The Southern California Marine Aquarium Society (SCMAS) hosts Reef-A-Palooza (RAP) each year at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. This year RAP was held on Saturday, October 22, and Sunday, October 23, in The Hangar building at the fairgrounds. This two-day event packed in manufacturers, retailers, livestock sellers, aquarium clubs, raffles and prizes, guest speakers and more.
Reef-A-Palooza 2011 seemed extra full this year, with crowds bigger than before. In fact, the event broke its own attendance record this year: about 3,900 reef-lovers attended the show. Last year, RAP 2010 attracted 3,400 attendees and became the largest saltwater aquarium show in the country. What’s in store for RAP 2012?
When first walking into The Hangar building, visitors could choose to walk up and down every aisle of booths. Many booths featured aquariums, and knowledgeable vendors could tell you what a rare clownfish variety was, give you a great deal on a piece of equipment or reef animal, demonstrate how a product works or even just talk fish. This year attendees could see artist Karen Talbot paint a milletseed butterflyfish (Chaetodon miliaris), sign up to join SCMAS, learn how aquarium sumps work, see elaborate displays with beautiful fish, purchase a discounted frag, snap a picture with a famous aquarist, enter to win raffle prizes and even sit and watch a demonstration. Even Aquarium Fish International had a booth at the show, and many people came over to sign up for a magazine subscription. And that’s just the show floor!
In the speaker room, there were renowned speakers from around the country. If you’ve read aquarium magazines or surfed websites, you were bound to recognize some of these speakers. Adam Blundell, Katie Barott, Jake Adams and Scott Fellman were just some of the speakers for Saturday. Brett Raymer (from the Animal Planet show “Tanked”), Bob Fenner, Dr. Tim Hovanec and Ret Talbot spoke on Sunday. Demos in the demo area (in the middle of the show room floor) included Scott Vallembois showing reefers how to drill glass, Greg Fryling and Justin Credabel demonstrating how to frag corals, Scott Fellman showing aquascaping techniques and Terrence Fugazzi demonstrating how to use controllers.
Not all was strictly informational – there were also prizes, prizes and more prizes! The corner of the show room was constantly packed with people either purchasing raffle tickets or reading their tickets, hoping that one of their numbers would be read out loud. More than $6,000 was raised from the raffle this year, which helped pay for the event. Raffle prizes included protein skimmers, LED lights, stony coral propagation kits, complete tank setups, buckets of salt and other reef supplements, aquacultured rock, controllers and pumps, cooling fans, a painting that Karen Talbot had completed over the weekend and much more. Some booths even had their own mini raffles. Brett Raymer (who greeted guests, took pictures and signed autographs) helped raffle off a complete tank setup. Visitors on Saturday were also able to interact with sea creatures in a marine touch tank provided by the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. The touch tank was in a striking portable unit parked right outside the entrance of Reef-A-Palooza. Crowds were packed in to enjoy the animals in this exhibit.
If you’re in the Southern California area in late October of 2012, make sure to visit Reef-A-Palooza at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. You, too, can meet thousands of other hobbyists just like you, learn all you can, get great deals and maybe even win the grand raffle prize! See you next year at Reef-A-Palooza!