It is my pleasure to report that the 2010 Reef-A-Palooza (RAP), hosted by the Southern California Marine Aquarium Society (SCMAS), exceeded expectations and was, in fact, one for the books.
Only recently has Reef-A-Palooza gone from a single- to a two-day event. As a two-day show, RAP had yet to crack the 3,000 mark in attendance but that all changed October 23 and 24, 2010.
Held at the “hangar” building at the Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa, California, RAP 2010 smashed its own attendance record with an all-time high of 3,250 coral-and-fish-crazy men, women and children flooding through the part in the 30-plus-foot tall hanger doors, with an eye-catching, wind-flapping clownfish banner draped above, seemingly waving all comers in to Reef-A-Palooza.
“I never once thought it was possible for Reef-A-Palooza to go from a backyard frag swap, seven years ago, to the largest marine aquarium event in the country,” said SCMAS President Greg Carroll.
Having attended more than a dozen aquarium shows in the past five years myself, this was the first show I’ve been to where every comment I personally heard, from visitors, vendors, speakers and volunteers alike, was positive. There always seems to be a few naysayers at aquarium shows, but I didn’t once cross paths with any at RAP 2010. Volunteers, visitors, speakers and vendors raved about the turnout. Many of the Saturday talks were standing room only. One regular aquarium-show-circuit speaker marveled at the attendance at his talk and said he’d come back to RAP every year if invited.
New this year was a couple of impromptu fragging workshops conducted by SCMAS volunteer Greg Fryling. Fryling’s fragging workshops held dozens of hobbyists of all ages in rapt attention, with the occasional mass chuckle, because of Fryling’s tankside humor, emanating from the throng. He brought all of the fragging accoutrements, including a band saw used to cut corals into smaller and smaller, but still saleable, pieces, or frags. The consensus among SCMAS members is that Fryling will be back again next year for an encore.
Fryling was just one of approximately 40 SCMAS volunteers who took care of everything from ticket taking, helping vendors set up their booths, stuffing giveaway bags, getting the word out to LFSs (local fish stores) to seeing that no stone was left unturned.
“Everybody who comes to the Steering Committee meetings has an equal voice. We work as a team. You guys [volunteers] are every bit as important as I am. We really pulled it off,” Carroll said.
Carroll used Ivan Wolders as an example of the importance of SCMAS volunteerism. “Ivan is a volunteer, and it was his idea to put our banner on the freeway (a local trucking company next to the freeway sells ad space on the side of their semi-tractor trailers). That was a great idea.”
Do I hear 4,000 — for Reef-A-Palooza 2011 — anybody?