I have to say that this part of the country is generally blessed with great model contests. There is only one place that was so poorly done that I'll not return.
Probably the biggest in this area is the one held each year in Indianapolis. Though the venue varies from time to time, this year's event was held back at a middle school they'd used several years ago, and a place I'd always liked.
As a preamble, I should mention that all the forms were available on their website or from various previous events. The categories were numerous and when bulging with entries, were split. No sweeps were allowed, for which they are to be applauded. Cost was $5 to get in and $1 a model, a quite reasonable fee that encourages participation. Registration was quick as I'd already filled in my forms prior to arriving. This club requires the participant's name to be included in the form that accompanies the model to the display table. One folds under the tab. As an on-going crusade, I believe that no personal information should accompany an entry in any manner where a judge could spy it. Many clubs have a very workable procedure where all personal info stays with the organizers and it doesn't seem to slow them down. I encourage Indianapolis to adopt these methods.
This year, the club had two huge rooms. One was solely for vendors and was the sort of set-up one often sees at a Regional. There were a huge number of vendors selling a staggering variety of wares from the expensive to the very cheap. Were I a modeler on a budget and seeking a lot of cheap kits, I'd scarf up on all the bargains provided. Likewise, were I seeking something esoteric, it could probably be found there. I had a specific number of purchases planned and was able to fulfill nearly all those on my list.
The display room was nearly as large as the vendor's room. The tables were on extensions so that they were away from small fingers. There was a great deal of room between tables so it was easy to get around. In between several aisles, the club had tables solely for entrants to place their carrying boxes so they could unload their models; the first time I've seen this done and a superb idea. I did have some trouble finding categories as they were not set in numerical order, probably as a result of planning for categories being larger than others.
Refreshments were provided, but not allowed in either vendor or display room. These were sold by the school and a mite pricey. An 8 oz cup full of ice with some soda in it was $1.50. Basketball game food was also sold. I had difficulty finding a place to sit down as the day wore on (as much due to the crowds as any), so spent the entire day there on my feet.
For lunch, there were many restaurants nearby so when the judging started at 1:30 (and the club did put out a call for volunteers to judge), I was able to finally sit down for a nice lunch.
Judging was over at around 4-4:30 with the second, third, and 'honorable mention' awards placed with the models. Only the first place and 'best of' awards were announced, making for a pleasantly quick awards ceremony. The awards themselves are nicely done plaques, a big improvement over the plastic slabs they used to provide.
I'm not sure how many models were on the tables, but I'd have to say between 500 and 600, though I'm sure I'll get a more accurate tally once this article is read! It was pleasing to see all the junior entries and I loved all the incredible automotive entries. I was equally delighted to see a raft of racing planes in the mix as well.
We were back on the road by 5 PM Indy time and arrived home tired, but pleased with the event as every one in our club took an award of some sort.
Overall, this has to be one of the best events of the year. It is relatively close, offers great competition, and an excellent vendor selection. If you are within 300 miles of the place, I encourage you to visit next year.
Scott Van Aken