the middle of October) floor fans were brought in to keep the contest area comfortable.  There were plenty of chairs and cafeteria tables with built-in benches available for old, fat guys like me to rest on during the day.  After a quick tour of the contest area to look at the models already entered it was on to the raffle area.
The raffle area was at the rear of the cafeteria.  All of the raffle prizes were on display.  Tickets were $1 each or six for $5.  I bought my usual $20 worth. Raffles were held every hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the day.  Winning ticket numbers were written on a easel board and were easy to read.  Winners claimed their prizes by drawing a separate ticket from a cigar box which was matched to the corresponding ticket half on one of the prizes.  I really like this method of doing things.  At the end of the day, unclaimed raffle prizes were placed into a second-chance raffle until all were given away.  There was also a Super Raffle held right before the contest results were announced, tickets for this raffle being $3 each.  I only won three prizes, but they were all high quality.  I did not see anyone who seemed disappointed with his/her raffle prize.
After the noon raffle numbers were posted, Scott, Kevin K. and I left for lunch.  We really didn't have to do this as the host club had thoughtfully provided a small snack area that offered cold drinks, hot sandwiches, and some desserts at a reasonable price.  However, part of the enjoyment of going to these contests for me is the dining out aspect so off we went in search of sustenance.  Since this was Kevin's old stomping grounds, he guided us to the nearest local eating establishments.  There were several good ones within two miles or so of the venue.
When we returned judging was well under way, and it went by relatively quickly.  At least twice that morning I heard the members of the host club appealing over the excellent PA system for out-of-town judges, so I know there was no "home cooking" involved in the judging.  The awards ceremony started at about 3:30.  Since the name of every winner in each category was announced and then there was a wait while the winner made his/her way up to the accept their prize, the awards ceremony seemed interminable.  Although I did my best Mr. Spock raised eyebrow impression at some of the winners, I realize that all judging is very subjective.  Since I had "no dog in this fight", I feel that my observations were not clouded by the fact that I didn't win any awards.  Every other member of our little group won at least one award.  The fact that was a "no sweeps" rule in effect was, in my opinion, a real plus.  More people leave happy and are more likely to return for the next contest. Finally at about 4:30 the awards ceremony was over and we left.  Stopping for supper along the way back, I arrived back home a little after 10 p.m.  And as diarist Samuel Pepys said, "...and so off to bed."
Final report:
EXCELLENT: Venue, friendliness of host club, vendors, raffle methodology, raffle prizes, ability to get something to eat and drink on site, parking, availability of entry forms online, asking for non-host club contest judges, places to rest, temperature of venue, easy access to off-site eating establishments, quality awards, presentation of models in contest area
NEEDS IMPROVEMENT:  Entry forms (although better than most, still not perfect), length of awards ceremony, venue lighting
BAD:  Entry fee-$12 is just too much for an Invitational contest.  It is more in line with a Regional contest.  I've been contest modeling for 25 years and this is the first contest that I ever attended that I did not enter the competition.  For reference $10 is about my upper limit.